Sunday, October 8, 2017


From First Things-

The recent passing of Michael Novak prompted me to take up his masterpiece once again. I first read The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism in the 1980s. At the time, I had no illusions about socialism. It was obviously a failure, economically, politically, and morally. But like so many of my peers, I assumed capitalism to be morally suspect as well. Michael’s book helped me, as it helped so many others, to see that a free market economy has distinctive moral and spiritual contributions to make to a healthy society. Rereading The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism today, however, my reaction is different. Capitalism is not a choice, as it seemed to me and many others when Michael wrote his book. It is our fate—and our problem.

The leitmotif of the book is that capitalism promotes (and is promoted by) a democratic culture. Both, he argued, seek to limit the power of the state and “liberate the energies of individuals and independently organized communities.” As he put it, “the natural logic of capitalism leads to democracy,” because “citizens economically free soon demand political freedoms.” This mutual dynamism toward freedom is not sufficient, however, and Michael identifies the “moral-cultural base” or “moral ecology” (as he later described it) that undergirds, sustains, and guides economic and democratic freedom. He doesn’t denominate it as such, but we can call it “Judeo-Christian” as long as we remember that both religious terms include the classical inheritance of Greco-Roman philosophy, law, and civic engagement. A healthy society thus stands on three sturdy legs: a free economy; liberal, democratic political institutions; and a Judeo-Christian moral ecology that prizes human dignity and encourages self-discipline, social trust, and individual initiative.

More here-

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