Introducing markets and morality

					                                                                                                                                               FEBRUARY 1-APRIL 13, 2007

Introducing markets and morality
Andrew Siebert                                                     evangelicals across North America, views of justice and           have changed since St. Augustine said, “From those things
ChristianWeek Staff                                                economic social policy might be at the top of the list.           that God gave you, take that which you need, but the rest,
                                                                      Our panel of columnists for this series includes Green Party   which to you are superfluous, are necessary to others. The

T   he relationship between getting what we need and act-
    ing justly is an ageless question. That helps to explain why
ChristianWeek is introducing a six-part column series exploring
                                                                   leader Elizabeth May, an Anglican and a student of theology,
                                                                   and Bill Blaikie, an ordained United Church minister and
                                                                                                                                     superfluous goods of the rich are necessary to the poor, and
                                                                                                                                     when you possess the superfluous you possess what is not
                                                                   bulwark of NDP policy. We’ll also be hearing from the likes       yours.”
the relationship between economics and theology from a variety     of Roman Catholic theologian Gregory Baum, a professor               Now mega-church pastors tout the organizational benefits
of perspectives. The key question: Do free-markets foster the      of religious and political thought at McGill University, Paul     of the free-market and incorporate its kernels of truth into
decline of virtue?                                                 Williams, professor of marketplace theology at Regent College     ministry strategies. Even Pope John Paul II (Centesimus Annus
   This series is aimed at fostering a wider discussion between    and David Guretzki, president of the Canadian Evangelical         1991) acknowledged some benefits of free enterprise.
economists and theologians. It begins in this edition with         Theological Association.                                             How we think and act about the economy makes a big
an essay by Anthony Waterman, an evangelical Anglican                 Why are we troubling ourselves (and you) with articles         difference. Economics, as a science gauging individual
economist and student of theology, who summarizes what             about economics and theology? After all, such earthly matters     decision, may or may not have anything to say to theology,
the market is and what its limitations might be.                   are simply ignored by many theologians who have more              and vice-versa.
   These issues matters to all of us, beginning at the top.        heavenly or esoteric ideas to consider.                              These are questions Christian leaders cannot afford to
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an economist by trade and            Economics holds the prize for least understood, and            ignore. Do free markets foster the decline of virtue? Let’s not
also a Christian. But if there is something that differentiates    therefore most disputed, area of Christian thought. Things        take these things for granted. Enjoy the series.

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                                                                                                                                                                                     FEBRUARY 1, 2007
                                                                                                                                                                                 Volume no. 20 | Issue 22

This issue, ChristianWeek introduces a new column series exploring the relationship between economics
and theology. Every columnist will tackle the question: “Do free markets foster the decline of virtue?”
Why is this question important? Anthony Waterman has written an intellectual history exploring why political      various Christian perspectives on this question.
economy has replaced theology as the dominant discourse in modern society. As he introduces the concept           Gregory Baum, who has spent a life-time thinking about Christian ethics, will respond to Anthony Waterman’s
of the market below, he argues that Adam Smith naturally assumes Christian virtue as a stable force in the        introduction from a Catholic perspective. The series continues with Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party and
flourishing economy. But in an increasingly secularized and fractured society, economics is what defines the      student of Anglican theology, Bill Blaikie, longtime NDP voice and United Church minister, political science
community, not virtue. We live in a society where Mandeville’s dictum “Private Vices, Publick Benefits” is all    professor David Koyzis of Redeemer University College and Paul Williams, professor of marketplace theology
too true. What is at stake for society? What is at stake for righteous living? In upcoming issues you will read   at Regent College. We hope you take the time to think about this important question.

The market economy
Anthony Waterman
Special to ChristianWeek                                                    largely self-sufficient and markets (fairs) happened only two or            Untrammeled market forces are unlikely to produce the best national
                                                                            three times a year. However, since the 14th century, markets have           defence or administration of justice. Since we can’t prevent anyone

