Thursday, February 20, 2014

A conversation with Hugh Nibley about my answer key

I was writing an answer key for my International Finance class just now. In passing, I mentioned an "Edenic business climate." That's when the imaginary ghost of Hugh Nibley walked into my office and took a seat.

Hugh: That is a contradiction in terms. There is no business in Eden, so there cannot be an Edenic business climate.

DW: Alright, fine. I'll call it idyllic then.

Hugh: Idyllic for Bablyon?

DW: Listen, Hugh, I'm trying to write an answer key here, and I'm not teaching a religion class.

Hugh: Why not? Shouldn't you be preparing them for the real world?

DW: I'm not being paid to teach religion. I'm being paid to teach about that part of the real world that deals with international finance and that means talking about business.

Hugh: 'Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business: charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of [international finance] were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!' Do your idyllic business conditions improve those?

DW: Thank you, Charles Dickens. Look, I do the best I can to bring ethics into my teaching. I have students consider the impact of these policies on the poor; I continually challenge them to "rove beyond the narrow limits of their money changing holes" to serve their fellow Nigerians; every semester at least one class gets to see me tearing money into shreds to convince them that money is not the point and never has been; according to their answers on the midterm, I seem to have convinced my principles of macro students that their businesses will be best served by paying their workers more; 

Hugh: Which you weren't trying to do...

DW: I'll take it anyway. I gave a mini-lecture just last week on Christian and Islamic finance. I do what I can. It's hard being an economist and a preacher at the same time.

Hugh: You mean it's hard to have one foot in Babylon and one in Zion at the same time? Some day you're going to have to choose.

DW: That's not a fair description of me and you know it.

Well, either he gave in at that point or else I had successfully fought against the light long enough to go back to the darkness of mere economics. 

And idyllic business climates.