12.16.2013 0

The moral superiority of capitalism

Pope_FrancisBy David Bozeman

The American Right has yet to fully make the moral case for capitalism.  Too many conservative writers and politicians focus on its practical aspects, but details of order and efficiency do not sway the hearts of voters, compassion does.  Not surprisingly, the party most hostile to our founding economic principles has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, in large part, by claiming the moral high ground for wealth redistribution and more centralized power.

Columnist Leonard Pitts recently excoriated Rush Limbaugh for calling out the Pope in the wake of his pronouncements condemning the free market.  Pitts cites the Apostle Paul who writes in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 that it is wrong for some to live lives of ease while others struggle.  Limbaugh and others, according to Pitts, “are fine with faith as long as it speaks in platitudinous generalities… but scream bloody murder when it imposes specific demands on their personal conscience — or wallet.”

A complete theological rebuttal to Pitts’ twaddle would require space not permitted here.  Certainly God does require His followers to care for the needy.  Rush Limbaugh annually hosts a Leukemia and Lymphoma Cure-a-thon on his radio show and he proudly supports the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, which offers scholarships to the children of fallen heroes.  The dreaded robber barons of the 19th Century gave millions to establish hospitals, universities and charitable foundations.

Still, the point is not that conservatives and capitalists do good things.  The point is that capitalism makes such giving possible.  Furthermore, the moral case for capitalism lies in the fact that it makes life better for everyone every day.  The wonders of capitalism are why people from all over the world flock to our shores by the millions.

The Reagan years, known as the decade of greed, saw average incomes for all Americans increase, according to the Census Bureau, more than 15 percent.  Unemployment was reduced considerably during the Reagan era from Carter Administration levels of more than 10 percent, and, according to surveys, charitable contributions reached an all-time high of over $120 billion.  These are the fruits of a system that should be hailed and not demeaned.

One could remind us that the Pope was merely assailing the excesses of the free market.  Pitts, in fact, began his column by stating that “I like capitalism.”  But the American left has been reining in the supposed extremes of capitalism for much of the last 100 years, and with no real successor to Reagan in over a generation, one has to wonder how many excesses could be left!

Neither Pitts nor the Pope mention that charity has no meaning if not freely given.  What they seem to advocate is wealth redistribution, the results of which, as history has shown, have been mostly disastrous.  Visit most any Democrat-controlled inner city. Statists invest faith in their own bloated vision of the benevolence of the state.  They show little faith in a free people.  Capitalism flourishes on the highest ideals of the average person.  Capitalism thrives on achievements of which the achiever never thought him or herself capable!  Socialism can’t say that.  Now tell us which system best speaks to the innate goodness and potential of the human spirit.

Unfortunately, the face of American capitalism far too often resembles Mr. Potter of It’s a Wonderful Life fame, as opposed to a true hero in the Atlas Shrugged mold.  The business world often has only itself to blame.  And conservatives and Republicans who should be hailing capitalism tend to adopt a defensive posture or promote it solely on pragmatic grounds.

Finally, the Pope above all should hail the moral superiority of a free system that allows the most humble to worship the God of his conscience and not the idol of the omnipotent state.  Statists will cite the Bible for their own purposes but they mask their own messianic worldview.  No doubt, this is not about competing economic theories, this is a moral war.  Let’s not be afraid to call it that.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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