W     e can use the things we make by ourselves, take our allotment
      of things collectively produced by ourselves and others, or
get the things we want from others by exchanging goods with those
                                                                            gradually replaced collective distribution. And since the recent and
                                                                            predictable collapse of all forms of socialism, the market economy
                                                                            is now the only game in town.
                                                                                                                                                        in Canada from enjoying their benefits, and since the total cost is
                                                                                                                                                        unaffected by the numbers using them, there are no profit oppor-
                                                                                                                                                        tunities here for the private contractor. We must have defence and
who want ours. All three ways coexist in most human societies at                                                                                        justice, for these are safeguards of the rule of law, without which the
most times.                                                                 Advantages of the Market                                                    market economy would collapse into anarchy and chaos. But the
   We can also get what we want from others by brute force. Scottish        What can the market economy do for us? It can harness the most              market can’t provide them—therefore government must.
clans lived by robbing their neighbours. But the costs of predatory         powerful motive force in human society to the common good—self-                When no producer or consumer is powerful enough to get a better
war are great, and civilized societies must live by the rule of law.        interest. It can economize informa-                                                                        deal than anyone else, the market pro-
The sovereign, who has a monopoly of violence, therefore protects           tion, one of the scarcest human                                                                            duces exactly that pattern of goods and
persons and property. Therefore we rule out the fourth way.                 resources. It can enlarge human             If the shopping mall comes                                     services which matches the demands of
                                                                            freedom, always at risk in any cen-                                                                        consumers, and it does so at minimum
Before the Market                                                           trally managed economy.                       to replace the church as                                     cost. But big players can rig the market
Imagine weaving all your own clothes, never buying electricity,
books, kerosene, tools or feed for your horses. Very soon you would
                                                                               People work longer and harder
                                                                            for themselves than for others.
                                                                                                                         the central symbol of our                                     so as to cream off most of its benefits
                                                                                                                                                                                       for themselves. In reality, they collude to
understand why exclusively producing one’s own goods is now                 Experience has shown that ingenious         culture, the shopping mall                                     rig prices in their favour, pulling in fat
confined to cranks and hobbyists.                                           new ideas only flourish when there is                                                                      profits and keeping new competition out
   Many of the things we want have to be produced collectively, often       good hope of a reward. Large-scale            itself may be in danger.                                     in many ways, both lawful and unlawful.
with large concentrations of labour and capital. So how do we get           business does better when success in                                                                       Customers pay more than the goods cost
our share of what we want from others? Some accepted author-                the market brings dividends, bonus-                                                                        to make, and the pattern of production
ity—village commune, patriarch, monarch, workers’ cooperative,              es and high wages than it does when state-employed managers try             is distorted.
socialist planning bureau—must decide both the work each must               to meet production quotas set by the planning bureau. Provided                 The market economy only works well when most players obey
do and also the share of collective product each should receive. For        there is genuine competition among workers, producers and sellers,          the rules of the game most of the time, even when the umpire isn’t
example, economic doctrine of the Old Testament calls for “just”            self-interest means that shops are filled with goods that individu-         looking. Like all the institutions of a free society, its viability depends
patriarchs and other rulers who assign fair shares to all.                  als actually want. It also means that these goods are produced as           upon virtue. Some recent commentators have suggested that the very
                                                                            economically as possible.                                                   success of the market economy may become self-defeating. For the
Markets                                                                        No human mind can hope to grasp all the production possibilities         more our attention is focused on our own interest, the more tempted
The remaining option is the market, which applies to all forms of           and all the potential demands in a small province, let alone a global       we may be to cheat. And if everyone cheats, the game ceases to be
production from the self-employed shoemaker to great collectives            economy. The information needed—updated every second—would                  worth playing.
such as Manitoba Hydro and Great-West Life. Markets differ from             be immeasurably costly to produce and practically impossible to
centralized or collective decision-making both in the assignment            use. That is why “central planning” is mere superstition. What the          On Balance
of work and in the distribution of the product. No patriarch or             market does is generate a continually updated set of prices for every       What’s the bottom line? We’re stuck with the market economy
commissar decides these things. They happen as the unintended               good or service which is easily accessible to all who need them.            whether we like it or not. It works well but it doesn’t work perfectly.
consequences of thousands (say millions) of private decisions by            Each individual makes production and consumption decisions in               Well-designed, properly enforced legislation may do something to
individuals who can’t possibly see the big picture, and who simply          light of relative prices. No one need know anything but that which          remedy the second set of difficulties. But we ought not to be too
try to do the best they can for themselves and their dependents.            affects his or her own private interest.                                    optimistic, for legislation is the work of self-interested legislators
   Men and women exchange some of their labour with an employer                When men and women are free to choose their own work, to buy             for whom the public interest takes second place.
for money (wages); owners of land and capital exchange some of              and sell what they please and to do what they will with their property,        The problem of virtue is even trickier. The modern market econ-
their assets with employers for money (rents and interest); employ-         other forms of liberty abound. But when the state tells people what         omy emerged in a world formed by Christian belief and Christianity
ers exchange ownership in their businesses with pension plans,              they may and may not buy and sell, and how much they may charge,            morality. Adam Smith took the latter for granted as a necessary
strike funds and insurance companies for money (dividends); and             power is concentrated in the executive. Officials, bureaucrats, inspec-     condition of a well-functioning economy. But if the shopping mall
employers exchange the things their workers produce with custom-            tors acquire an importance out of all proportion to their usefulness.       comes to replace the church as the central symbol of our culture,
ers for money (sales).                                                      Since they are hardly ever able to enforce their commands, the only         the shopping mall itself may be in danger.
   Everyone who gets money uses it to exchange for the goods and ser-       sector of the economy to benefit is organized crime.
vices they most want: food, housing, transport, insurance and the rest.
                                                                            Problems with the Market                                                    Anthony Waterman is a Fellow of St John’s College Winnipeg and Senior
We call this interconnected system of exchange a “market economy”.                                                                                      Scholar in the Department of Economics, University of Manitoba. Since
   Markets have existed wherever humans have lived in peace. St.            What’s the down side? Some goods can’t be produced in the market.           1979, Waterman has worked almost entirely on various aspects of the
Peter and his kin were commercial fishermen and St. Paul was in             Big players can rig the market so as to cream off most of its benefits      relation between economics and Christian theology. He has published
the tent-making business. But roughly from the fall of the Roman            for themselves. A culture of the market economy may undermine               widely in economics, the history of economic thought, theology and church
                                                                                                                                                        history and the history of ideas, and was awarded the Forkosch prize for
Empire to the Black Death, agriculture—then by far the largest              those virtues upon which its success depends.                               intellectual history in 1992. He is currently Visiting Fellow at the Centre for
producer—was usually run by collective distribution. Manors were               We can’t rely on the market for some of the things we most need.         Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, BC.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    FEBRUARY 15, 2007
                                                                                                                                                                                 Volume no. 20 | Issue 23

