Business Ethics and Orthodox Piety

Goldblog reader David Starr, a genuine Jewish scholar up at the Hebrew College, wrote in with an interesting insight about a disturbing trend in the American Orthodox community:

You're getting at something re. Orthodoxy.  Many years ago Haym Soloveitchik wrote an article about the increasing prevalance of humrot in post WWII Orthodox communities-the desire to impose ever-greater strictures upon oneself. He viewed this increasing strictness as a response to migration and acculturation and the need for greater boundaries demarcating Orthodoxy from non-Orthodoxy. At a talk he gave at Harvard Hillel, someone asked him about whether this tendency applied to the realm of ethics as well as ritual strictness, since his piece dealt only with the latter.  He replied no, it applied only in the field of ritual.  The reason why it didn't apply to ethics, including business, owed to the market.  That is, if one competes in a market, one follows the standard of the market.  To behave more stringently than the market standard is to engage in an act of market suicide, in effect. I offer this not as justification but as explanation. I take all this as further evidence of what Mark Twain I think said of the Jews, they're like everyone else, only more so.