Ecology of the Free Market

In his chapter called "The Ecology of the Free Market" he says he saw two editorials in a liberal newspaper. One was "a defense of more government regulation of the economy and of business" because "Our economy has now become so complex and so sophisticated, it is simply impossible to allow it to run by itself without a substantial degree of government regulation. Just six inches below was a fervent plea for environmental integrity, whose gist was: Our magnificent natural environment is simply far too complex and too delicate in its balance for mere mortals to go on interfering in 'its naturally accommodative process.' Such human interference, no matter how well meaning, invariably produces chaos and distortion. So, on the one hand, our economy is so complex that it must be regulated, and on the other, our ecology is so complex that we shouldn't attempt to interfere with it!"

"Now the true ecologist certainly does understand something fundamental about our world that is as applicable to economics as it is to our environment. The natural ecosystem is so infinitely complex and varied, and so remarkably interrelated, that even the best-intentioned efforts to regulate this environment in one way or another invariably bring about reactions and distortion throughout the system. The ecologist understands that the system itself is constantly bringing about accommodation and balance. While these accommodations are frequently painful and difficult, they are usually better in their long-term result, because nature tends to preserve, protect, and strengthen its own creation. So the ecologist opts for a hands-off policy because he has learned that 'it is not nice to fool with Mother Nature." As the Unification Church gets bigger we should have a laissez-faire attitude to its members.

Brookes has an excellent section on religion and economics. He says that when the brutal dictator of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini criticized America for being a "satanic force" with its "oppressive and exploitive economic system" Americans felt guilty; "it touched sensitive nerves. There is, for example, little connection between the purity and simplicity of the Bethlehem babe's appearance on earth and the merchandising madness that annually turns the U.S. Christmas season into a frenzy of frustration and robs us of much of its potential holiness and inspiration. This is a sorry annual reminder that while it is true that capitalism seems to have flourished most from the impetus of the Judeo-Christian ethic of individual self-betterment, its economic affluence and prosperity have not always brought spiritual well-being. Quite often it has generated the opposite. Good Christians may become successful capitalists, but successful capitalists are not necessarily good Christians (in spite of what Dale Carnegie may argue)."

"This may explain why, in this most capitalistic of all nations, there now seems to be even more theological distrust of capitalism than there is of atheistic socialism and, indirectly, why no other nation in the West, except Great Britain, has more severely punished capitalism's economic lifeblood (savings and profits) than the United States has. Not surprisingly, no other Western nation saves as little."

"Irving Kristol thinks this American 'love-hate' relationship with capitalism is due to the overwhelming dominance of traditional Christianity in our cultural and economic institutions: 'Orthodox Jews have never despised business, Christians have. The act of commerce, the existence of a commercial society, has always been a problem for Christians.' The reason, Kristol contends, is that Judaism and Islam provide mankind with laws which help them adapt to and live in an imperfect world. Christianity, on the other hand, is more 'gnostic,' or prophetic, in character, calling on mankind to change the world we live in. 'It tends to be hostile to all existing laws and all existing institutions...to insist that this hell in which we live, this 'unfair' world can be radically corrected.'"

"It is this material utopianism which draws so many Christians to socialism, which seems to rest on the Christian ideal of the essential spiritual brotherhood, equality, goodness, and perfection of man, and which theorizes that it is only the ubiquitous and discriminatory economic forces of capitalism that make man behave badly. Remove these forces, the Christian socialist promises, and mankind's inherent goodness will flourish in a kind of kingdom of heaven here on earth."

"Socialist experiments have always enticed Christians, from the ill-fated Brook Farm of the 19th century to the tragic Jonestown of 1978. Almost without exception, these experiments have foundered ... on economic fallacies dominated by distribution, not production -- fallacies that succeed only in spreading poverty, not in producing wealth .... Kristol suggests that 'Socialist redistribution bears some resemblance to Christian charity,' but charity is no more the be-all of Christianity [and Unificationism] than distribution is the whole of economics. Charity without redemption becomes itself an expression of poverty and futility, as does distribution without production to replenish it."

"Moreover, economy itself is the creation and production of value. Since, at its root, value is an expression of spiritual qualities with moral implications, religion, which is the teaching and promulgation of values, is intimately connected to the economy .... Most religions, and especially Christianity and Judaism, also teach that a basic source to our daily supply can be found in the spiritual ideas, inspiration, and qualities of thought and character that come from a relationship to God. From this standpoint, true economy becomes the active expression of God-derived qualities in human endeavor, including the process by which we give raw matter value and purpose, and turn it into economic 'goods.'"

"Faith in the Infinite -- which St. Paul calls 'the substance of things hoped for' -- leads directly to the Christian and Judaic teaching that giving is its own reward, since the more one gives the more one has to give. As St. Luke presents Christ's teaching, 'Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withall it shall be measured to you again.' The Golden Rule, actively followed, would wholly destroy both individual and collective poverty. And if everyone is busy giving (contributing and producing), then we have the ultimate underpinning of Say's law that supply generates its own demand and rewards its own effort."

Brookes says America has turned from principles to things, from the spiritual to the physical. Churches are more concerned with liberal policies of redistribution instead of production. He says, "It is no longer unusual to find such venerable organizations as the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Roman Catholics' Campaign for Human Development taking strong leftist stands on such controversial issues as tax reform, rent control, subsidized public housing, welfare, national health insurance, and even vertical divestiture of the oil companies."

"The underlying theme of most of this activity seems to boil down to the demand-side premise that income redistribution and the fully socialized welfare state are the highest human expressions of the Judeo-Christian ethic of compassion, that distribution is in some way more Christian than production, that one (distribution) equates with compassion and the other (production) with exploitation. With all due respect to these religious leaders, at best they seem guilty of a shallow interpretation of their own Biblical teachings (not to mention economic reality), and, at worst they appear to have a strange kind of death wish, through the sacrifice of the metaphysical initiative for the frustrations of power politics."

