Sesame Street and the free market

Sesame Street has signed a deal with HBO that will allow the popular children’s show to double the number of original episodes that it will produce next year.  Those shows will be shown free on Public Television nine months later.

In the meantime, we can see the difference in how a free market supplies a public good as opposed to government financing. [Read more...]

Does capitalism undermine traditional values?

The left is always saying that big business really runs this country.  There may be some truth to this claim.  The irony is that big business is supporting the left, at least on social and moral issues.  When corporations from Apple to Walmart turned against Indiana’s religious freedom act to support the gay agenda, notice how Republican politicians fell in line.

Charles Lane says that the Indiana controversy may be the Gettysburg of the Culture Wars, the turning point, after which social conservatives will start retreating until they lose their political clout completely.  He says that modern conservatism has depended on an alliance between pro-business free market advocates and social conservatives.  But this alliance is unstable.  He quotes a scholar who refers to “the cultural contradictions of capitalism,” saying that free market economics ultimately destroys traditional values.

There was arguably a time when capitalism and moral traditionalism went together, when capitalism depended on the values of self-control, restraint, and deferred gratification, as may still apply to small business today.  But today’s consumer capitalism depends on instant gratification, the satisfaction of all desires, and constant change.  Our financial system won’t even pay interest on a savings account, but rather depends on having everything now and going in debt.  This creates a cultural climate, so the argument goes, that will undermine traditional moral values.  But is this correct?  Would any other economic system be any better? [Read more...]

Are freedom and democracy obsolete?

The Prime Minister of Hungary has said what many people around the world have been thinking:  That freedom and democracy are obsolete.  With today’s complex economic and social problems, the democratic process is always checking and balancing itself, making it just too slow and polarizing, as evidenced by the political paralysis in the United States.  The most successful models that nations should be emulating, he says, are the authoritarian systems of Russia, China, Turkey, and Singapore. [Read more...]

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...]