While it gives a certain amount of frisson to frame the story of GameStop as the Good Guys beating the Bad Guys, the details just don’t fit that narrative. It’s really important to think about the moral implications of economic activity, but it is equally important to get the details right. A lot of harm can be done by mistaking every economic event as fitting into a predetermined moral script.
Pillar: <span>Business & Economics</span>
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.
Today’s intra-conservative economic debates are about more than present-day economic policy. They also concern the Founding’s saliency for modern American conservatism.
The leftward drift of many American business executives is driven by both dubious economic calculations and cultural and political pressures that will corrode business’s legitimate freedoms and damage the economy’s capacity to generate wealth.
Do we really want a tax system that encourages very wealthy individuals to give money to the arts but does not encourage middle-class taxpayers to give money to local, religiously affiliated soup kitchens? That is the system we will have if the CARES Act’s above-the-line charitable tax deduction is not renewed.
We must insist on shareholder primacy if we want to hold publicly traded businesses accountable for their distinctive contribution to the common good.
Despite Andrew Koppelman’s good-faith efforts, he has not accurately stated important, fundamental convictions of religious liberty proponents concerning the character of moral reasoning and the nature of law.
Andrew Koppelman surely is correct that a same-sex couple must find it humiliating and embarrassing to be turned away from a wedding vendor. He is also right that the costs of using public law to remedy such indignities are significant, especially for the conscientious owners whose livelihoods are at stake. So, what to do? What we need is an institution that is capable of resolving these fraught disputes on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately, the common law provides such institutions.
If we think there’s too much government regulation, then the authentically conservative solution is not to say, “Well, let’s just try to operate a landscape of isolated individuals jostling in a competitively economic marketplace,” but “Let’s create institutions of countervailing power so that where exploitation is happening, the people themselves are equipped to resist it, and the government doesn’t need to intervene to fix it.” If designed correctly, a system of sectoral labor unions can actually help achieve the conservative goal of limited government.
Soviet misunderstandings of the market were replicated as misunderstandings of the family—with damaging and dehumanizing consequences. Though Soviet family policy has mercifully ended, it is still worthwhile to examine its central ideas, because they live on today in Western family policy.
When people quickly compare the Norwegian and Venezuelan economies, they tend to see the one trait they have in common: a big public sector. However, when we study these countries in depth, it becomes evident that the two follow opposite economic principles. While Norway’s economy is among the freest in the world, Venezuela has become a prime example of what a socialist economy looks like.
Sixty years after its publication in America, Wilhelm Röpke’s “A Humane Economy” remains a model for engaging classical liberal economics with conservative insights into reality.
Allowing capital to move is exactly what generates wealth. Yes, we could freeze capital in its current location; but then we would repeat the economic decline of impoverished countries by locking up that capital’s full, invisible potential.
There are good reasons to believe that industrial policy significantly undermines rather than bolsters the common good.
Thirty years after its publication, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has shaped our culture in significant, lasting ways. Yet many of the upper-middle-class, successful Americans who cultivate Stephen Covey’s habits fail to apply his most essential, all-encompassing principle—the one that guided his entire vision of the good life.
Bad writing by philosophers and theologians about economics is a moral issue. If their views about economics are taken seriously—as they often are in churches and in policy advocacy—they threaten the life-changing effects of free markets for the poor across the world.
Apple has been entangled in several recent controversies over its decision to adopt unbreakable encryption for its iPhone. The company has inscribed an absolute right to privacy in its code and, in so doing, has failed to take into account the proper moral and legal limits on that right. Other technological solutions should be considered that could balance the rights of physical security and privacy.
American Compass and younger conservatives need to do more than complain about doctrinaire libertarians. There is a large need for careful thinking about the societal and cultural implications of economic policies, but blanket declarations of war against “libertarian fundamentalists” or “market fundamentalism” are no substitute for thoughtful analysis.
We must be clear-eyed about the long-term economic effects of expanding state intervention and temporarily freezing the economy as America battles COVID-19.
Like their forebears, those who favor market economies need to recalibrate their arguments to address new challenges—including those posed by China.
What is the value of human companionship or gathering together on Easter? What is the value of knowing that your elderly parents are safe from a highly infectious disease? There is no way to put either one into epidemiological or economic models. The debate between those insisting we need to follow the advice of epidemiologists and those insisting we ought to prioritize the economic effects of that advice may actually be a proxy war about what constitute the most important things in a society.
When the Trump administration’s clarifying guidelines go to court, they not only should be upheld. One hopes, and even dares to expect, that the compelling circumstances of this public benefit program will bring forth a needed clarification of Establishment Clause law, one which finally buries the impetus behind any confusion surrounding the CARES Act and religious eligibility.
Michael Lind’s The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite addresses the growing gap between the successful and those left behind in the United States and in other developed Western societies. Contemporary “demagogic populism,” he argues, is a symptom of the disease of technocratic, neoliberal elitism, the cure for which is a return to democratic pluralism.
In fighting Coronavirus, the precautionary principle is reasonable: we need to act so as to bring as close to zero the probability of the most extreme results. However, the precautionary principle does not point in only one direction. Closing down an entire society for a prolonged period of time is uncharted territory, with many perils. We must also bear in mind the pre-eminent importance of the common good to avoid a catastrophic social collapse.
When times become difficult, people come to help each other as a rule. It’s not really a case of our better angels emerging; it’s our regular angels doing what they almost always do when the chips are down.
The promises of virtualization and automation are often exaggerated, as are their dangers. It is possible for an increasingly virtualized and automated economy to actually be more humane, but only if such an economy does justice to the human realities of incarnation and relation.