In Support of Capitalism, America Style (part 2 of 3)

As I wrote previously, the pragmatic genius of America at its founding was more than three branches of government. It was in dividing the entire life of the nation into three separate "spheres," and working hard to make sure each sphere could perform its natural function without undue interference from the other two.

Of course each sphere is influenced by the others, such that the three spheres I illustrated last time aren't completely isolated. They interact.

  • The political sphere ensures many things (security, stability, justice, etc.) that both business and religious/artistic/philosophical institutions need to exist.
  • The moral/cultural sphere provides the raw material for public policy, as well as the guiding principles that regulate the doing of business.
  • The economic sphere provides the resources and practical know-how to fund and shape much of what happens in both political and moral/cultural institutions.
So the key point to all this is America works when each of these three spheres is able to influence and shape the other two without undue interference from the other two. It's a beautiful balancing act - one that is no longer happening.

In fact the Moral/Cultural sphere is all but neutralized in public life. There are many reasons why this is so, but I think the main one is postmodern privatization. By that I mean that postmodernism is now the common view, along with its its insistence that no one can know truth. In other words no one is thought to have any real insight into morality (what's right and wrong); all they have is their opinion. The result is that morality has become "privatized": you have your view of right & wrong, I have mine, and that's all there is. It's assumed there is no morality that applies to everyone, and consequently the moral/cultural sphere has no power to influence society any longer as it should (and as it once did). So what we have now looks more like this, with morality privatized off to the side and thus playing virtually no role in public life:
And what are the consequences of privatizing morality and removing its influence? Breakdown. Since the moral sphere provides the guiding principles for both law and business, if we remove its influence we cut ourselves adrift as a society, and business, being less restrained, is more likely to give in to excess. Which is exactly what is currently happening. As I wrote when this whole mess started the decimation of moral/cultural influence is why we have an economic crisis to begin with. The issue at the root of our financial woes is greed (on the part of millions of Americans, incidentally, not just a select few scapegoats) and greed is a moral problem. Unable to identify the immoral nature of their actions (or unable to restrain themselves from doing what they knew wasn't right) millions of people went for short-term profit, drastically over-inflated the economy, and now it's correcting. Hard.

So the economic failure is a failure of shared public morality, NOT the failure of capitalism as an economic system. But with the moral/cultural sphere in tatters only two spheres remain: government and business. So when people perceive a problem with business, where do they turn? To the only option they think is left: government. And with one final post I'll note why I think turning to the government for long term answers is the worst thing we can do.


Tim KC6QLV said...

Yes Greed plays a major part. Wealth and a few other things.
(Read Luke 16:13)

"... You cannot serve both God and money."


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