The Moral Case for Capitalism in CRB

Monopoly - Pennybags

He’s not just ineffective. He’s a thief.

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The summer issue of the Claremont Review of Books, which just went live for subscribers, contains my essay on the moral case for capitalism. Some articles will be made public one at a time over the next few weeks; I’ll be sure to post here if they make mine available.

Here’s a free sample to motivate you subscribers to head over there and check it out:

Some time last fall, the debate over bank stabilization metastasized into a frontal assault on the principles of capitalism itself. Demagogues whose policies were largely to blame for the crisis trotted themselves out as saviors who would deliver us from the depredations of Wall Street greed. Flushed with victory at the polls, they set to work putting whole sectors of the economy under government control.

During those crucial months, the public heard little counterargument. Capitalism’s defenders in academia, journalism, and think tanks went strangely mute, right at the moment their voices could have made a real difference. A short delay might have been excusable—all of us needed time to absorb and understand an extreme breakdown in financial markets that struck with breakneck speed. However, as the months rolled on and the threat of a socialist resurgence became more real, and still the self-appointed defenders of capitalism remained silent, it became clear enough that many of them were actually suffering a deeper crisis of confidence. By the time they finally started finding their voices, it was too late; the turn to Big Government was a fait accompli.

At the same time, some of capitalism’s traditional political allies began defecting. Social conservative opinion leaders, especially evangelicals, have been shifting leftward on economics for some time. It is now common to hear even the most naïve and undigested liberal clichés circulated among evangelicals as though they were profound discoveries. Savvy socialists like Jim Wallis, who have learned how to dress up their materialistic economic reductionism in religious language, have become big draws on evangelical campuses. Last year, evangelical voters lined up behind Mike Huckabee, whose populist proposals made economic conservatives apoplectic. And, of course, socially conservative Catholics remain deeply ambivalent about capitalism—as exemplified in the latest papal encyclical on the subject.

The diffidence of capitalist intellectuals and the disaffection of their social conservative allies are not two different problems. They are two sides of the same problem—a crisis in capitalism’s moral philosophy.

4 Responses to The Moral Case for Capitalism in CRB

  1. Patrick says:

    I’m not really sure capitalists went mute but maybe that is because I frequent Reason Magazine, Cato and Von Mises (I read Heritage on education and on their economic freedom index but have been disappointed in their squishiness in other areas of late).

  2. Patrick says:

    Also, there is nothing that binds Christian evangelicals to classical liberalism. It seems that in the late 19th and early 20th century Christian evangelicals were clearly progressive and/or socialist. So I’m not surprised they would be heading leftward but hopefully their migration won’t eliminate the classical liberal minded people from politics on the right (And if they do migrate left I am really eager to see how the Democrats big tent philosophy works while trying to pass out government benefits to groups which have clear and distinctly opposite agendas).

  3. jay greene says:

    I know that we did not go mute on JPGB. But I did write a blog post documenting how certain DC think tanks did more than go mute. They argued for huge government bailouts.

  4. Joe Mudd says:

    I am very interested in this issue an contend that if the church weren’t so busy trying to locate the fresh whereabouts of the Antichrist and preached loud and often on the need for righteous bankers, lawyers and especially politicians this current situation might have been stopped short decades ago. Then again maybe Nancy Palosi will be raptured right along with all those looking for God to get them outta here.

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