Puritan values must replace MBA values

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What caused the great recession?

Theories abound. Some argue that poorly designed government policies and artificially low interest rates created a bubble, while others blame Wall Street's reckless lending practices.

Almost all, however, look to current or recent developments, not long-term historical trends. Yet the real story of the massive meltdown of 2008 starts not in the late 20th century but in the early 17th.

It was in the 1630s that the Puritan migration to America set the cornerstone for US economic prosperity – and it was our falling away from Puritan values in the 1970s that sowed the seeds of destruction.

This migration endowed the Bay Colony of Massachusetts with four core beliefs: (1) a conviction that the purpose of life, however vaguely conceived, was to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth; (2) an aptitude for the exercise of mechanical skills; (3) a moral outlook that subordinated the interests of the individual to the group; and (4) an ability to assemble and use financial, material, and human resources to a single purpose, on a massive or a lesser scale.

These four beliefs created a powerhouse. The genius of America's inherited "hands-on," "can-do," "up-the-ladder" managerial culture cannot be overstated. In the course of three centuries, it turned a handful of small colonies into the greatest economic and political power on earth.

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