Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 01/30/23
Exploring some Big ideas on the morality of capitalism with Brian Brenberg. The Executive Vice President and Associate Professor of Business at the NYC-based Christian liberal arts school The King’s College joined Fox News as a contributor offering financial commentary in 2020. Since then his ability to break down big business and finance issues into more understandable components has caused his star to rise quickly to the point that he is now one of the hosts (along Jackie DeAngelis and Taylor Riggs) of The Big Money Show which debuted just last Monday and airs weekdays at 1:00 PM ET on Fox Business Network.
JWK: Congratulations on the new show. I watched the beginning of your debut where you described the show’s mission statement as being “pro-capitalism and pro-markets.” So, I know you’re a Christian and you teach at The King’s College, which is a Christian school and this, of course, is Beliefnet. So, my first question to you is why – from both a moral and practical perspective – you think capitalism is the way to go.
Brian Brenberg: That’s a great question. You know, from a faith perspective and from a moral perspective, I always start with “How did God create us?” One of the things we learn right away about us – about humans – is that we’re created in the image of God. We know that God – one of the first things revealed about Him, that He reveals to us – is a creator. So, creativity is really at the core of who we are as humans. I think it’s what makes us unique. It gives us dignity to be creative. It’s a reflection of God’s creativity.
So, when it comes to economics, what is the economic system – what is the arrangement – that really allows humans to draw upon and use their creativity? What unlocks that aspect of God’s image that we bear? For me, you can use a lot of different words but “economic liberty” is the (term) I like to use the most. That to me it is just essential because a system of economic liberty is really a system that recognizes there is so much about the world that we don’t know and there’s so much to be discovered. Economic liberty gives the widest number of people the greatest chance possible to pursue the ideas they have (and) the inclinations they have to the places where their creativity leads them. It’s that kind of system that allows us to discover the most about the world God’s created and put us in.
So, to me, liberty or freedom – we talk about it as capitalism – is a system that maximizes the development of human creativity and maximizes our ability to discover the gifts that we have and discover how we can use them to serve others.
JWK: Why is capitalism, in your view, better than socialism? I know you teach at King’s College. The current generation of college students seem to me to be much more enamored by socialism than they are by capitalism.
BB: Yeah. Sometimes I think that’s partly just a result of hearing a term but not understanding what is really meant by that idea. Socialism is really rooted in the idea that a smaller group of people who have political power in a society – in a nation – should take the responsibility for organizing economic affairs so that as many people as possible can benefit. That’s essentially what socialism is. It’s a centralization of economic power in the hands of a few people who think they have an idea about how to order the world.
The problem with that, of course – and this gets back to what I said in the previous answer – is there’s nobody in the world who has a monopoly on understanding what’s possible and the power of human creativity. There’s nobody who can see the future and know how to arrange a nation’s economic affairs – what businesses we should back, what people we should back and what investments we should make. It would require almost a god-like level of knowledge about the latent potential of the people in our world and the world itself.
So, socialism sounds good because it’s sort of stated objective is to make sure everybody has what they need but its means of getting there actually constrains people from discovering what it is they can become. That’s why, again, I’m a proponent of economic liberty. Economic liberty doesn’t promise any outcomes per se but it does promise a process whereby people can use what’s theirs – their talents and their property – to try to discover what value they can create in the world.
Sometimes we confuse means and ends. I never argue with the idea of wanting to create a world where everybody can pursue and attain what they need but the question is how do you get there? I think the answer is giving people as much space as possible to figure out how they can create value and then be able to go out and do that. To me, that’s a system of economic liberty not socialism.
JWK: What courses do you teach at Kings College?
BB: Right now the main course that I teach is the Business Communications and Presentations course which is a really fun class to teach when you’re spending a lot of time in the media – and your life is presentations. That’s a course for students that helps them really prepare for the job market. It’s very focused on things like giving presentations in a business setting, working on things like cover letters and resumes, job interviewing and learning how to put together written reports in a business context. It’s very focused on practical application in the marketplace. It’s a really fun class to teach because it makes students feel like this is helping them take a step forward in terms of going after those career goals that they have.
