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My friend Fr. Robert Sirico of Acton Institute has produced a new book entitled Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.
One of Fr. Sirico’s great strengths is his ability to write with clarity and concision which enables me, decidedly not an economist, to follow easily what he is talking about.
Weighing in at 187 pages of the main text (followed by acknowledgments, bibliography, index), there are nine major chapters after the Introduction.
- A Leftist Undone
- Why You Can’t Have Freedom without a Free Economy
- What to Help the Poor? Start a Business
- Why the “Creative Destruction” of Capitalism Is More Creative than Destructive
- Why Greed is Not Good – and Why You Can Get More of It with Socialism than with Capitalism
- The Idol of Equality
- What Smart Charity Works – and Welfare Doesn’t
- The Health of Nations: Why State-Sponsored Health Care Is Not Compassionate
- Caring for the Environment Doesn’t Have to Mean Big Government
- A Theology for Economic Man
He shares some interesting autobiography which helped shape his ideas, including his personal experiences which explain both how he wound up a seriously screwed up lefty when he was young (think Jane Fonda and protests) and then how he escaped that trap (hint: it involved thinking and reading the right things and growing up). His experience of escaping from liberal hell motivated his inclusion after each chapter of a short helpful reading list.
I look forward to digging into this book today. As a matter of fact I have to set aside a couple other things to do that. But my quick scanning of the book shows that the Sirico isn’t just talking about policies which could work better to tackle the contingent choices we are faced with. He suggests things which can work because they are also the right thing to do. He makes a moral case, as the title says. His arguments have a theological underpinning. In the last chapter, for example, when he is explicitly theological, he raises the question “What does theology have to do with economics?”
A: Economics at its most fundamental level is not about money; it is about human action. How we answer the big questions – Who am I? What am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is man? – has n enormous impact on every facet of our lives, including how we work and buy and sell, and how we believe such activities should be directed – on economics, in other words.
One is tempted to say that his economic starting points involve our answer to the first questions in the Baltimore Catechism:
1. Q. Who made the world?
2. Q. Who is God?
3. Q. What is man?
6. Q. Why did God make you?
9. Q. What must we do to save our souls?
How we answer these questions guides everything else we do. And we cannot not answer these questions.
What he is trying to do, I surmise from my first glances, is make an argument for a free market that is free in a truer sense of freedom, namely, a freedom which comes from doing what we ought to do rather than just doing what we want to do. There are obviously going to be theological anthropological underpinnings in such an argument. Moreover, we also have to ask, “What’s it all for?”. If we think the material world of the here and now is all there is, then our choices will follow accordingly. Thus, in the last chapter Sirico deals with “vocation”.
This is a timely book, given that we are in a crucially important election cycle in the USA. Profoundly different visions are on ballot in November. A major dimension of the different visions involves contingent choices concerning the economy, and therefore jobs, entitlements, etc. In the last chapter Sirico describes the fictive homo economicus, a cold and selfish caricature of someone advancing “free market” ideas. I couldn’t help but think of how Pres. Obama and his surrogates, especially in the liberal media, are trying to impose this cold and calculating caricature on Mitt Romney and his time with Bain Capital. They are doing everything in their power to paint him and others like him as only interested in costs and benefits, the bottom line, entirely disregarding other people’s lives. I don’t buy that about Romney, by the way.
Anyway, get the book and find out what Sirico means when he argues that
“Failing to understand that man is more than homo economicus will lead to major errors in addressing social problems. If we treat only the symptoms of social ills – slapping more meddlesome regulations, government spending, or targeted tax cuts onto the surface of a problem without nourishing the wellsprings of human happiness – our solutions will fail.”
For the book launch Fr. Sirico has a brief video blurb.
So, here are the links!
I am looking forward to your comments after you read the book.
Speaking of the free market, refresh your coffee supply now with Mystic Monk Coffee!
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are probably about to say, “You are intimating that Fr. Sirico’s book is so boring that you have to drink coffee to stay awake!”
HA! You fell into my cunning trap.
Above, I linked to their decaf page.
From Stuart Varney’s show on FNC: