Bob Inglis on the role of Capitalism in Sustainability

Joshua Bryant
Joshua Bryant

“I am a big fan of capitalism – not that I have experienced all of its rewards – but I believe that it is a system that works well in a fallen world. It’s not the economic system of heaven…but it is a benevolent thing,” former Congressman and Executive Director of RepublicEN, Bob Inglis, shared with undergraduate and graduate students in Broyhill auditorium on January 15, 2015.


Visiting professor Mark Peterson helped bring Inglis to campus for the lecture. He said he believes in bridging classroom and real world experience. “Human impact is real. We’re having a detrimental effect on the world everyday with our carbon emissions, deforestation, and other harmful activities, so I am glad that Professor Peterson afforded us the opportunity to hear what the former congressman has to say on the issue,” said Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) student, Megan Lester, prior to the lecture.


“As long as capitalism is restrained by an ethical system, then it is a decent system when we live in a world that is between redemption and restoration,” Inglis said. “Having a system that rewards people for serving other people…and you get rewarded all the more if you serve them well…and they come back to you as a customer and bring more people back with them because you are meeting their needs…is a pretty good system.” He told the crowd this very ideology is the basis for his short term in congress. Inglis spent six years in congress and six years out, followed by six years as the 4th Congressional district representative for South Carolina.


Inglis spent part of his time with the students discussing the need for citizenship, especially as it pertains to capitalism and sustainability. He suggested that a corporation that wants to be ecologically sensitive might be in the position of increasing the cost to consumers to pay for pricey air-scrubbing equipment or other needs. But at the same time, the marketplace can be ruthless. “So the price rises and across town there is [another corporation] with a competing widget with a lower cost, and now he beats me in the marketplace,” Inglis said. “That is a victory for capitalism and accountability.  That should be a huge victory for the economic conservative. If he can make a better widget at a lower price without dumping waste into the atmosphere, then he wins. He serves society better than I can.”


Inglis’ shared with the students that his current challenge is to convince everyone to act on sustainability in some way through RepublicEN. This cause focuses on utilizing the belief of capitalism in sustaining our global economy through energy and enterprise. People should ultimately be held accountable for our earth, which relates back to biblical law. Inglis enjoys traveling to colleges and universities to spread his message. To date, he has visited over 100 campuses. He believes, “Colleges give us the opportunity to talk to young conservatives because they are much more open to us than their parents and grandparents. For the older demographics, it may seem as an attack on their lifestyles and their original way of thinking.”


Overall, students enjoyed the lecture whether they agreed with Inglis’ views or not. Andrew Wilcox, a Master of Arts in Sustainability student comments, “He was compelling from an oratorical standpoint. I think he is a little naively optimistic in the powers of the market though.”


One thing is for sure, whether pro Inglis or against, he tugged at the morality of every individual in the auditorium causing them to truly examine: Am I my brother’s keeper? He concluded with this thought-provoking decree,

“In life, you decide what you’re going to do in your heart first, and then your head will justify it.”