JWK: I guess your communications really serve you in both jobs — communicating to students at King’s College and with viewers who watch you on Fox News and Fox Business.
BB: Before I ever did media I was a professor. I love that job. One of the great things about being a professor is you’re up in front of an audience every time you teach. So, just through the repetition thing you’re going through you really learn how to think about how you speak to an audience. How do you help an audience better understand a subject? What are the right ways to go about that? Ultimately, how do you make sure that that audience walks away with something they can use, something that’s helpful to them as they pursue whatever goals they’re going after in life.
So, that’s teaching and, in a lot of ways, that’s how I think about what I do at Fox and in the media. My goal when I go on air is to bring people stories that matter, that they want to know about, give them analysis and expose them to thinkers who can help them make better decisions about those issues that are moving our world. Of course, television’s also about having some fun too. It’s not all the tough stories but also stories that are just interesting and speak to all the creativity and fascinating and crazy things that go on in our world and give people a chance to just appreciate that. So, I love the connection between teaching and media in terms of how do you bring important things to people in a way that they can use them?
JWK: How’d you come to Fox?
BB: It was sort of a drip-drip process. Several years ago, as part of my teaching, I did some writing for different publications on economic issues. There was a show at Fox that picked up one of those articles and said “Hey, I’ll have this guy come on and talk about his perspective on this” and I did that. Once I did that – and I think I kind of got in that sphere and my name started to get moved around a little bit and I continued to write – they had me back on again and again on some of the articles that I wrote.
Over time, as I did that, there just came more opportunities for me to weigh in on issues of the day. So, it kinda just snowballed in a way that was unexpected for me. My intention never was to pursue a media career. That wasn’t on my radar screen. I was just happy to be a professor but, obviously, the Lord had different things in mind for me and it was really great! I mean as I went on in media work I started to get the feel for it and I got interested in it. So, I got to the point where I was just happy to be doing that work and, eventually, that turned into this opportunity to be a full-time host for Fox Business – which wasn’t a dream of mine when I started out but it’s sort of a dream come true job. I love the opportunity to do what I’m doing with fantastic co-hosts Taylor Riggs and Jackie DeAngelis. They’re just excellent analysts, excellent on the issues of the day. I learn a lot from them every day that we do a show.
JWK: So, it was kind of a dream job that you never dreamed of.
JWK: So, what’s it like holding down two jobs? That’s probably something a lot of people can relate to in this economy?
BB: Yeah, I’m kinda doing that right now – although even before I hosted I was doing a lot of media appearances with Fox so (it) did kinda feel like two jobs. I guess it’s sorta hard work in a way although I’m lucky to do the jobs I do. Being a professor and being a television show host are awesome jobs! I have no right ever to complain about anything! My hard work is good work!
We kind of live in an economy where, if you want to do creative out-of-the-box things, you gotta pursue it in different ways. Sometimes that means you’ve got to hold a couple of jobs at once. You’re going to go after a couple of things at once. I’m just grateful for the freedom to be able to do that. I’m grateful that I have the ability to be able to pursue multiple things and juggle those and I have a family that’s been very supportive of that. So, I view it as a great opportunity and I’m just glad I have a chance to pursue some things that I really enjoy.
JWK: Final question, what do you hope viewers take from The Big Money Show?
BB: I want them to walk away every day saying “You know, I learned something today. I now know something or I have a way of thinking about an issue that will help me as I consider my investments, as I think about building my business (and) as I think about helping my family plan for our goals.” I want them to walk away from the show saying “I got a little smarter today. I know just a little bit more. My time was well spent watching that show.”
Just like my class is really practical for my students – I want them walking away feeling like they took a step forward – I want our audience to feel like they took a step forward by watching our show, listening to our guests and listening to the conversation around the table. And, look, I want them to have a little fun too. I want them to feel like they had a little fun and saw some of the lighter side of life as well. Life can can be so serious. I think it’s important to laugh and have a little fun. That’s part of the goal of our show as well.
John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11