We will resume our exploration of Sir John’s thoughts on spirituality and business with another excerpt from his speech at Buena Vista College entitled “The Religious Foundation of Liberty and Enterprise.” In this excerpt, we’ll look at the fourth economic vice he describes: intolerance. 

If we are to have a free economy, unplanned by prideful government masters, we must learn to respect the diversity that liberty brings about. That brings me to the fourth economic vice: intolerance.

There is another kind of intolerance which can be damaging. Sometimes government will invest itself in one mode of production and display an unwillingness to tolerate others. It may attach itself to one type of social program, but not be willing to consider other innovative solutions to social programs.

The free economy relies on voluntarism. Without compulsion, consumers and businesses come together to make mutually advantageous exchanges. In a voluntary society, we learn to respect the right of people to make independent decisions. We learn to be tolerant of others and their unique decisions.

Tolerance is not the same as approval, a word with which it is often confused. It means simply respecting other people’s essential dignity.

Intolerance can be a blight both for the individual and the economy at large. The economy relies on differences between people. We all have different talents, interests, and abilities. Despite them, we can work together so long as the labor in society is divided. Within the division of labor, each person can find a place for himself or herself.

It has become a truism that society is more heterogeneous everyday. More and more people want to take part in the economy. Fortunately, a market system based on liberty and enterprise willingly accommodates such desires. In short, the market is tolerant of the differences between people.

Businessmen err when they fail to see diversity as a strength, and instead regard it as a weakness. Stamping out diversity is bad for the labor force and for the economy, and it violates a proper sense of charity.

One indicator of our modern intolerance is the litigation explosion we see all around us; Instead of working problems out, the trend bas been to rely on the courts. This is unfortunate and very damaging to social peace and economic production.