The Enduring Tension - Capitalism and the Moral Order
Publisher: Encounter Books
Western civilization fashioned a capitalism that created a worldwide cornucopia but produced few grateful beneficiaries. Indeed, the market’s creative destruction and individualist autonomy have become a challenge to capitalism’s legitimacy. Even a sensitive person like Pope Francis called capitalism’s “limitless” freedom a “fundamental terrorism against all humanity.” The sympathetic economic historian Joseph Schumpeter had identified capitalism’s “crumbling walls” a half-century earlier and predicted approaching civilizational collapse.Capitalism only survives today in what Schumpeter’s classic Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy called a “fettered” form, harnessed by bureaucratic regulations that impede productivity, compound the problems they were designed to fix, and dissolve the moral structure that underlay capitalist civilization’s creativity and moral legitimacy. A response to these challenges must begin with capitalism’s defining author Karl Marx accurately setting capitalism’s roots in feudalism and the implications of that historical inheritance, predominantly what Walter Lippmann identified as Rousseau’s “Christian heresy.” That revolution converted heavenly perfection into impossible to fulfill demands on earth, culminating in what F.A. Hayek considered the “superstition” that science could rationalize markets to achieve social perfection.To unravel this capitalist enigma, we identify the historical roots of the confusion, review the alternative rationalized solutions, and provide a pluralist John Locke-inspired legitimizing-synthesis to fuse a freedom and tradition moral scaffolding sufficient to hold the walls and preserve the best of capitalist civilization.