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.