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Samuel Gregg: ‘First Things,’ R.R. Reno, and the market economy

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The role of free market economics in the West should not be off-limits for debate among religious conservatives. Conversation revolving around the market economy should, however, be held to a high standard of thorough research and thoughtfulness. As Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg writes in a new essay, that standard should “provide philosophical and theological guidance about how to ground free economies—and liberal institutions more generally—upon more solid foundations than the peculiar mixes of utilitarianism, autonomy-for-autonomy’s sake, and pseudo-evolutionary theory advocated by some liberal thinkers.”

In a recent article published by First Things, editor R. R. Reno makes claims about the market economy and the writings of Michael Novak with which Gregg takes issue. First of all, Reno “concerns his claims about global capitalism’s alleged triumph. The second involves his critique of the late Michael Novak’s work, specifically Novak’s masterpiece The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982),” Gregg writes.

Gregg explains how global capitalism and the free market have not, in Reno’s words, “won” and “become our fate.” Government regulations placed on the market have steadily increased since 2006 and “what we’re presently witnessing isn’t global capitalism’s triumph. Rather, it’s the latest round of a contest that’s been going on for 250 years.” Gregg also defends the writing of Michael Novak, stating that although Reno suggests otherwise, Novak’s defense of the free market economy was “full of reflections about the importance of authority, the common good’s non-procedural demands, and the necessity of living virtuously.”

Gregg concludes in hopes that First Things will pursue a higher “intellectual agenda” in the future.

Read Gregg’s First Things and the Market Economy: A Response to R. R. Reno” at Public Discourse.


Associated Links

  • Political philosophy
  • Political ideologies
  • Conservatism in the United States
  • Caroline Roberts Caroline Roberts has a B.A. in English from Grove City College and produces the Acton Institute’s podcast, Radio Free Acton.

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