Prof. Dierdre McCloskey has a unique defense of the free market: the free market as grounded in morality. The free market reinforces goodness. Put differently, the positive sanctions of profit and economic growth reinforce the businessman’s service to customers. Business is therefore morally legitimate.
McCloskey is an economic historian. Here is the thesis regarding the otherwise unexplainable transformation of the West and then the world, which began around 1800 in Great Britain and the United States. This historically unprecedented process was the result of a change in moral vision: the acceptance of commerce as biblically legitimate in a Christian culture. Until this was widely preached and widely believed, the economic world had lacked a moral dynamic. This dynamic was crucial. Thrift and investment were not. They were necessary, but not sufficient.
McCloskey presented this thesis in two large academic volumes, Bourgeois Virtues (2006) and Bourgeois Dignity (2010). For four years, I have awaited the third volume of this trilogy. Good news. As of this month, it is at the publishers: the University of Chicago Press.
For a summary of the thesis, watch the video. It is a lecture given this month.
It begins at 8:15 into the video. Warning: the sound is appalling. The organizers of event had no understanding of video recording. It takes only a $30 lapel microphone. A hand-held microphone is evidence of technological ignorance. Watching this reminded me of just how good the Mises Institute videos are. But the content of the lecture is crucial.
Without even watching the video, I can tell you that commerce has largely lost its' "moral dynamic"- but then we are in a post-Christian, post-constitutional, post-capitalism America, so I don't know how you could possibly sort it all out! "Usury" is a good example- lending/borrowing at interest. Believers (Christian) are not to do it. That is with another Christian brother, I suppose. "Usury" is "the world." Christians are NOT to be of the "world." Christ also said that if you borrow money, you will not get into Heaven unless every penny is paid back. Interesting.
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