Supreme Court Justice Scalia recently made the following comments at an event in Houston, reported by the Houston Chronicle:
“The cardinal sin of capitalism is greed, but the cardinal sin of socialism is power. I’m not sure there’s a clear choice between those evils,” Scalia said. “While I would not argue that capitalism as an economic system is inherently more Christian than socialism … it does seem to me that capitalism is more dependent on Christianity than socialism is. For in order for capitalism to work – in order for it to produce a good and a stable society – the traditional Christian virtues are essential.”
I don’t think I’ve heard a public official with such a high ranking explain my economic views so well in a long time. He hits it on the nose and accurately shows us the root of our economic problems: that we must first get our spiritual house in order before our economic one can follow. Whether or not you consider yourself a spiritual person, or even a Christian for that matter, I believe it’s safe to say everyone wants to be a ‘moral’ person. The catch 22 is this: which type of moral person are you going to be?
The type of morals which would need to be put in place to maintain capitalism are not difficult to acknowledge, even if you’re not a person of faith. The Judeo-Christian values of honesty, fair play, trust, and putting others before yourself, are all necessary for a free market to succeed. To make a case against this would be excruciatingly difficult. Transactions, the cylinders in the engines of our economies need one thing to succeed for both parties: trust. When we make transactions with one another we both go into the transaction hoping to gain more than what we have, but for this succeed, it requires honesty with each other and trust that the other person will do the same for you. That’s pretty hard to do on a large scale, regular basis when common values, which embrace these, are not welcome.
Rather, those types of morals are uncommon and in a lot of instances, unwelcome in the public arena. What did we see leading up to the economic crash in 2007? We saw crony capitalism that embraced greed and carelessness. This, fueled by a corporatist government that was fueled on the strategy of economic interventionism, proceeded to drag small town America kicking and screaming down corporate America’s wasteland, the result of greed. The result was simply big business being backed by Government, all in for a quick buck and quick penny. That’s indisputable.
So, with our economy on a rocket sled track to ‘Democratic Socialism’ (whatever that is), how do we go about solving our problems? Well, first off we need to embrace free markets for what they are: the greatest quantifier of wealth on planet earth. However, we also need to embrace them with morals. We have the option now to live underneath socialism, power with no morals in socialism, or greed with no morals in capitalism. Neither are desirable and neither are sustainable. But I’ll still live underneath capitalism any day of the week.
Living the good life is not impossible to obtain, but it can be made difficult when everyone plays with greed in his or her eyes. If we want to turn downturn back into prosperity, we need to put our hearts before our checkbooks.
Tanner Brumbarger | @Brumbarger