This issue, ChristianWeek continues this new column series that explores the relationship between economics
and theology. Every columnist will tackle the question: “Do free markets foster the decline of virtue?”
 David Koyzis, professor of political science at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario,                   good thing because that means we can each make a difference. However, he goes on to say that “the
replies to Anthony Waterman’s introduction to the free market. Koyzis’ research interests include the                transition from socialism to capitalism and the preservation of capitalism require what philosopher
relationship between religion and political ideologies, particularly nationalism, and state-building                 David Kelley calls the entrepreneurial outlook on life, which he describes, in part, as ‘a sense of
amid social diversity.                                                                                               self-ownership, a conviction that one’s life is one’s own, not something for which one must answer
   What are the particular challenges that individual Canadians face after science deems global                      to some higher power’.”
warming a reality? Pundits say changing our lives will not be so easy. Our economic habits will be                      Perhaps as Christians we should be careful in defining our terms. The future ahead will impinge
hard to change. What is not so clear is what this means for freedom.                                                 upon many freedoms—and some have taken these for granted as actually existing apart from
   “Freedom’s first principle,” according to one writer, is “Each person owns himself.” Well, this is a              external consequence.

The market:
a modest defence
David T. Koyzis                                              that there is a winner means that there are losers
Special to ChristianWeek                                     as well.
                                                                 In the real world, however, the “players” do not

T    here are few things that arouse quite so much
     fury or fervor in people as the economic mar-
ket. For some it is the source of all evil in society
                                                             by any means start out on an equal footing. Someone
                                                             born in, say, Orange County, California, starts out
                                                             with advantages unavailable to a person from the
and something to be left behind if we ever hope              much poorer Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
to end a variety of social ills and finally achieve          When this reality hits home, many people begin to
human liberation. For others the market itself               abandon their faith in the market’s fairness, opting
is conceived of in redemptive terms. If only we              at first for an economic regulatory state and later
could maximize individual freedom and lessen                 for a state that undertakes to guarantee equality of
government intervention in the economy to as                 opportunity.
great a degree as possible, we would then all gain,              Some may go even further by giving up on the
especially materially, as a society. For socialists          market altogether, choosing instead a centrally
in particular the market is an obstacle to human             planned economy, as in communism, or at least
progress; for libertarians the market is the engine          state control of the commanding heights of the
of such progress.                                            economy, as in democratic socialism. Ironically
   Yet the market is simply the market, no more              then, the expansive state grows out of the logic of
and no less, as Anthony Waterman correctly points            the game metaphor employed by the partisans of
out in his article. It is not the locus of evil, nor is it   the limited state. If the market is to be defended,
the source of salvation. It is a structure—a divinely        it is best to discard once and for all the notion of
created structure, I would argue—for which we                economic life as a game.
have reason to thank God. Ordinary economic                      A second missing element is a recognition that,
life would be impossible without it. Even socialist          though the free market may indeed reflect consum-
countries never succeeded in abolishing it; instead          er choices, the aggregate of those very choices may
they merely distorted it and in the process created          not be conducive to proper economic stewardship,
chronic shortages of basic consumer goods.                   especially over the physical environment shared by
   However, there are three elements missing in              all. Here is where government may have a role to
Waterman’s analysis. First, afficionados of the              play, not in cancelling the market, but in guiding it
market are often too ready to appeal to a game               in ways that would predispose consumers to make
metaphor without fully recognizing the implica-              better choices in specific areas. For example, the
tions of so doing. Accordingly, economic actors              provincial government might decide to add capac-
are portrayed as players operating on, one hopes,            ity to an existing commuter rail system in urban
a level playing field, with government taking on the         areas as opposed to increasing funds for highway
impartial role of umpire, setting and enforcing the          expansion. It might impose tolls on the use of the      of justice, this observation needs to be placed          political authority, as affirmed in Romans 13 and
“rules of the game.” On the surface this seems like          latter while providing incentives for commuters to      within a larger framework in which economics             in our own experience of such authority within
a fairly innocuous metaphor, until one recalls that,         choose the former. Here government would not            finds a limited place, along with other activities       our ordinary political systems.
unlike economic life, games do not go on for ever.           be so much subverting the market as collecting          and institutions in the larger society. Government          Shall we then defend the market? Yes, as long as
At some point, the game comes to an end and the              the true costs—both economic, environmental             administers justice, not primarily because it is         we understand the limits of its validity and refrain
victors collect their winnings. In Parker Brothers’          and in terms of the consumption of nonrenewable         uneconomical for the market to do so, but because        from making too much of it.
famous Monopoly game, all players start out with             energy resources—that drivers of automobiles            God has created human beings and human society
$1,500 equally and then undertake to earn more               might not otherwise be made to bear if the market       in such a way that different normative tasks are
by buying up properties and collecting rents from            were left to itself.                                    given to a diversity of authoritative agents, includ-    David T. Koyzis teaches political science at
other players landing on them. The person who                    Third and finally, although Waterman is cor-        ing individuals and communities. In this respect,        Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario,
                                                                                                                                                                              and is the author of the award-winning Political
is most adept at turning chance to his or her own            rect to note that we cannot rely on the market to       the real reason the market does not administer jus-      Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian
advantage emerges as victor. Naturally, the fact             provide national defence and the administration         tice is because this is a task that God has granted to   Critique of Contemporary Ideologies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                MARCH 1, 2007
                                                                                                                                                                         Volume no. 20 | Issue 24

