Charity case: Goldman Sachs, Warren Buffett launch small-biz program

Just over 100 years ago, the sociologist Max Weber wrote his seminal book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he portrayed the pursuit of profit as virtuous and described work as a kind of religious duty. The attainment of wealth was seen as the fruit of labor, a blessing from God in return for hard work, piety and frugality.

Weber comes to mind thinking of the recent comment from Goldman Sachs (GS) Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein (pictured) that the world's most successful bank is doing "God's work." It's hard to imagine that $16.7 billion in executive bonuses to millionaire bankers during a crippling recession is what Weber had in mind. In an effort to put its money where Blankfein's God-talk is, Goldman Sachs has announced it will partner with Warren Buffett, the very personification of virtuous capitalism, in a $500 million project to help small businesses.