Posts tagged with: Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy

A friend sent me a link to a Reuters story on Pope Benedict XVI’s New Year’s homily. The article carried this headline: “Pope hopes for 2013 of peace, slams unbridled capitalism.”

It is always a good rule of thumb with media reports like this to read the actual speech or document being cited, and not just go by the headline. From the Reuters report one gets the impression that the point of the statement and its theme is that the “Pope slams capitalism.”  When you read this in context you immediately see that Pope Benedict is actually calling for conversion. The operative phrase employed by the Holy Father in his homily is, “The prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism, various forms of terrorism and criminality.”

I say in Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Economy that “global capitalism can’t of itself supply the cultural and moral formation worthy of the human person … our increasing interconnectedness holds great potential for offenses against human dignity. Advances in technology and communication can make it easier to sell pornography – or to traffic in human beings…” and so on.

In other words, I stand with the pope, that sin (what he calls in this case a “selfish and individualistic mindset”) can find expression in the context of human liberty lacking moral orientation, (what he calls in this instance, “global capitalism”).

Is the pope saying that capitalism is in and of itself “selfish and individualistic”? No. Can it express the vices (and for that matter the virtues) of people living in free economies? Yes.

That is why the Acton Institute exists — to promote virtuous free economies.

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, December 26, 2012

All good people are concerned about the plight of the poor, and there are a multitude of ways to address this. The umbrella of “social justice” seems to get bigger every year, with Millenium Development Goals, the ONE campaign, and a host of other foreign aid projects that seek to remove the scourge of abject poverty. However, many of these projects overlook one fact: foreign aid doesn’t work.

As PovertyCure‘s Michael Miller has said,

While there are some success stories, aid has been largely ineffective. Now why is that? John Paul II said that “The primary fault of socialism was anthropological in nature.” What he meant was, socialism failed because it got the person wrong. Well, I would argue that aid failed because it gets the person wrong.

Leslie Eastman, of Legal Insurrection, echoes this sentiment in a recent blog post addressing the so-called “fiscal cliff”, stating that the answer to our economic woes is the church, with its focus on subsidiarity, and on the free market. She writes:

Mark Meckler, noted national Tea Party spokesperson and founder of Citizens for Self Governance, recently attended a dinner at the Acton Institute.  The Acton Institute works to promote a free and civil society” characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.”  A great deal of their efforts are directed at highlighting the benefits of free market to clergy.

“It’s inspiring to know that the Acton Institute exists and is working to effect cultural change in the clergy surrounding the issue of free markets and free societies,” said Meckler.  “The founder of Acton, Father Sirico has written the best book ever on the morality of a free market.  His new book, Defending the Free Market; The Moral Case for a Free Economy, presents a clear and convincing case that a free economy promotes charity, selflessness, and kindness and is the surest route to a moral and socially–just society.”

Knowing that economic justice IS social justice is one step closer to alleviating poverty. Thank you, Legal Insurrection, for helping to spread the word.

Rev. Robert Sirico, author of “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy,” appears at a Rome press conference for his book.

The Catholic News Agency recently interviewed Acton’s president Rev. Robert Sirico during a press conference held last week in Rome for Vatican journalists. The local media were introduced to his new book, “Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy.”

In the CNA article “Fixing economic crisis requires financial and moral truth, priest says,” Rev. Sirico states:

 

I wrote the book because I was concerned that there’s such a false set of assumptions of what a market economy is and that it’s completely disconnected from the moral life…We need to stop presuming that the government is the provider and find creative and innovative ways which can serve people and which will build a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious cycle.

Regarding the imminent challenges for economic growth and human flourishing in welfare-dependent European countries, like Italy, Rev. Sirico said: “It’s going to be difficult for young Italians to reach adulthood with their dignity intact for quite a while, because they presume that the State will provide for them, cradle to grave.”

To read the rest of the CNA article, go here.

Ann Schneible, who interviewed Rev. Robert A. Sirico for Vatican Radio today (see PowerBlog post for audio) also published an interview with the Acton Institute president and co-founder on the Catholic news site, Zenit. Excerpt:

ZENIT: In response to those Christians and Catholics who are hesitant about buying into the idea of a free market economy, how can one demonstrate that there are elements to a free market – or Capitalist – economy which are compatible to Catholic social teaching?