This issue, ChristianWeek continues the series entitled “Markets and Morality” with a column by Gregory Baum.
Baum is professor emeritus of theological ethics at McGill University, was a theological advisor at Vatican II, awarded
the Order of Canada in 1990 and was editor of the The Ecumenist—a review of theology, culture and society.
The pope’s disputed comment about Islam earlier this year was cause for many to                               Jean Francois Lyotard, one of our French guides into the new emerging strange-
read his Regensburg address and find out what the Roman Catholic church teaches                              ness of the 21 st century, defined our age as one with an incredulity toward
about the relation between faith and reason.                                                                 meta-narratives, or universal claims. Strangely, that skepticism about ultimate
 As some evangelicals find puzzling, the Benedict XVI is an enemy of postmodernism                           ends has left no recognizable dent in the global market economy. Popular post-
and its popularized tendency toward compromised liberalism. Why does this matter                             modern skepticism is very much at home in a world based on the fulfillment of
in a column about economics?                                                                                 individual desires.
 Economics is the benevolent behemoth that passes under the radar of fashionable                              We hope Christian leaders will continue to take these questions seriously, as we address
post-modernism. “We cannot go back to modernity” our culture seers tell us, in                               the lack of discussion between economists and theologians today.
their new best-selling works.

Do free markets foster the decline of virtue?
A Roman Catholic perspective

Gregory Baum                                                            workers be co-responsible for the organization of labour and the
Special to ChristianWeek                                                use of the goods produced by them, and that they eventually become
                                                                        the co-owners of the giant work-bench on which they labour.

T   he social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church has always
    been critical of the free-market economy. This was true
prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) when the
                                                                           The idea of the common good is a central idea of Roman Catholic
                                                                        social teaching. It is defined as the laws, institutions, customs and
                                                                        values that help all members of society without exception to develop
Church rejected all modern institutions, including the liberal          their potential. The common good protects the freedom of indi-
State, parliamentary democracy, human rights, religious lib-            viduals, yet it summons them at the same time to see themselves as
erty and the unregulated market system; and this remains true           partners in a common project. Persons are always person-in-com-
after the Vatican Council when the Church supports—on its               munity, an idea that recalls the social philosophy of the Protestant
own terms—democracy, pluralism, human rights and religious              thinker, John Macmurray.
   The Church continues to reject the process that allows an eco-       Transcending individualism
nomic system to detach itself from ethical principles. That the pro-    Implicit in the idea of the common good is a substantive ethics, an
duction and distribution of goods necessary for the survival and        ethics of virtues, transcending individualism and utilitarianism. The
well-being of society—in other words, the economy—should be             laws of the market, the popes remind their readers, do not protect
guided simply by the laws of the market without reference to ethical    the poor and the weak, nor do they protect the natural environment.
norms, is a novel idea without precedent in human history. This         Committed to an all-inclusive justice, the citizens must create a
is the thesis defended in great detail in Karl Polanyi’s The Great      society that sustains the poor and the weak and manages the envi-
Transformation (1944). That separating the economy from ethical         ronment in responsible fashion. Even the daily labour that people
norms is outrageous is a verdict also found in the rabbinical and       perform is here seen not only as a way of helping themselves, but
Islamic traditions.                                                     also as a service offered to society as a whole. In this context, taxes
                                                                        are not seen as the tribute imposed by an empire on its colonies,
Markets useful to a degree                                              but as the contribution of citizens to enable their society to render
Roman Catholic social teaching recognises the importance of mar-        the public services they deem necessary.
kets. Needless to say, the Church had no sympathy whatever for             From the Roman Catholic perspective, liberal capitalism is not
communist collectivism and the command economy. Markets are             simply an economic system, it is at the same time a cultural project,
marvellously useful institutions: modern society could not do without   promoting certain values and attitudes, such as individualism, self-
them. But according to Roman Catholic teaching, markets must            promotion, utilitarianism, indifference to the common good and
be constrained to serve the common good of society. They must           the increasing commodification of human relations. Conservatives
be guided by 1) government legislation, 2) a strong labour move-        lament the instability of family values, the high divorce rate and the
ment and 3) a culture of cooperation preventing competition from        neglect of children, without acknowledging that these are products         denounces is liberal or neo-liberal capitalism, also called the unregu-
becoming the dominant value in society. This social teaching has        of liberal capitalism.                                                     lated market system, which refers not to the institution of markets as
a certain affinity with the economic ideas of the British economist        Capitalist culture even transforms political democracy: instead of a    such, but rather to their integration into an entire economic system,
John Maynard Keynes, an advocate of welfare capitalism steered          governing system open to the co-responsibility of all citizens for the     independent of ethical norms, opposed to government control and
by government.                                                          common good, democracy is increasingly becoming a system used              indifferent to the common good.
   The recent popes have repeatedly criticized what they called “lib-   by the powerful to pursue their own interests. In recent years, even           Most Catholics know nothing of their Church’s social teaching;
eral capitalism,” or, the free and unregulated market system. They      the style of driving in Toronto and Montreal has changed: people           and even if they did, they would not embrace it, affected as they are
recognised moreover that the laws of the market lead to the creation    increasingly drive competitively, speeding ahead as the traffic light      by the dominant culture. And yet the globalization of neo-liberalism
of giant corporations that devour smaller companies, acquire eco-       changes and twisting in and out to their lane to move faster than oth-     is presently making society and the world as whole a territory of
nomic control, regulate prices, blackmail governments and exercise      ers. Liberal capitalism is generating societies of winners and losers.     competitors where the powerful actors grab as much as they can of
what Pius XI in 1931 and Paul VI in 1968 called “international          Social scientific studies demonstrate that neo-liberal globalization       the planet’s limited resources, producing an obscene inequality that
economic imperialism.”                                                  has widened the gap between the rich and poor countries, and               produces despair in some and revolt in others. This in turn demands
   John Paul II lamented the shift to monetarism that occurred in       between the rich and the poor in each country.                             the military intervention of the powerful. Competition as a dominant
the early 1980s and denounced the subsequent globalization of              I am not suggesting that, according to Roman Catholic teaching,         value destroys humanity and the earth on which it lives; only solidar-
the neo-liberal economy. In his three social encyclicals, On Labour     markets produce the decline of virtue! No! Markets are marvellous          ity can save us. Many Christians find inspiration in God’s undeserved
(1981), On Social Solicitude (1987) and After Hundred Years             institutions that distribute the products of labour to the possible ben-   and irrevocable solidarity with humanity in Jesus Christ.
(1991), this pope emphasized even more than his predecessors            efit of all and are thus able to serve the well-being of society as a
that the economy—including private and public property—must             whole. Markets in a culture that promotes social solidarity operate        Gregory Baum is professor emeritus of religious studies at McGill
serve the common good of society. He even advocated that factory        as useful agents promoting prosperity. What Roman Catholic teaching        University in Montreal.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    MARCH 15, 2007
                                                                                                                                                                              Volume no. 20 | Issue 25

