Posts tagged with: capitalism

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Over at the OrthodoxNet.org blog, editor Chris Banescu had an entertaining exchange in the comment boxes with a writer who asserted that “capitalism can be just as infected with materialism and the concomitant need to tyrannize as communism.”

Here is Chris’ response:

Capitalism is really not an ideology. It simply describes reality, like mathematics and economics describe reality. It’s a word that explains how free human beings interact voluntarily with one another to exchange value and how they invest the excess of the fruits of their labors to produce more or gain more value. It is value and morally neutral.

You are positing your argument from the Marxist and leftist ideological point of view that made up this bogeyman they called “capitalism” as if it was some alien force dreamed up by rich to oppress the poor. That is a lie. You should know better than that.

On the other hand you are right that materialism is a moral failure, but that is the fault of the moral choice of individuals and groups, not the fault of capitalism. That’s like saying that it’s the fault of mathematics when someone does a wrong addition or multiplication, or the fault of accounting when someone embezzles money from their employer and writes down the incorrect cash register total.

When man deposits his money in a bank and requires interest payments, he is practicing capitalism!

When he buys food, clothing, furniture, medicine, etc.. from someone who produced it, he is practicing capitalism!

When he expects to be paid a fair salary for the work that he’s doing, he is practicing capitalism!

When he is the beneficiary of any retirement or pension fund, he is practicing capitalism!

When he buys property and hopes value will increase, he is practicing capitalism!

When he lends money to someone else and wants interest in return, he is practicing capitalism!

When he invents something new and unique and wants to sell it to someone else for a profit, he is practicing capitalism!

When he is the beneficiary of any government program providing social assistance, he directly benefits from others who practiced capitalism and created the profits the gov’t can now use and distribute to those in need!

When Churches and Synagogues get donations from people who first had to work and earn it, they are the beneficiaries of capitalism.

Even communists and socialists rely on capitalism to actually produce anything of value and generate the value and returns that fund and fuel their governments.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse at today’s Acton Lecture Series event.

The 2008 Acton Lecture Series kicked off yesterday in Grand Rapids, Michigan with an address by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse entitled “Freedom, the Family and the Market: A Humane Response to the Socialist Attack on the Family.”

Morse, an Acton Senior Fellow in Economics, described how the socialist ideal of equality has played an independent role in the breakdown of the family, arguing that socialism has attacked the family directly, and has adopted policies that have led to demographic collapse. By contrast, Christianity and capitalism offer more appealing solutions to the problems socialism claims to solve, and a more humane approach to dealing with issues of family and gender.

If you weren’t able to attend in person, you can download the audio here (11 mb mp3 file). And don’t forget to set aside some time on February 14 to attend the next Acton Lecture Series event, featuring Dr. Glenn Sunshine’s talk on “Wealth, Work and the Church.”

Update: Video of the lecture is available below.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico is interviewed by James Freeman, assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, about markets and morality and about the Acton Institute’s Call of the Entrepreneur documentary.


Pat Sangimino wrote an article for the Wichita Business Journal titled, “Documentary seeks to dispel negative images of entrepreneurs ” (subscription required). A premiere of The Call of the Entrepreneur took place in Wichita, Kan., on November 14th. Sangimino noted in his piece:

Some consider Wichita to be the Midwest’s cradle of entrepreneurship. Evidence of that is the original Pizza Hut building, which was moved to the Wichita State University campus in 1984 to serve as a reminder of what can happen to those who dare to dream and are willing to take a chance.

The screening was sponsored locally by the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy. The Center is a think tank dedicated to the constitutional principles of limited government, open markets, and individual freedom and responsibility.

Another noteworthy quote from the article:

The documentary’s three examples of business success could easily be compared with those of Dan and Frank Carney and Pizza Hut, Tom Devlin and Rent-A-Center or Jack DeBoer and his hotels, among others — tales that have become part of Wichita’s enterprise lore.

Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson discusses a new book on economic history that looks at the poverty problem from the perspective of “nature vs. nurture.”

Comes now Gregory Clark, an economist who interestingly takes the side of culture. In an important new book, ” A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World,” Clark suggests that much of the world’s remaining poverty is semi-permanent. Modern technology and management are widely available, but many societies can’t take advantage because their values and social organization are antagonistic. Prescribing economically sensible policies (open markets, secure property rights, sound money) can’t overcome this bedrock resistance.

“There is no simple economic medicine that will guarantee growth, and even complicated economic surgery offers no clear prospect of relief for societies afflicted with poverty,” he writes. Various forms of foreign assistance “may disappear into the pockets of Western consultants and the corrupt rulers of these societies.” Because some societies encourage growth and some don’t, the gap between the richest nations and the poorest is actually greater today (50 to 1) than in 1800 (4 to 1), Clark estimates.

Samuelson notes that “Clark’s theory is controversial and, at best, needs to be qualified.” In his column, The Global Poverty Trap, Samuelson summarizes Clark’s view: “Capitalism in its many variants has been shown, he notes, to be a prodigious generator of wealth. But it will not spring forth magically from a few big industrial projects or cookie-cutter policies imposed by outside experts. It’s culture that nourishes productive policies and behavior.”

Erika Andersen reviewed the “The Call of the Entrepreneur” for Human Events in a piece titled, “Entrepreneurship Preserves Life as We Know It.” The Call premiered last week to DC audiences at the E Street Cinema, as part of the Renaissance Film Festival.

