I once worked at a university where the employees’ retirement plan boasted an elective “socially responsible” option. All the stocks in that plan were carefully screened to meet certain ethical guidelines: The companies demonstrated a respect for the environment, for women’s rights, and for social justice issues. If I remember correctly, they eliminated from their list of prospective investments any stocks from companies that sold tobacco products, or that did business in South Africa. One can assume that the politically correct managers of the social justice investments program must have, in today’s hyper-woke society, added criteria such as trans-gender inclusivity and support for same-sex marriage.
What I didn’t see on that list of criteria, though, was a rejection of companies which supported abortion or contraception or pornography. It’s great to support good causes with your investment dollars; but what about the causes that I espouse? Perhaps some could say this is something best left to individual trading through services like Etoro, but it’s a question worth considering regardless. After all, everyone does have a different standard for what is ethically right.
Enter George P. Schwarz, founder of Schwarz Investment Council in Plymouth, Michigan. Schwarz’s new book In God We Trust: Morally Responsible Investing outlines the blueprint for the pro-life and pro-family Ave Maria Mutual Funds.
Disclosure: George is actually an old friend of mine – we worked together during my years at Catholic apostolates under the umbrella of the Ave Maria Foundation. I found it entertaining, then, to read George’s reminiscences about his early encounters with Tom Monaghan, attending weekly prayer breakfasts at Domino’s Farms and helping Mr. Monaghan with some of his business and personal investments, and his visits to potential investors in the company of former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn. George was at Domino’s Farms, as was I, when Ave Maria College (later University) was born and when former Michigan public prosecutor Richard Thompson, who had gained fame for his prosecution of physician-assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, was brought on board to form the Thomas More Society. Other projects introduced during that time included Ave Maria Radio, digital matchmaking service Ave Maria Singles, the Ave Maria School of Law, elementary and pre-schools, and many more Catholic apostolates.
Tom Monaghan, with the strength of his international pizza company and his wide range of personal connections, could have chosen anyone to craft a business plan for his investments. He chose George Schwartz, because of Schwartz’s staunch moral character and business acumen. Schwartz crafted a new investment model based on Catholic social teaching: His company would not invest in corporations which contributed to Planned Parenthood or supported abortion in any way. “If abortion is not wrong,” Schwartz quoted St. Mother Teresa, “nothing is wrong.” They do not support companies which conduct or profit from embryonic stem cell research. Further, Schwartz’s criteria for investing excluded any businesses which dealt in pornography, or which were found to be harmful to the family. His pro-life, pro-family mutual funds have attracted more than 100,000 shareholders, who can rest assured that their investment dollars will not support morally objectionable actions.
For investor wannabes, Schwartz offers several recommendations, based on the successful precepts implemented by Warren Buffet:
- Err on the side of conservatism.
- Know the field in which you wish to invest.
- Check out your own backyard.
- Be a contrarian.
- Be patient.
In God We Trust is a combination of autobiography and solid investment advice. The reader is treated to a glimpse of Catholic family life in the 1950s, alongside a checklist of factors to consider when evaluating prospective investments. It helps the reader to participate in the free enterprise system while avoiding morally objectionable businesses. It assumes even greater importance at a time when leftist politicians and young people are sympathetic toward socialism, because it shows how the U.S. economy has benefitted from pro-growth policies, such as tax cuts and deregulation. And as Schwartz explains, readers with historical perspective will appreciate the logic of what should be obvious, i.e. that socialism has never worked anywhere on earth.