Is there a relation between free-markets and the decline of virtue? ChristianWeek continues its column on Markets
and Morality with a strong answer from the deputy leader of the New Democratic Party, Bill Blaikie. Blaikie is the
House of Commons’ longest serving member, elected first in 1979. He holds degrees in philosophy and divinity, and
was ordained a minister in the United Church of Canada in 1978.
There have been three responses to this question so far. Anthony Waterman delineated his view                       Gregory Baum argued that the market, though useful, is a modern cultural project that fails
of economics as a limited science separate from moral inquiry that performs a limited set                           to be geared towards the common good in itself. Here, Blaikie sides with Baum in noting
of functions. David Koyzis agreed that the free-market is a “divinely ordained” structure,                          that a free-market cannot be value free, and that we ignore the moral responsibility that
held accountable by government whose role is to ensure justice despite massive inequalities.                        comes along with an independent science of economics at our own peril.

Do Free Markets foster
the decline of virtue? Yes.
Bill Blaikie
Special to ChristianWeek                                    of globalization and free trade, as if the market
                                                            existed outside of our collective obedience to it, is

I  believe that free markets foster the decline of
   virtue, but more specifically I believe that the
kind of free market fundamentalism and capitalist
                                                            an open and shut case of idolatry. It is our graven
                                                               The very nature of idolatry is to be found in
triumphalism characteristic of the post-Cold War            humans granting god-like status or powers to
era has been particularly destructive of virtue.            something, and then forgetting that those god-
   It is not just that the free markets of this era         like powers are not independent or objective,
create and exaggerate inequality. That would be             but derive from the power humans themselves
lacking enough in virtue. It’s that a whole new way         grant. When we deny our own participation in real-
of thinking about life, that used to know its place,        ity—in this case, when we treat the marketplace
has become so comprehensive and ubiquitous                  as if it is not a human creation—we are engag-
as to threaten other more virtuous ways of being            ing in idolatrous behaviour. When we act as if the
human in the world. Markets are one thing, and              market cannot be changed, modified, regulated or
still debatable as to their scope and nature, but           even eliminated where necessary in some sectors,
the marketization of reality is another, and a much         we are forgetting that it is we ourselves who have
more undesirable thing.                                     created this particular golden calf.
   My warning to Conservative MPs that they would              From a Christian standpoint, it’s simple. Is the
get more than they bargained for during the Free            market Lord or is Jesus? If Jesus is Lord then
Trade debate of 1988 is echoed by Paul Vallely in           Christians have to argue for a way of regarding
The New Politics: Catholic Social Teaching for the          the market that puts it in its place, for the sake
21st Century, when he says “It is only now that we          of the full human life and human community that
are coming to realize the extent to which the sub-          God intends. Is humanity made for the economy
versive dynamism of market forces has inexorably            or the economy for humanity? This is another way
dissolved the framework of personal relationships           of saying that the economy is a moral issue.
in families and communities…” As the values of                 The economy is every bit as much a moral issue
the market become less an unfortunate reality and           as those issues which are sometimes set apart as
more a quasi-religion, morality is undermined and           “matters of conscience.” In my view, a global eco-
all is short-term contracts, individual self-fulfillment,   nomic order (read the WTO) that doesn’t even
and technological efficiency.                               recognize let alone enforce core labour standards
   There is no virtue in global ecological collapse.        that prohibit child and slave labour, while protect-
We live in a finite universe. What this means is that       ing the interests of powerful investors, is a matter
we cannot remain committed to an economic ethos             of conscience, and should be a matter of national
which requires infinite growth to work. Infinite            conscience when Canada speaks at such meetings.
production and consumption for its own sake, in             But the dictatorship of the market needn’t be only
a command economy, would also be undesirable.               a concern of Christians who see a challenge to the
But this would be a contingent, political decision,         lordship of Christ or to other religions who see
amenable by political action.                               a challenge to the sovereignty of God or God’s
   Infinite production and consumption in a finite          justice. It is also a challenge to all who cherish
world, as a necessary component of an economic              democracy, and who think that the powers of
system, is a commitment to a logical fallacy in the-        democratically elected governments to act in the        ing gap between the rich and the poor. When the        the value-free nature of the public square. I share
ory and a disaster in practice. We must be open to          public interest, for the common good, or to pre-        market produces a situation that pays millions to      this lament, but I will never understand why it is
ways of organizing our economic life that are truly         serve the environment, should not be impeded by         CEOs who make more in a day than some work-            okay with him and others in his camp to celebrate
sustainable, don’t require traditional growth and           a corporate bill of rights that supersedes all other    ing families make in a year, it’s not virtue but the   a value-free marketplace. There is no value-free
produce a frugal but abundant life for all, in which        considerations.                                         unbridgeable chasm between the rich man and            marketplace. It is, by its very nature, laden with
meaning is sought more in being than having.                   Finally, I believe that the market as we now         Lazarus that springs to mind.                          values that can, and have, corrupted our worldview
   In my view the way the market has been ele-              know and experience it is an instrument of radi-          In his 1984 book The Naked Public Square             and fostered the decline of virtue.
vated—from one false god among many in the                  cal inequality. I can’t imagine Jesus giving us a       Richard John Neuhaus, now editor of First              Bill Blaikie is a member of parliament for the New
human political pantheon that it used to be—to              lecture on the virtue of the market and tax cuts        Things, and reportedly one of the more influential     Democratic Pary representing Elmwood/Transcona,
the false god of the post-Cold War era and the era          for the affluent when confronted with the grow-         Christians on the American political right, lamented   Winnipeg.

