Common good capitalism is about a vibrant and growing free market. But it is also about harnessing and channeling that growth to the benefit of our country, our people, and our society. Because after all, our nation does not exist to serve the interests of the market. The market exists to serve our nation and our people. Adapted from remarks delivered at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America.
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.
We need good measures of economic activity, but we must not presume that these measurements are impervious to political pressures, as though they were no more than the product of certain methods.
America’s relations with China should proceed from the recognition that the Chinese government is lawless. China flouts the rule of law, not occasionally or incidentally but characteristically, because the government understands itself as the source of law and unconstrained by it. The problem of China reminds us of the deeper laws that all nations must respect and that determine whether or not our positive laws are legally just.
When it comes to healthcare, economics tells us that we can do better. Distributive justice demands from us that we do better. A judicious combination of market forces, regulation, and transfers can provide us with more efficient healthcare for all, at a cheaper price.
Attempts to discover the effect of immigration on government budgets are highly susceptible to the decisions economists make about how to measure all those benefits and costs and how to account for the effects on the indigenous population. The quick answer to “What is the effect of immigration on government budgets?” is “It depends on how you measure it.”
The phenomenon of woke capitalism isn’t only about corporate America succumbing to progressive ideologies. It reflects deep confusion about the purpose of business and how commerce serves the common good.
A new book argues that fundraising is not an independent activity external to the purpose of a non-profit, but an integral part of the existence and mission of the organization. Rather than becoming a class of experts, fundraisers should be well-formed persons and citizens, who can learn the craft of fundraising and practice it in a manner that supports rather than undermines the free and relational nature of civil society.
In order to flourish economically, property rights must be secure and the rule of law must exist.
G.K. Chesterton may have summed up our current situation best: men who stop believing in God do not believe in nothing, but believe in anything. It seems that we’ve moved from belief in God to belief in government, and are hurtling toward an ever-growing state.
How do we determine the right level of immigration? Assuming the optimal number of immigrants per year is neither zero nor infinite, what is it? Five hundred thousand? One million? Two million? Five million? If we can start our discussion about immigration from a shared set of ideals, then we can begin the laborious task of determining the levels and types of immigration that will allow the continuation of the American experiment.
If we want to revive the era of postwar prosperity, we should revive its monetary system.
We take our monetary system for granted, complacently trusting that the experts are doing their jobs well. Yet our current system strays very far from what the public would actually prefer.
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.
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.