The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won't Tell You
Tom G. Palmer, Editor
Jameson Books, 2011
129 pp.; pb
Recently there fell into my hands a copy of a slender paperback volume entitled The Morality of Capitalism, a collection of essays edited by Dr. Tom G. Palmer. Dr. Palmer is a graduate of The Catholic University of America as well as of Oxford, and is currently a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and an executive vice president of the Atlas Network.
The volume in hand begins with a short introduction by Dr. Palmer, followed by an interview with Mr. John Mackey, cofounder of Whole Foods Market. The rest of the book consists of twelve essays by various authors, all extolling the virtues of free market economics. The authors come from a variety of backgrounds, as well as from several different countries, including both Russia and China.
As might be expected from an anthology of this type, not all of the authors are in complete agreement with each other. Mr. Mackey, in particular, presents a fairly benign view of capitalism, noting that there is nothing about a free market, per se, that prevents an entrepreneur from being compassionate or humane.
|Ayn Rand (1905-1982)|
True to form, Mr. Kelley attacks the idea of "social justice" as a concept rooted in altruism, and proceeds to argue that there is nothing morally wrong with pursuing one's one self-interest. Man's highest good, he says, is his own life, and to with that end in mind he participates in the marketplace, which should be governed by the principles of freedom, equality, and justice. But that, he says, does not mean that a given individual is in any way obligated to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of others. ". . . the only social restraint that capitalism imposes is the requirement that those who wish the services of others must offer value in return." He then draws the practical conclusion: "No one may use the state to expropriate what others have produced" (p.80). By don't the poor deserve consideration? ". . .there is no ground in justice for holding the poor or the meek in any special esteem or regarding their needs as primary . . .No one can claim a right to make others serve him involuntarily, even if his own life depends on it" (p. 81). In other words, it is wrong for the government to use tax dollars to alleviate poverty. A state run social welfare program is inherently unjust.
Mr. Kelley notes that altruism is deeply rooted in western culture, and then suggests, in the concluding paragraph of his essay, that mankind needs to break with its ethical past. "The ethical principle that individual ability is a social asset is incompatible with a free society. If freedom is to survive and flourish, we need a fourth revolution, a moral revolution, that establishes the moral right of the individual to live for himself" (pp. 82-83). In other words, what he is proposing is nothing less than the eradication of Christian morality. Significantly, he began his essay with a quote from Thomas Paine: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again" (Common Sense). Mr. Kelley's essay is a Libertarian manifesto indeed!
Next: What the Bible actually says about social justice.
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