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                                                                                                                                                                                 MARCH 30, 2007
                                                                                                                                                                           Volume no. 21 | Issue 01

Evangelicals are concerned for the poor. However, they choose radically different ways of
going about caring based on their economic allegiances.
This can be seen most clearly in the latest documents signed by American Christian leaders regarding           for global warming in the first place. Differing degrees of faith in the enlightenment project par excellence
policy decisions surrounding climate change. The Evangelical Climate Initiative group—includ-                  is at the root of how evangelicals will respond to global warming.
ing various college presidents, Ron Sider and the editor of Christianity Today—seeks government                   In this next installment of Markets and Morality, Green Party leader Elizabeth May responds to
regulation for carbon emissions which they see as a major factor in the famine-striken future of               the question “Do free-markets foster the decline of virtue?” by focusing on the nature of idolatry
African and other geographically poor nations.                                                                 in the marketplace. A student of theology and a practicing Anglican, May began her career as an
   On the other hand, we have the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance—James Dobson and an impres-                  environmental lawyer advising Brian Mulroney’s environment minister. She is an officer of the
sive train of scientists—who claim that putting the breaks on free-market capitalism will do more              Order of Canada, was the founding executive director for the Sierra Club of Canada in 1989, and
damage to poor people around the globe and won’t help us anyway, now that we’ve waded too far                  was elected leader of the Green Party in 2006.
into the rapids.                                                                                                  The question about morality and the marketplace isn’t the work of an afternoon. Take the time to read
   Both sides laud environmental concern. One is perhaps at home with capitalism—with a guilty con-            what Christian leaders are saying. The entire series—including responses by Gregory Baum, Anthony
science. The other is deeply committed to classical economics, that science blamed by environmentalists        Waterman, Bill Blaikie, David Koyzis and Paul Williams—will be available in packaged form.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        —Andrew Siebert

Do free markets foster the decline of virtue?
Elizabeth May                                                              theory and the role of economics back in their proper place in

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            KAREN ALLEN
Special to ChristianWeek                                                   our society. Economic activity is in aid of a healthy society. It is
                                                                           subservient. Society and communities and families do not exist as

