Is the free market incompatible with Catholicism?

The pope’s right-hand man has essentially declared that free market economics is incompatible with Catholicism.  Speaking at a conference entitled “Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case against Libertarianism,” Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, drawing on statements from Pope Francis, said that the free market economy “kills” and oppresses the poor.

His condemnation seemed to conflate Ayn Rand-style libertarianism with free market economics, but it also scored theological points against the assumptions of autonomous individualism.  Many prominent American advocates of free market economic policies–such as Rep. Paul Ryan, Father Robert Sirico,  and Michael Novak–are Roman Catholics.

Catholic conservatives, what do you make of this?  Do these arguments carry any wait for Protestants, or is Protestantism tied up with the same “autonomous individualism”? [Read more...]

The free market vs. conservatism

Conservatives tend to support the free market.  But the free market doesn’t necessarily support conservatism.  Companies have to make money, so business interests are opposing sanctions against Russia and treading lightly in other countries when it comes to promoting democracy and liberty.  So says liberal columnist Harold Meyerson.  He could have added that businesses are also finding it in their economic interests to support gay marriage, hedonism,  and our decadent entertainment industry.  Historically, the free market has been an engine of “progress,” undermining conservative values.

Consider Meyerson’s argument, after the jump.  How could you answer him?  Or does he have a point?  [Read more...]

Outlawing light bulbs

The manufacture of traditional incandescent light bulbs will be illegal, as of January 1.   Compact flourescent bulbs (those with the corkscrew shape) and Light Emitting Diodes, which look something like the old bulbs invented by Thomas Edison, will have to replace them.  You can still buy the old bulbs and stores can still sell them until they run out of stock, but it will be against the law to manufacture or import them.  The new bulbs use less energy and last longer, but they are more expensive.

If the new lighting technology saves so much money in the long run, shouldn’t the free market take care of this?  As opposed to a legal prohibition?  Or is this a case in which the free market doesn’t meet a social good, in this case, saving energy? [Read more...]

Is libertarian economics what’s killing the GOP?

Most diagnoses of what ails the Republican party have been focusing on social conservatism, saying that Republicans need to stop opposing gay marriage and abortion if they want to start winning national elections.  But now some are arguing that the Republican commitment to libertarian economic policies–that is, a commitment to an untrammeled free market–that’s really to blame. [Read more...]

Shakespeare the capitalist

One of the many unfortunate legacies of Romanticism (there were some fortunate ones as well) is the mystification of the artist, as if, say, a literary genius were some ethereal sensitive soul far above the crass material realm of everyday life.  Whereas in reality, actual literary geniuses–like Chaucer, Jane Austen, Dickens–tend to be of solid, down-to-earth middle class stock.  That certainly was true of William Shakespeare.  Recent research into the abundant records of his business dealings show him to have been a rather ruthless capitalist. [Read more...]

Morality and economics

Economist Steven Pearlstein has published an article in the Washington Post entitled “Is capitalism moral?”  It’s balanced and nuanced, giving the views of both conservative apologists for capitalism and its liberal critics.  I’ll give you a sampling after the jump and then raise some additional issues of my own. [Read more...]


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