Alexis de Tocqueville showed that socialism’s errors go far beyond bad economics. But his criticisms should remind today’s advocates of markets that they must promote stronger normative cases for capitalism.
Pillar: Business & Economics
The fifth pillar, business and economics, is built upon concern for the common good and the ways in which the economic order contributes to—or detracts from—human flourishing. Public Discourse examines the ways in which the market is shaped by—and gives shape to—our understanding of the human person, the role of the family, the rule of law, and education and culture.
What is needed for a humane economics is not theological economics, but a rediscovery of the call to understand the world through an economic science replete with wonder and admiration—something missing in contemporary economics as much as in the drab theology of many ethicists. Properly delineated, this is not a rejection of ethics in economics, but a recovery of the normative dimension of reality.
As with the concept of the just price, the idea of the just wage combines the subjectivity of the diverse needs and preferences of individuals with the objective demands of justice. The teaching of the Catholic Church on the just wage avoids both the Scylla of economism and the Charybdis of moralism.
St. Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of the question of the just price is often misunderstood by both Catholic integralists and classical liberals. These misunderstandings deprive us of lessons that could otherwise help us combine the goods of freedom and virtue as individuals and in society.
The choices underlying marketplace transactions are more complicated and less narrowly self-regarding than we often suppose. By returning to the full corpus of Adam Smith’s writings, we can escape economistic conceptions of human beings and enhance our understanding of how market economies actually work.
Capitalism is an amoral economic system. An amoral economic system or “the free market” cannot guide human beings and their behavior. On the contrary, the market must actively be guided and tamed in order to ensure that it benefits communities. Supporting community-based and community-oriented businesses is one important way to achieve this end.
Our personal habits and our political culture are not unconnected. When personal debt is at an all-time high, it seems unreasonable to expect that thrift would somehow become a public virtue. If we do not act responsibly with the budgets of our own families, it seems unrealistic to expect fiscal responsibility from those who are entrusted with spending other people’s money.
Thomas More’s Utopia suggests that a defense of property emphasizing material productivity, though valid, is inadequate. By probing classical reasons for and against private property, More goes deeper, addressing the objective needs of the human soul.
In conservation biology, a complex ecosystem whose health was slowly compromised over time can be revivified through a cascade of positive changes set in motion by reintroducing one of that system’s previous components. That’s exactly what today’s civil society needs, and conservative policymakers can help. We mustn’t shy away from using policy to achieve important ends—not just freedom, but the lessons, beliefs, and norms that make a free society succeed.
Business leaders are turning to the modern mindfulness movement to make their employees happier and more productive. But what is mindfulness? And do its practices really work if they are motivated by the desire for profit?
To serve the common good, private equity managers need the virtues of humility and magnanimity. If they exhibit these virtues, their companies will grow, increasing human capital and wealth.
“Economic piety” has led to an overemphasis on consumption, writes Oren Cass in The Once and Future Worker. If we value family and community life, we need a labor policy that is explicitly intended to sustain them.
The notion that tariffs are bad has been supported by world-renowned economists for centuries. Yet we are currently in the midst of a trade war. Maybe what we need is a Just Tariff Theory: a system to weigh the economic harms of tariffs against the political benefits they may have.
Eighty-five years ago, staunchly self-reliant American farmers encountered a crisis-the Dust Bowl-they simply could not overcome on their own. The story of the Dust Bowl is a story about American grit and perseverance, but also about the limits of libertarianism.
Thoughtful Catholics should integrate the discoveries and insights of economics and science with the principles of Catholic social teaching, and ultimately, with the natural moral law and revealed theology.
Reasonable people can claim that the government of the richest country in human history should provide certain things to its poorer citizens. But reasonable people cannot claim those things come without a price.
Americans today are anxious—not just financially, but socially. We despair even though we are materially better off than at any other time in human history. What happened? How did we get here?
A full vision of the social structures of human flourishing must include three elements: the economic, political, and moral-cultural.
According to sociologist Mark Regnerus, the birth control pill and the rise of internet porn decreased the cost of sexual access so substantially as to affect a fundamental shift from a world in which sex served higher goods to a world in which sex is the higher good.
How should we understand hierarchies, markets, freedom, happiness, anthropology, and spiritual formation? Three Christian thinkers respond to each other.
Market economies are not inherently hostile to Christian spiritual formation. And expanding the scope of Church authority into the temporal realm is no substitute for traditional spiritual practices such as prayer and fasting.
While the economic arguments for free trade remain compelling, the political rationale requires a long-overdue overhaul.
Leaders should get the facts straight before they start theorizing.
Young people today, especially the ones who are serious about religion and look to the editors of First Things for guidance, must resist the allure of an intellectual Fortress of Solitude where they can sit and feel superior to everyone. Griping about the state of society is a waste of time. Part two of two.
R.R. Reno’s manifesto on capitalism—in which he concludes, among other things, that expanding economic freedom leads to transgenderism—is based on empirically false claims. Part one of a two-part series.