T    here is no question that our society has—in becoming more raw material for economic growth.
     secular—lost track of the need to celebrate virtue. In fact, in          As a Christian, it seems to me the problem of idolatry is at the
the 1990s, an orgy of economic growth and triumphal capitalism core of this discussion. Our culture worships economic growth. We
after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR led to have elevated markets and economic growth to a central place in
the moment when in the film Wall Street the central character could our political and social realms. They belong in a subsidiary place.
proclaim “Greed is good!” and theatre audiences did not spot the As Gregory Baum points out, the central place should be occupied
irony. Many agreed.                                                        by the service of the common good.
   In a course I took last fall at St. Paul University, “Moral Existence,”    We cannot worship God and Mammon at the same time.
Professor Kenneth Melchin pointed out the following. Our society has          So how can a society operate under market capitalism, enjoy the
adopted the view from economics of human nature and applied it to fruits of economic activity and reverse the trend toward the celebra-
our political and social realms. As anyone who has taken first year tion of vice and virtue amnesia?
economics knows, all actors in economic theory operate rationally             Clearly, much of the solution is outside the role of governments.
to improve their own rate of return; to increase their own advan- Still, political leadership plays a role. The language of the political
tage. Everyone acts from self-interest. In other words, the theory of discourse reinforces (or, conversely, could challenge) the assump-
economic models presumes selfishness and greed.                            tions about virtue and human nature. Most political leaders, for
   This may be an appropriate way to understand markets, but it is example, craft their political messages around the assumption of
an entirely inappropriate and misguided way to view human nature. selfishness and greed. Political promises are made with language
We are not all motivated by short-term self-interest 100 per cent of about “people who work hard for their money….working families
the time. The virtues of charity and kindness—the central role of who want their money spent wisely…lower taxes…more money
altruism in all great societies—is very present in our society, but in your pocket.”
unheralded and viewed as an anomaly. In that                                                     That is all well and good, but fails to ennoble
sense, our society has turned the hierarchy                We do many things                  the spirit. It does not call on us to be more than
of virtues and vices on its head. We celebrate
vices and ignore virtue.
                                                                                                                   a long
                                                          that are economically self-interested. It is“Ask notcry from the discourse
                                                                                              of John F. Kennedy:           what your country can
   This conclusion is certainly dismal news              irrational. If we do not, do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
for the practicing Christian. Christ’s attitude how can we call ourselves Now, there was a statement that raised expectations
to wealth was clear: “A rich man has as much                      Christians?                 of virtue, rather than reinforce a self-interested,
chance as entering heaven as a camel through                                                  lowest common denominator view of the human
the eye of a needle.” Christ’s message con-                                                   animal.
tinually urged charity and extreme measures to alleviate suffering            We need to find the virtuous circles in our society and reinforce
and poverty. “That which you do to the least of my brethren you them. In other words, rather than habituate vice, we need systems                   if you count all the mandatory feast days in the Middle Ages, serfs
do unto me.”                                                               that habituate virtue.                                                   had more time off than 21st century Canadians!
   Markets do not care about the poor. Markets do not care about              A wealthy country like Canada could, for example, choose to               We could, accepting that free markets provide many benefits, decide
the environment. Markets do not have the capacity of “caring” about eliminate poverty. The tax system could be re-adjusted to allow for             to keep economic activity where it belongs. It is like the plumbing
anything. The market system views everything outside the exchange a negative income tax for those below the poverty line with a guar-               in our homes. It is essential, but we do not live for it. We live for our
of goods and services (produced by capital and labour) for money anteed livable wage. That would ensure farm families of sufficient                 families. We live for our communities. Our governments could play
as “externalities.” The poor are irrelevant. The loss of breathable air resources to live on the farm in dignity. We could adjust the tax           a role in shifting the centrality of economic growth to a secondary
is an externality. The felling of the last tree and the catching of the system through income splitting to allow more choice for couples            place. We could move the service of the common good to the central
last fish will still register positive in the measurement of the Gross where one spouse has significantly higher income than the other.             place in our political priorities and in our public discourse. We could
Domestic Product. Markets are morality-free zones.                         This would allow more time for one spouse to be at home to raise         try to develop those systems that habituate virtue.
   I think the question “do free markets foster the decline of virtue?” children, or to volunteer in the community.                                     We may be rational economic actors in a market, but that is not all
must, on the evidence, be answered in the affirmative. Does that              We could adjust the labour code (federally and provincially)          that we are. It is not the sum of our existence. We are loving, caring,
lead to a debate, as in Anthony Waterman’s article, that another to allow more paid time off. Canadians are significantly over-                     engaged citizens in a democracy. We do many things that are economi-
system has a better claim on promoting virtue? In other words, worked compared to people in most Organisation for Economic                          cally irrational. If we do not, how can we call ourselves Christians?
does answering the question “yes” mean that we must abandon Cooperation and Development countries, with the result that time
free markets?                                                              for social investments—volunteering in the community, time to care       Elizabeth May is an Officer of the Order of Canada and is Leader of the
   I think not. What is urgently required is that we place market for elderly parents, time for family vacations—is curtailed. In fact,             Green Party of Canada. She is also a practicing Anglican.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    APRIL 13, 2007
                                                                                                                                                                             Volume no. 21 | Issue 02

Free markets do foster

the decline of virtue
Paul S. Williams                     individualism. The mainstream        not autonomous individuals as
Special to ChristianWeek             economic theory at the heart of      much as they are persons made
                                     capitalism (sometimes referred       for social interaction and rela-

