Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico appeared in a a video interview released yesterday by Catholic News Service, following a press conference in Rome last week held to introduce his new book “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Economy” to the local media.
CNS Rome bureau chief Frank Rocca interviewed Sirico regarding his own moral defense of market economics and asked his opinion of the libertarian novelist and intellectual Ayn Rand, whose philosophy of objectivism and rational-self interest gained widespread support from laissez faire capitalists in the United States and Europe.
Rev. Sirico expressed his opinion of Rand’s “false gospel” of laissez faire capitalism in these words:
Ayn Rand is a very interesting character … She attempts to defend capitalism by the use of Aristotelian and, even at times, Thomistic categories. But I think that Rand has a counterfeit form of Christianity. Her success … to a very great extent, is [due to] the moral passion she brings to the question of economics.
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:
A review of Rev. Robert Sirico’s Defending the Free Market is featured in the National Catholic Register, written by Fr. C. J. McCloskey. The National Catholic Register is reviewing a number of books, in an effort to help readers discern issues pertinent to the upcoming election.
In Fr. McCloskey’s review of Defending the Free Market, he notes:
Father Robert Sirico could not have written a timelier book than his latest, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy….Why do I say his book is timely? Because we are mired in the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, one that is all the worse for being global and that shows indications of worsening in the years ahead. All of this follows by a mere couple of decades the almost total collapse of Marxism throughout the world, with the fall of the Soviet Empire and its dependents.
Father Sirico quotes Alexis de Tocqueville — perhaps the greatest observer of the unique character of America — who observed, “Freedom is, in truth, a sacred thing; there is only one thing else that better deserves the name,” and that is virtue. And then he asks, “What is virtue if not the free choice of what is good?” Both Father Sirico’s masterful endeavors at the Acton Institute and this book contribute needed guidance to help our country reclaim its status as “exceptional and virtuous.”
Read the entire review of Defending the Free Market and the Register‘s other reviews here.
Rev. Robert Sirico’s book ‘Defending the Free Market’ has a review in today”s Washington Times. It notes the timely aspects of the book, given the upcoming presidential election:
As the presidential race centers on America’s economic woes, President Obama and many of his supporters depict capitalism as a system that allows greedy CEOs and Wall Street insiders to profit atthe expense of the common good. Increased government regulation is their proposed solution for checking corruption and standing up for the rights of the average American.
But do Americans really have to choose either exploitative capitalism or excessive government intrusion? In “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy,” the Rev. Robert Sirico argues that popular rhetoric presents a false dichotomy between “the free market and the nanny state.”
French President François Hollande has promised a 75% tax rate on those in his country who earn an annual salary above one million euros ($1.24 million). Not surprisingly, this number has struck fear into the hearts and wallets of quite a few of France’s top earners, including some who are contemplating leaving and taking their jobs with them. The New York Times has the story:
Many companies are studying contingency plans to move high-paid executives outside of France, according to consultants, lawyers, accountants and real estate agents — who are highly protective of their clients and decline to identify them by name. They say some executives and wealthy people have already packed up for destinations like Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and the United States, taking their taxable income with them.
They also know of companies — start-ups and multinationals alike — that are delaying plans to invest in France or to move employees or new hires here.
The potential tax increase threatens to handcuff “les Riches” and, ironically enough, undercut France’s prized notion of egalité, taking with it liberté and fraternité, the remainder of the country’s tripartite maxim. In Hollande’s France, these principles may not apply to the wealthy.
Of course, Hollande’s tax initiative is sure to have some beneficiaries. No, not the poor or the middle class. The real winners? Well, they live on the other side of the border. Also from the Times:
“It is a ridiculous proposal, but it’s great for us,” said Jean Dekerchove, the manager of Immobilièr Le Lion, a high-end real estate agency based in Brussels. Calls to his office have picked up in recent months, he said, as wealthy French citizens look to invest or simply move across the border amid worries about the latest tax.
“It’s a huge loss for France because people and businesses come to Belgium and bring their wealth with them,” Mr. Dekerchove said. “But we’re thrilled because they create jobs, they buy houses and spend money — and it’s our economy that profits.”
The entire story reminds me of a passage from Rev. Robert Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. In a chapter titled “The Idol of Equality,” Sirico addresses the unsustainable nature of simple redistribution. Instead, business development and job creation are essential–and lasting–tenets of economic growth. From the book:
When most people picture the 1 percent and their wealth, what comes to mind is designer clothing and jewelry, yachts and limousines, mansions and penthouses—all sorts of alluring and attention-grabbing luxuries. Luxuries so distracting, in fact, that we tend to lose sight of the fact that most of the wealth of the wealthiest is invested. It is put to work in the businesses they own and manage, and in stocks and other financial vehicles that provide the capital for countless other businesses. These are the businesses that provide the 99 percent with the goods, services, and employment that they regularly enjoy and often take for granted.
Whether it’s a big automotive plant or a small bakery on the corner, a microchip manufacturer or a family farm, all businesses that produce goods and employ people are owned by someone. It’s businesses that make up most of the wealth of the 1 percent. Confiscating that wealth and giving it to the other 99 percent would mean shifting much of that wealth from investment and production to consumption, since the poor and middle class consume a far higher percentage of their income than the wealthy do. This sudden shift from investment and production to consumption would demolish the infrastructure that makes jobs, goods, and services possible.
Hollande would be wise to read Defending the Free Market. Doing so might save his nation and preserve liberty, equality and brotherhood in the process.