In her article Andersen noted the international interest in the film:

Though it initially seems like the tale of the American dream, “The Call of the Entrepreneur” is an international story and is now being translated into Spanish and other languages. In fact, the film experienced its largest premier audience in Nairobi, Kenya with over 450 attendees.

Andersen also easily recognizes the importance of calling, or vocation, in business and in free markets:

The stories restore faith in entrepreneurs’ ability to build lives, strengthen nations and economies as well as fulfill God-given destinies. The film denounces the myth that capitalists are self serving, arguing rather that they are almost wholly devoted to others.

Human Events is one of the oldest modern conservative publications, and the one that President Ronald Reagan called his “favorite newspaper.”

Perhaps not from its inception, but certainly in the post-WWII era, the global Christian ecumenical movement, as represented by groups like the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, has been increasingly dominated by Marxist economics, liberation theology, and transformationalist ethics.

Much of this was mediated through the influence and work of Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr in part observed the reality that since there was no single government above nation-states which could restrict and regulate their activity, the realm of global realpolitik is doomed to be characterized by immorality and warmongering.

If “all social co-operation on a larger scale than the most intimate social group requires a measure of coercion,” and “If, as Bertrand Russell prophesies, some form of oligarchy, whether capitalistic or communistic, be inevitable in a technological age, because of the inability of the general public to maintain social control over the experts who are in charge of the intricate processes of economics and politics, the communistic oligarch would seem to be preferable in the long run to the capitalistic one. His power would be purely political, and no special economic interests would tempt him to pursue economic policies at variance with the national interest .”

No doubt in its utopianism, idealism, and therefore almost exclusive blame for the ills of the world upon global capitalism the ecumenical movement has gone far beyond what Niebuhr himself had or ever would say (for, after all, unlike WARC, Niebuhr wrote, “Neither is it true that modern wars are caused solely by the modern capitalistic system with its disproportion of economic power and privilege.” He was a bit more nuanced).

For more on where the ecumenical movement is today, see this piece by IRD’s Mark Tooley (and some older background here).

For the move toward a global government, see this. And for the relationship between a global government and the ecumenical movement see this.

Update: See also, “Reinhold Niebuhr is Unseen Force in 2008 Elections” and Reinhold Niebuhr Today.

More: As predicted, Niebuhr’s name is seemingly on everyone’s lips. See this Atlantic Monthly article, “A Man for All Reasons,” and the reaction from GetReligion.

What causes poverty? The question presently plagues many serious Christian thinkers and leaders. The answers vary but the proposed solutions are the stuff of our political campaigns every four years. We can already hear the discussion from the various candidates for the presidency in 2008, both Republican and Democrat. One candidate, John Edwards, actually wants to make poverty a major issue in the next election, maybe as important as the Iraq War. He openly presents his version of a solution and thus makes it a major part of his stump speech these days.

Many Christians, who think about these kinds of questions, will argue that poverty can not be solved in a free-market context. They believe the problem is economic since capitalism is fundamentally rooted in greed. The idea here is quite simple. The rich have all the wealth, they are the ones who create the products, make the money and drive the markets. The poor suffer all the more when this happens. Because capitalism has this perceived inherent flaw it will always, or at least ultimately, foster huge inequities in income and create greater poverty. These inequities will actually increase grinding poverty for millions of people, making things even worse for more poor people as the wealthy class grows. Since the percentage of monetary growth in the present economy shows the rich are getting richer and the poor and middleclass are gaining ground by a much smaller percentage this seems to favor these kinds of arguments against capitalism. (I will not get into this issue in this article, but there are different answers to this question that are both appropriate and sound.)

In 1981 author and political advisor, George Gilder, wrote a huge best-seller, Wealth & Poverty. This popular book influenced a new generation. It did so by challenging the “greed thesis” at its core. I have always admired George Gilder. I realized back in the 1980s that it was his thinking that powerfully influenced the Reagan administration to adopt what became known as Reaganomics, a much maligned and oft-debated theory of wealth, poverty and economics.

(Continue reading the rest of the article at the ACT 3 website…)

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Prof. Bainbridge on the hijinks of the Boston duo responsible for the now infamous ad campaign for Adult Swim: “These guys validate my life’s work: They confirm that corporations rule the world and are therefore a worthy subject of study.”

Here’s the rather incredible press conference, where almost every question is answered with, “Sorry, that’s not a hair question.”

The best part is when a reporter actually gets them to address the situation, if even in a somewhat round about manner, by asking the brilliant question: “Are you afraid that if you go to prison you’ll get your hair cut?” A close second is the reaction dumbfounded FOX News anchor.

Don’t cities run first responder drills and similar things all the time? Maybe the city of Boston should chalk it up as a training exercise.

Is all this making anyone else think of this?

Update: Seth Godin, speaking of governments and consumer groups, says “whatever they do isn’t going to change the way marketers do (what they erroneously think is) their jobs. There’s just too much money on the table.”

How does one account for the widespread distaste among Jews for a free market political agenda? Why is it that Jews, who earn per capita almost twice as much as non-Jews in America, “fervently support relatively collectivist social policies”? Corinne and Robert Sauer, co-founders of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, contend that “it is not at all true that Judaism is a set of principles that endorses income redistribution and other progressive social programs.” Instead, they say, Judaism is a system of thought that more naturally aligns itself with the basic principles of economic liberalism.

Read the commentary here. This article was adapted from Corinne Sauer and Robert M. Sauer’s Judaism, Markets and Capitalism, a new monograph available from the Acton Institute.