Markets and Morality: Ron Paul and Wilhelm Ropke
The relationship between markets and morality has been the subject of analysis and sometimes intense debate for centuries, since Aristotle wrote chapter 1 of The Politics and possibly sooner. I myself have participated in many of these debates, and the position I would typically take is that markets were either amoral at best, or a cause of vice at worst. There are many Catholics and many Distributists who probably share the same view. They will concede and even embrace the fact that the Papacy has not categorically condemned market activity, but they will spend the majority of their time highlighting why markets ought to be regulated and taxed, why we need welfare programs, labor unions, and all of the rest.
I have written extensively against a phenomenon called consumerism, which is also heavily critiqued in the Papal encyclicals. But it would be wrong to associate consumerism, which is a byproduct of mass production and communications technology, with market activity as such, since it pre-dates industrial society by thousands of years.
Now is not the time to address the legitimate argument that the corrosion of traditional morality is the inevitable product of a modern technological society, whether it is capitalist, socialist, communist or some other variation. But it is worth highlighting that traditional morality suffered in more places than just capitalist America, and undoubtedly moreso in quasi-socialist Europe and the communist East.
I have also spoken out in favor of workers rights, but again it would be wrong to associate an abuse of workers with market activity as such. One of the most persistent errors in social criticism is that markets = social injustice = rationale for the expansion of government and its deeper intrusion into our lives. This is not to say that government has no role to play at all.
I don’t wish to cover old territory again, though, so I will move on to some other considerations that have been on my mind. Today I had a chance to read most of Ron Paul’s End The Fed, which I thought was outstanding. If there is a plausible, sensible argument to be made for the Fed, it hasn’t yet been made by any of its last three chairmen. If they can’t make it, I’m not sure who can.