Faith and the Artisan Economy
Religion & Liberty Online

Faith and the Artisan Economy

I recently detailed the relationship between stewardship and the use of one’s God given gifts through vocational jobs as a path toward human flourishing. Much like vocational work’s hands on occupations, are artisanal jobs, which are on the rise in America. These positions are developed by the individual as a creative outlet to provide a good or a service not in the market. They do not require formal training, but education is important as a foundation for inspired enrichment. The artisan economy exemplifies how a private enterprise embodying God given gifts can serve the desires and needs of others.

Father Robert Sirico discusses the role of creative entrepreneurship as an individual’s means toward becoming a faithful servant:

In the process, he employs the labor of others, giving them a meaningful means to support their families. And in the end he has created wealth and prosperity that had not existed before. All this comes to be through his faithful service. If the entrepreneur profits thought[sic] the application of his gifts and the assumption of great risks, they are profits well-deserved.

PBS NewsHour recently profiled artisans who have utilized their education to creatively develop solutions to public problems, such as health care. Today, America faces an aging population, and according to Lawrence Katz, health care work has developed into a “minimum wage job where people are effectively babysitting and not really learning, and the elderly are pretty much checked out and sedated in some cases.”

Kerry Mills, a college graduate who markets herself as a “dementia coach,” aims to alter the field of elderly care by interacting and treating patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in a meaningful way that promotes human dignity. She remarks that “[t]here’s no enthusiasm. There’s no encouragement to go live your life. Still be who you are,” and was driven by both her faith and her education to craft an employment position for herself that would best serve others.

Not every idea will have a place in the market, nor will they necessarily serve society. One must be responsible and balance talent with economic productivity and a servant spirit as Father Sirico affirms:

[W]e must distinguish properly between the moral obligation to be economically creative and productive, on the one hand, and to employ one’s talents and resources prudently and magnanimously, on the other.

There are opportunities for each individual to find or develop a unique path as a steward among men. The artisan economy gives way for the individual to be empowered to assess what their community needs and create an effective new solution. Artisan entrepreneurship facilitates personal fulfillment through public service, while highlighting one’s God given gifts, empowering the individual on their mission of faith.

See the video from PBS:

Jacqueline Derks

Jacqueline Derks is a 2014 Charles G. Koch Fellow at the Acton Institute. She attends New York University, majoring in Politics and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.