Blog author: jcarter
by on Thursday, September 13, 2012

Norman Borlaug: The American Who Fed The World
Jarrett Skorup, AFF Doublethink Online

Called “arguably the greatest American in the 20th century,” during his 95 years, Norman Borlaug probably saved more lives than any other person.

‘Earned success’
Marvin Olasky, World

Free enterprise is fair, says economist Arthur Brooks, and arguments for it should emphasize its morality

Why Men Drop Out of the Labor Force
Catherine Rampell, New York Times

The most frequent reason given by men 25 to 54 for leaving the labor force over the last 15 years was illness or disability. For women, a majority left to become household caregivers.

Political Economy for Embodied Souls
John Attarian, The Imaginative Conservative

Are we embodied souls created by a transcendent God, whose purpose it is to struggle upward toward Heaven? Or are we creatures of matter, rational animals, pleasure-seeking and pain-shunning, with utility maximization as our life’s goal? Kirk affirmed the former; economic utopians of Left and Right, the latter.


  • Roger McKinney

    Attarian: “However, Mises’s amoral assertion that the only criterion for appraising human action is “whether or not it is fit to attain the ends aimed at by acting men” puts us “back in murkiest Bentham.”

    Attarian seriously misunderstands Mises. Mises’ comments should be taken to apply only to economic matters. Mises made clear that some goals fell outside of the expertise of economics, such as spiritual and artistic goals. Economics cannot help a musician write a symphony, but it can help with plans to reduce poverty.

    Attarian: “once supernatural and traditional sanctions are dissolved, economic self-interest is ridiculously inadequate to hold an economic system together, and even less adequate to preserve order.”

    Mises was fully aware of that. In his writings on government he made it very clear that capitalism desperately needed government and the rule of law. He wrote that freedom consists in the rule of principles. Anarchy would produce the rule of thugs and was the opposite of freedom.

    There never has been a capitalist or promoter of free markets who failed to see the importance of morality and law.

    Attarian: “Finally, Mises’s attribution of anti-capitalistic attitudes to a people’s being misled by hostile intellectuals ignored valid complaints like “the ugliness, the monotony, the ennui of modern industrial existence,” as well as the threat from “the enormous destructive power of social boredom.”

    Actually, Mises attributed anti-capitalist attitudes to envy most of the time. As for ugliness, monotony, etc., those are not objective criticisms of anything; they exist only in the eye of the beholder. The ugly to some is beautiful to others; boring to one person is exciting to another. People should be free to pursue what they consider beautiful and interesting without government coercion but without injuring another.

    Attarina: “Kirk also believed that, once people are seduced by affluence and bewitched by efficiency, they become not only blind to the cost to their way of life and to their souls, but make ever greater sacrifices to these Molochs.”

    Kirk has cause/effect backwards. Abandonment of God and his morality leads people to worship Moloch. People worshiped Moloch long before the advent of capitalism.

    Kirk: “Almost no one asks just what is going to happen to a country in which the rural population, already scarcely a seventh of the total, sinks toward extinction; or whether the rural life is not worth conserving at some cost to total efficiency; or whether the farmer really ought to be expected to live a life, in creature comfort and aims, precisely like that of his city cousin.”

    Kirk: ““Efficiency,” “progress” and “economic security” are our god-terms, as they are those of the Soviets.”

    I think Kirk is guilty here of harshly judging intentions. He can’t possibly know what all of those economists are thinking. Based on what is taught in economics courses, economists assume that all other things being equal, men prefer prosperity to poverty. No one worships efficiency, progress or economic security. They assume, and rightly so, that most people prefer those things to the opposite. No one assumes that people prefer those things to all other things in life.

    Kirk: “Almost no one asks just what is going to happen to a country in which the rural population, already scarcely a seventh of the total, sinks toward extinction; or whether the rural life is not worth conserving at some cost to total efficiency;”

    No economist asks that because 1) it’s not part of their expertise and 2) it’s none of their business. If people prefer rural life and are willing to exchange a higher income to live in rural areas, that’s their business and no one should prevent them.

    Kirk: “or whether the farmer really ought to be expected to live a life, in creature comfort and aims, precisely like that of his city cousin.”

    What does that mean? Who will decide if rural life is important enough to subsidize? But if an individual farmer wants to improve his standard of living economists can tell him how to do it, but it will require greater efficiency on his part, something Kirk seems to find repulsive.

    “Hence, the economist Wilhelm Roepke’s “Third Way” won Kirk’s praise.”

    I like Roepke, but I disagree that the “’cult of the colossal,’ the rise of the propertyless, dependent proletariat, urbanization, and the loss of community” are not the result of capitalism. Particularly in the mid-20th century, state intervention in the economy, corruption and politicians selling favors to campaign contributors have caused those problems.

    “Alas, Kirk has not been widely listened to.”

    Most conservatives are not Christians. Non-Christians will not respond to the values Christians hold dear.

    “Kirk’s central concern, with the economic system most likely to promote proper order in our souls and least likely to foment soul disorder and divert us from our struggle Heavenward, is ignored.”

    No economic system will promote ‘proper order in our souls.’ Kirk has fallen for the atheist/socialist fallacy that society determines character; it’s the opposite: the character of individuals determines society.

    “Mainstream conservative advocacy of capitalism is purely utilitarian and materialistic.”

    That’s just harshly judging the motives of others and not ture.

    I am not a neoconservative, but in their defense I would say that no neoconservative believes that government or the economy can make people better Christians. That is the job of the church and family. That’s why they don’t talk about permanent things in political speeches.