"It must be transparently clear to any thinking person that the ultimate effect of the creation of the fully socialized welfare state is not merely the destruction of human liberty (and true economy -- the unfoldment of ideas) but the shift of human trust from dependence on God to dependence on the state -- the exchange of worship of Deity for the idolatry and tyranny of Leviathan."

Capitalism and healing poverty

In his section called "Capitalism and Healing Poverty" he writes, "One day in 1979 the front pages of many newspapers featured a haunting picture of the frail Mother Theresa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for her magnificent but frustrating work among the very poorest of Calcutta's impoverished 7 million -- where up to 50% are unemployed and hundreds routinely die of starvation in the streets each night, defying the most heroic efforts at relief."

"Mother Theresa's saintly life and grand humilities present a clear and implicit rebuke to the opulence of an uncaring West, more concerned for the price of oil and gold than for the cost of human suffering. But that, too, could be a superficial view, since nothing could do more for Calcutta's starving millions than a vital economy."

The poor in America live better than most people in the world. "As Michael Novak wrote, 'No better weapon against poverty, disease, illiteracy, and tyranny has yet been found than capitalism .... Its compassion for the material needs of humankind has not in history, yet, had a peer.'"

"There are, however, no Nobel Peace Prizes for capitalism or for American industry and its fabulously successful assault on poverty. Instead, only brickbats, as the media daily parade industry's more unseemly excesses on page one and bury its successes on page 40, while 'profit' has become an ugly epithet and capitalism itself is scorned as 'trickle-down' economic theory."

"It is ironic that the same Christian Church which was once the strongest apologist for the 'Babbittry' of unrestrained 19th-century capitalism and the so-called Protestant work ethic, has now turned with such savage scorn on the affluent society which this 'ethic' has produced. [As I've said many times, the nineteenth century was more advanced than ours in many ways.] Although some of this radical shift in American Christian thought has been spurred by a long-overdue awakening to the real plight of the poor and minorities, it also seems to represent a more fundamental change in today's Christian models."

One way to effectively teach is not to just give theory but also real stories to help us see the ideas. Brookes does this. One of them is about Bradley Dewey. He says, "The most successful companies in this country have been built, by and large, out of the self-discipline and creative faith in the future of a comparatively few men and women who, had they been motivated purely by short-term greed or 'bottom lines,' could never have achieved what they did. I think for example of Bradley Dewey, who helped give this nation synthetic rubber during World War II when we needed it most, and in the process contributed valuable private inventions for the public good."

"Dewey's greatest achievement was the plastic packaging process known as Cryovac, which revolutionized the production, distribution, and consumption of meat and poultry in this country. The process has saved consumers literally tens of billions of dollars in reduced waste, distribution costs, and spoilage, and has been the basis of the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs."

"It took Dewey nearly 20 difficult years before Cryovac finally became a profitable venture -- during which time he continually confounded his accountants and controllers by sacrificing nearly his entire capital investment and life savings to bring this idea through all its technical and marketing problems to fruition. Dewey's long-range vision ultimately produced a major new and profitable business that has blessed millions; yet there never was a man, in my experience, who was less preoccupied with 'profit maximization' or more occupied with genuine service to his country. For Dewey, profits were a secondary and disciplinary measure of performance, only a means to the larger end of enabling his company to carry out other new ideas that would improve human welfare."

"Real economic growth and vitality depend on this imaginative and courageously trusting type of mentality -- the kind that, for a good example, will rise above nearly three years of million-dollar-a-month losses to produce the billion-dollar success that is now Federal Express."

"In all the sentimental folderol that characterizes so much social and political commentary today, we almost never hear the term 'compassionate' applied to a business executive or an entrepreneur. Yet in terms of results in the measurable form of jobs created, lives enriched, communities built, living standards uplifted, and poverty healed, a handful of 'compassionate capitalists' have done infinitely more for their fellow men than all the self-serving politicians, academics, social workers, or religionists who claim the adjective 'compassionate' for themselves."

Abraham Lincoln said, "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich."

Jose Ortega Y Gasset wrote in 1922, "This is the gravest danger that today threatens civilization: State intervention, the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State; that is to say, of spontaneous historical action, which in the long-run sustains, nourishes and impels human destinies."

George Roche in Legacy of Freedom wrote that the nineteenth century understood the need for a "blend of political stability and economic and social progress made possible through the diffusion and localization of power .... The papers of the Founding Fathers, especially The Federalist, are filled with approval of popular rule, so long as that popular rule is locally oriented."

In the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill's essay On Liberty is devoted to the defense of "one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control .... That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any one of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant." Unfortunately, the 20th century has not believed in this "simple principle."

In Lost Rights James Bovard writes, "the more powerful government has become, the more likely the people's values are to be debased. Current tax and welfare policy maximizes the rewards for dependency and the penalties for self-reliance. There is a great deal that people can do to help themselves and to help their neighbors and those in need. But the more powerful government has become, the more people devote their attention to Washington rather than to their own efforts. John Stuart Mill wrote in 1859: 'the most cogent reason for restricting the interference of government is the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its power."

"We have paid dearly for idealizing the state. There is no virtue in denying the law of gravity, and there should be no virtue in denying the limitations of government. Good intentions are no excuse for perpetual failure and growing oppression. The more we glorify government, the more liberties we will lose. Freedom is largely a choice between allowing people to follow their own interests or forcing them to follow the interests of bureaucrats, politicians, and campaign contributors. This is the soul of the debate between liberty and pseudo paternalism, between letting people build their own lives and forcing them to build their lives as politicians dictate."