Father Sirico: There are a number of elements that can make the connection. I keep going back to this anthropological question because that’s the beautiful way to do it. I think it was Chesterton who said that Catholicism is the religion of stuff, by which he was really addressing the Incarnational nature of the Church. We have incense, and bells, and candles, and vestments, and all these things. In other words – in a non-liturgical context – the material world is good. We see that in the book of genesis. And God places us in the material world and asks us to pursue sanctity there.

The moment he places us in the material world, he places us in the context of limitations and scarcity. This gives rise to economics – which means that we have to find a way that is in accord with our nature, that is ethical, that is appropriate, that is effective – to make use of nature for the glory of God. It is in the same way an architect who studies geometry uses that geometrical precision and technique to build the façade of a cathedral, and thereby rendering praise to God. So too in a different way, the entrepreneur, who discovers the use of something or the combination of other things and represents and organizes them and creates a network and a marketing campaign to build a business, that that architectural construct ends up sustaining many families who participate in that, and sustain many consumers in the sense that they buy a good or a service at a higher quality and for a lower price than they would have otherwise, thereby giving their family a little more money to use at their discretion; all of these things, too, can be considered rendering nature for the glory of God. And that’s enterprise; that’s business. I don’t like the word “capitalism” because I think it’s too narrow a word. I like “free economy,” or “free market.”

Read “A Moral Case for a Free Economy — Acton Institute’s Co-founder Explores Free Market Economy in New Book,” an interview by Ann Schneible on Zenit.

On Vatican Radio, Acton President and co-founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico discusses his new book Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Market Economy with reporter Ann Schneible.

According to Vatican Radio, the broadcasting station of the Holy See:

… Fr Sirico highlighted his objectives in writing this book. Defending the Free Market, he said, was written “with the intention of making accessible economic ideas that I thought were important in general terms; but, in particular, especially for religious people, to understand there is what we call a normative or moral dimension to economic activity.”

“It’s not just, live by the Ten Commandments and open a store,” Fr Sirico explained, but he wanted to demonstrate “that there’s something more internal to the whole dynamism of a market economy that makes sense both economically and morally.”

Click on the media player below to listen to Schneible’s full interview with Rev. Sirico:

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Brett M. Decker, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, recently interviewed Rev. Robert Sirico, president and co-founder of The Acton Institute, in response to Rev. Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. In his answers, Rev. Sirico addresses the market’s moral potential as well as the present state of the nation. Excerpt:

Decker: Your new book is about the moral case for a free economy. What is the morality of the marketplace and how does it work? How does the market take care of the masses better than a government safety net?

Sirico: The morality of a market is rooted in the morality of the human person who is the center of that market. In precise terms, the market itself is neither moral nor immoral, but it becomes a vehicle for the moral and economic expression of the acting human person, who has the free will to choose good or bad.

When we speak of taking care of the masses, we usually mean taking care of their material needs (though there is much, much more to people than their material needs). The material needs of people are best met in societies that are prosperous, both in terms of the abundance of economic opportunities available to them and the amount of superfluous wealth that can be used generously to support the needs of those unable to provide for themselves. The one thing we know about markets from a wide array of economic studies is that the less taxed and regulated a society is, the more prosperous it is.

Entire interview here.

Last week, CBS Radio Philadelphia host Dom Giordano took to the airwaves to address President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech. The speech, which garnered plenty of discussion at Acton and elsewhere, drew varied responses from Giordano’s radio audience. Among those responses were several callers who recommended Rev. Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, as a useful corrective to the President’s speech. This prompted Giordano to read the book and invite Sirico, who was in Hong Kong at the time, on his show. What followed was a fruitful discussion on entrepreneurship, capitalism, and free enterprise. Excerpted below is the answer Sirico gave to the question “Why is the free enterprise system moral?”:

It’s moral because it reflects human nature. Human beings are several things simultaneously. Human beings are individual and yet we’re in relationship. From the first moment of our existence, we’re a unique biological entity. But we’re also in relationship with our mothers in the womb but later on with friends and neighbors. You can’t have a market economy without a society. …

But the second thing we are–and this gets to the moral dimension of it–we are physical, obviously, but we also transcend our physicality. We know innately that we’re more than the sum total of our material parts. When you blend these things together, you have a market economy that is productive, that is social, that can be moral. …

We’re never really satisfied when we’re acting beneath our capacity to be beings of destiny, beings of purpose, noble beings that can create. The very act of the creation involves working with other people as well.

