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.
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.
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.
Venezuelans are desperate to circumvent the ill-conceived regulations that are harming their nation’s wellbeing. They eagerly await a real economic turnaround—one that will protect the economic freedoms of all Venezuelans. And they know that Venezuela cannot recover without democracy.
While the post-liberal right often asks good questions, many of its answers are flawed, grounded on mistaken premises, and deeply misleading.
In a war, you know your goal, and then you decide on the best means to achieve that end. If you think about economic debates as a form of war, then choosing an economic model is not the first question. Instead, once you know your preferred policy outcome, you then choose an economic analysis that leads to that conclusion.
Free markets and a limited state require a culture of liberty that says “yes” to responsibility and “no” to soft despotism.
The Christian moral tradition provides a solid foundation for the right to privacy by linking it to the act of communication and sharing information, a fundamentally relational activity oriented toward both the personal and common good. The failures of Capital One, Ring, and others illustrate that it cannot be left up to individual institutions to protect their clients’ privacy. We must therefore develop stronger legal institutions that embody the principles of both privacy and transparency.
Is the world of private money an inevitability? Do we all need to get used to the fact that whether we like it or not, Facebook and Apple and Microsoft and Google are going to dominate the monetary landscape of the future? Not at all.
A new book about the Great Society should give significant pause to today’s advocates for more government intervention in the economy.
Faith and family: for many of us, these are not only the most important parts of the Christmas season. They’re also the things that make life most worth living.
The team at Public Discourse doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but we do think we’re asking the right questions, and getting the right thinkers to propose some of the answers. That’s one thing that we hope will always be our hallmark: thoughtful, reasoned discourse, which is rigorous yet still accessible to the educated layman.
Mindful business leadership must connect mindfulness to the moral principles of the traditions in which it originated. It must also situate itself convincingly in relation to models of leadership, either assimilating into an existing model or offering a new one. And it ought to show how a mindful leader might concretely figure into a corporate governance structure in a way that is reasonably expected to advance the firm’s social responsibilities.
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.
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.