By Rich DeVos
Don’t misunderstand. This rush to free enterprise is not just about making money. Of course people want financial security for themselves and their families. Why shouldn’t they? But they want more, much more.
People in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and China, like people everywhere, want deeper satisfaction as well. Not just material freedom, but freedom of the spirit. The freedom to become complete and whole persons. The freedom to become what God intends all of us to be. The freedom of mind and imagination that can only exist in a truly democratic society. The freedom not just to scrape by, but to find genuine satisfaction in life.
At the heart of the deep desire for change being experienced in Marxist-socialist countries is one simple fact: communism experienced a profound crisis of the spirit. It was not just communist economics that were bankrupt. The poverty of communism’s values brought about its collapse. The founder of the modern communist movement, Karl Marx, had an impoverished view of the human spirit. This view has not proven to be an adequate foundation on which to build either nations or individual lives.
On July 18, 1969, Jay Van Andel, my lifelong friend and partner in this business, demonstrated the compassionate capitalist’s view of people when an explosion and fire in our plant in Ada, Michigan, almost destroyed our dream. The deadly blast occurred just before midnight. A large building that housed both office and assembly lines was almost engulfed in flame when Jay arrived on the scene. Employees had already risked their lives to climb aboard tractors to pull semitrailers and a tanker from the blazing warehouse. Others were about to enter the 14,000-foot burning building to rescue files loaded with important documents. Jay stopped them with these unforgettable words: “Forget the papers! Get the people out!”
What we think about people matters a great deal. If we think of them as children of God, possessing a divine spark and having God-given worth, it follows that we ought to treat all people with respect and dignity. But if we think of people in a strictly material sense, devoid of any spirituality and gaining worth only through the state, then what happens? We need only to look at communist history to answer that question.
From Compassionate Capitalism, by Rich DeVos, © 1993, Compassionate Capitalism Foundation and Dutton Books, Muskegon, MI. Used with permission. Available from your local bookstore or the Compassionate Capitalism Foundation, (800) 367-2892.
Rich DeVos is co-founder of the Amway Corporation, an American company that has two million independent distributors in 70 countries around the world, including China.