Full audio here:

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American Enterprise Institute president and 2012 Acton University plenary speaker Arthur Brooks has a recent column in The Washington Post that lists five myths about free enterprise. Brooks’ five myths address some of free enterprise’s most common critiques and do so by giving free enterprise a moral aspect. The five points are especially relevant this election season, he says, because the two candidates represent such different fiscal perspectives.  Here’s a look a myth #2:

2. Free markets are driven by greed.

I once asked Charles Schwab how he built the $16 billion investment company bearing his name. He never said a word about money. He spoke instead about accomplishing personal goals, creating good jobs for employees and the sacrifices along the way — including when he took a second mortgage on his home so he could make payroll.

Entrepreneurs are rarely driven by greed. According to Careerbuilder.com, in 2011, small-business owners made 19 percent less money per year than government managers. And as Northwestern University business professor Steven Rogers has shown, the average entrepreneur fails about four times before succeeding.

Free markets and entrepreneurship are driven not by greed but by earned success. For some people, earned success means business success, while for others, it means helping the poor, raising good kids, building a nonprofit, or making beautiful art — whatever allows people to create value in their lives and in the lives of others.

Earned success gets at the heart of “the pursuit of happiness.” The General Social Survey from the University of Chicago reveals that people who say they feel “very successful” or “completely successful” in their work lives are twice as likely to say they are very happy about their overall lives than people who feel “somewhat successful.” And it doesn’t matter if they earn more or less; the differences persist.

Those acquainted of Acton Institute president and co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico will recognize arguments such as these from Sirico’s recent title, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Sirico, like Brooks, argues that free enterprise is the economic system that best complements morality.

To listen to Brooks’ 2012 Acton University Lecture, click here.

Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan and regular blogger at The Gospel Coalition, featured Rev. Robert Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, on his blog. DeYoung praises Defending the Free Market for making a serious moral case for a free market system:

Robert Sirico, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy (Regnery 2012). Rev. Sirico is a Catholic priest, the president of the Grand Rapids based Acton Institute, and a former radical leftist. As you can guess by the title, he’s since said goodbye to his socialist and Marxist leanings. It’s a shame than in our hyper-partisan climate many people will automatically dismiss the book as Republican propaganda. But it really isn’t. Sirico is picking up where Michael Novak left off in making a strong moral case for capitalism, free markets, and the calling of the entrepreneur. It’s a case that Christians need to consider more carefully, even if you end up disagreeing with some of Sirico’s points, especially the many pastors who bring a superficial understanding of business and economics with them into the pulpit. This would be a great book to read and discuss in a small group, a book club, or a senior seminar.

For a free chapter of Sirico’s book, check out the official book site here.

Rev. Robert Sirico, Acton Institute president and co-founder, released Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, in late May and the book has been no stranger to critical acclaim ever since. The latest? Defending the Free Market cracks WORLD Magazine’s top five business books of the past year. Sirico’s book is critically necessary for 2012 says David Bahnsen, senior vice president at a leading financial firm:

Attacks on Mitt Romney’s time at private equity firm Bain Capital are political, of course, but they also illuminate a key debate: wealth creation vs. job creation. Some theorize that the pursuit of wealth by a few does not create jobs—but in practice, as Robert Sirico shows in Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, job creation is a byproduct of the profit motive. Although Sirico did not set out in this book to spotlight 2012 politics or Bain Capital, he has produced a much-needed 200-page apologetic for free market morality.

Click here to visit the book’s official site to download a free chapter and here to go straight to Amazon.