Sunday Morning

Steven Pearlstein, who normally talks sense, has a piece in the Washington Post, entitled ‘Is Capitalism Moral’. Of course, it captures attention. It’s here. I spent many Sunday mornings listening to some variant of ‘are you your brother’s keeper’. So it would seem that this is a core question. AND, would the Washington Post PLEASE allow for longer articles to be displayed on one page? Read this article. He’s trying to get at something; I don’t think he gets all the way there, but I support what he’s doing.

Men and women have fundamentally different points of view on the issue, although that’s a stupid way to look at it. Males once went out and brought home large pieces of bacon (home-runs); females tended the home fire and found roots, nuts, berries (small ball). These roles no longer define anyone, but the underlying points of view are still around.

I think ‘isms’ are not moral in any personal sense. An ‘ism’ describes a general method to organize public lives and I don’t think it has any inherent morality; it is a utility. It’s the consequences of the ‘ism’ that matter. In some modest ways, capitalism can be traced to John Calvin and his friend John Knox and the latter Protestant reformation. It’s also related to the little red hen. There’s a reason that politics is compared to sausage-making and economics is the ‘dismal science’. Messy, inchoate, indeterminant. This piece is one hot mess in some ways.

A useful debate about the morality of capitalism must get beyond libertarian nostrums that greed is good, what’s mine is mine and whatever the market produces is fair. It should also acknowledge that there is no moral imperative to redistribute income and opportunity until everyone has secured a berth in a middle class free from economic worries. If our moral obligation is to provide everyone with a reasonable shot at economic success within a market system that, by its nature, thrives on unequal outcomes, then we ought to ask not just whether government is doing too much or too little, but whether it is doing the right things.

That’s the concluding paragraph – a little anodyne.

This should be a book. It may have already been written. I read Francis Fukuyama’s ‘The Origins of Political Order’. He analyzed several different cultures w/births and deaths and the in-betweens. It was worth the read. One thing Fukuyama pointed out about one of China’s political paroxyms: the country was threatened by a military force to its west; there was a largish class of moneyed families that had they wanted to, could have provided the financial, societal and political resources to mount an effective response. That class decided that they already had theirs and weren’t about to deploy their resources for anything other than their own immediate interests. Country gets invaded -> they end up dead. Moral: the overall health and dynamism of your nation and time should be your personal concern. That’s a different sort of morality.

 

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