Saturday, 05 December 2015 04:39

Morality and Economics

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Morality and Economics

Haven Bradford Gow

Haven Bradford Gow is a T.V. and radio commentator and writer who teaches religion to children at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Greenville, Mississippi.

Catholic scholar Sergio Bastianel, in his book Morality in Social Life (Convivium Press), points out that moral reflection cannot be made to substitute for economic reflection or reach technical conclusions of an economic nature but, at the same time:

Moral reflection does show how even the technical questions about economic institutions and structures are never just technical questions. They always involve hidden options of meaning and imply certain aims, with their ethical value, and there is also always involvement in structures of human relations, which have an impact on people's lives.

Jesuit scholar Heinrich Pesch, in his work Ethics and the National Economy (IHS Press), observes:

Any investigation of causes in economics will be incomplete if it does not take the enormous importance of their ethical dimensions into account. We know from experience that the overall material welfare of a nation is definitely conditioned by the practical application of the moral law . . . by the extent to which morality applies to national and economic life.

An article in the May 9, 2011, USA Today noted that both Judaism and Christianity affirm that:

A person cannot worship both the Almighty and the Almighty Dollar; the prophets teach that it is easier for a camel to squeeze through a needle's eye . . . than for a rich man to get into heaven. Obsession with money? Nothing less than the root of all evil.

According to Robert Stuart, chairman emeritus of the National Can Corp., and Rev. Edmund Opitz, a conservative scholar and author of Religion & Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies (Foundation for Economic Education), the most moral economic system is one that enhances economic freedom and limits government intervention into the free market economy; they insist that the free enterprise economic system is the one most compatible with Judeo-Christian moral and religious values.

Serious proponents of freedom long have warned that economic and political power must be diffused, balanced, and limited. When too much power is concentrated in the hands of government, we find a corresponding dissolution of personal freedom.

Implicit in this view of government's limited role is the rejection of the notion that all problems are reducible to the politico-economic and therefore demand politico-economic solutions; rather, it holds to American humanist Irving Babbitt's view that the economic problem blends into the political, the political into the philosophical and the philosophical into the religious.

But during the 1960s and 1970s we were inundated with talk about how legislation and socio-economic planning would help create "The Great Society." Enact the civil rights bills, we were led to believe, and there will be an end to race problems that have drained the moral and spiritual resources of our nation for over a hundred years. Increase the GNP and provide material benefits to our citizens so that happiness and peace of mind will prevail in our society.

Unhappily the passage of civil rights legislation, though much needed and successful in achieving some noble goals, has not made blacks and whites love one another nor has it secured domestic tranquility; and, regrettably, all the material benefits that young people enjoy have not made them realize that drug-taking, thrill-seeking, and "free sex" are merely substitutes (tedious, at best) for the ultimately more rewarding pleasures that emanate from the practice of virtues like courtesy and kindness, honesty and decency, moral courage, self-respect and respect for others, and the Golden Rule of treating others the way we would like to be treated.

Ever mindful of the intense and persistent demands of man's higher and nobler nature, the proponent of liberty recognizes that most of the problems facing man can be dealt with only through a resuscitation of character, integrity, and the human spirit. Indeed, it is a sad mistake to assume that politico-economic remedies can resolve what really are disorders of the mind and spirit, demanding philosophical and religious solutions. As Burke so trenchantly observed, we cannot resolve the agonizing problem of evil merely by decreeing that monarchies shall no longer exist. *

Read 1705 times Last modified on Saturday, 05 December 2015 10:39
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