I  n what follows I shall argue
   that capitalism does foster
the decline of virtue, mainly
                                     to as “neoclassical economics”)
                                     models the human person as a
                                     rational individual who con-
                                                                          tionship with others.
                                                                             In contrast to capitalism’s ten-
                                                                          dency to constantly increase the
because of its faulty understand-    stantly chooses between alter-       scope of the market by “deregu-
ing of human nature and its lim-     natives in order to maximise his     lating” any barriers to its expan-
ited vision of the good. However,    or her own individual utility or     sion, Leviticus 25 for instance,
I shall distinguish between          happiness. The goal of capital-      puts explicit limits on the scope
capitalism as an ideology of the     ism is to provide freedom for        of the market in order to safe-
market, and the market economy       individuals to do this across as     guard other goals. Community,
as a system for organizing our       wide a range of choices as pos-      care for the land and social inclu-
economic behaviour.                  sible. Do we really believe that     sion are to be valued along with
   As described by Anthony           encouraging and permitting           individual freedom. The Jubilee
Waterman in the first column         individuals to pursue whatever       laws plus the bans on interest,
of this series, the market econ-     they desire is the same thing as     permanent debt and slavery in
omy is a way of organizing the       what any religion or philosophy      these and related passages act
                                                                                                                Counting the net result
production and distribution of       might identify as virtuous?          to restrict the free movement of                                             and the political system. We are    the more we will experience
goods and services which is              This capitalist moral vision     capital and the commoditization       Capitalism fosters the decline of      under constant pressure to treat    the negative consequences in
more efficient and more effec-       then legitimates a particular        of land and labour. Such restric-     virtue because it elevates indi-       learning, care-giving, justice,     terms of increased consum-
tive than any of the alternatives:   version of the market economy.       tions work to limit the socio-eco-    vidual freedom above all other         sexuality and family life, church   erism throughout all areas of
producing everything ourselves,      Mainstream economists argue          nomic exclusion of those who          moral goals. Today, we consider        services and voting behaviour as    life, rising social inequality and
having the government or some        that more effec-                                     might otherwise       it normal to choose a job, find        consumer transactions. Such an      environmental degradation, and
other authority tell us what         tive individual                                      find themselves       a place to live, buy goods and         attitude demeans and subverts       the more we will then “need”
to produce and what we will          choice and more           The Bible                  “capital-poor,”       services and invest our savings        the essence of these activities     larger government to sort out
receive for doing so, or taking
what we want by violent force.
                                     competitive mar-
                                     kets will produce
                                                               supports                   and they do this
                                                                                          without the need
                                                                                                                all with little if any regard to the
                                                                                                                impact these actions will have
                                                                                                                                                       which by their nature should
                                                                                                                                                       not be reduced to a matter of
                                                                                                                                                                                           these problems.
                                                                                                                                                                                              If we want smaller and
Compared with these alterna-         greater economic         individual                  for government        on our neighbours. Although            individual consumer choice.         more decentralized govern-
tive systems, the market is not
only more efficient, but also
                                     efficiency and
                                     faster economic
                                                             freedom but                  intervention or
                                                                                          welfare handouts.
                                                                                                                none of us directly intends it,
                                                                                                                the net result of these actions
                                                                                                                                                           Our political rhetoric usu-
                                                                                                                                                       ally portrays the choice facing
                                                                                                                                                                                           ment—which I believe is what
                                                                                                                                                                                           the Bible advocates because of
more likely to foster virtue. In     growth. Since              does not                     The same           tends to increase economic and         our societies as one between        its realism about the corruption
this I agree with what I judge to    greater produc-                                      approach limits       social inequality and directly         increasing individual choice        of power—then we must limit
be the main thrust of Anthony        tion is bound up          idolize it.                the need (not         undermine even the possibil-           (and unavoidable inequality)        the scope of the market in our
Waterman’s argument.                 with greater happi-                                  the potential) for    ity of genuine community—a             on the one hand, or increas-        societies and give room for goals
   However, whether any system,      ness for more and more people,       labour mobility. High labour          loss which we then lament and          ing governmental power to           other than individual choice so
no matter how good it is, actu-      any barrier to the expansion of      mobility in western societies,        which gives rise to all kinds of       achieve greater equality (at the    that virtue can genuinely be fos-
ally does foster virtue or not is    choice must be removed. This is      driven primarily by economic          secondary effects and govern-          expense of freedom) on the          tered.
dependent on the moral and           why economists often argue for       factors, is a major cause of          ment policies for social welfare,      other. Rather, the choice we
ethical values that inhabit it or    the de-regulation of labour mar-     family dislocation, the loss of       environmental protection and           have is to decide what areas of
that govern the society using it.    kets (to make it easy for firms to   community and the loss of con-        “urban renewal.”                       life the market should cover and
The economy is not and cannot        hire and fire people) and of capi-   nection with place. These in turn        The utilitarianism, material-       what moral vision will inform
be a value-free or morally neu-      tal markets (to make it easy for     contribute to increased damage        ism and individualism that ani-        that decision.                      Paul Williams is an Oxford-
tral domain. In our case, western    money to be divested and rein-       to creation. It is noteworthy that    mate capitalism to favour greater          Capitalism is already a ver-    educated economist, director of
societies are dominated by the       vested from place to place), as      Adam Smith and the early clas-        labour and capital mobility also       sion of this choice—it embeds       DTZ plc—a multinational real
moral vision of capitalism.          well as for “free trade” in goods    sical economists also assumed         urge the extension of markets          the view that the market should     estate consulting and investment
                                                                                                                                                                                           banking group—and professor
   Capitalism is not merely a        and services.                        a very minimal level of labour        into areas of life beyond those        extend to every area of life and    at Regent College in Vancouver.
description of an economic               In contrast with capitalism,     and capital mobility (their con-      that obviously involve business        that the only moral vision that     His research interests include
arrangement based on mar-            the Bible supports individual        cept of free trade was free trade     and wealth creation. These have        matters is maximization of the      globalization, capitalism and
kets. Rather, it is a moral vision   freedom but does not idolize         in goods and services, not free       come to include education,             freedom of the individual to do     sustainable development, the role
                                                                                                                                                                                           of religion in social and economic
based explicitly on utilitarian      it. Rather, it teaches us that all   movements of capital).                health care, the legal system          whatever he or she wants. The       development and workplace
philosophy, materialism and          people (not just Christians) are                                           and even marriage, the church          more we pursue this direction,      spirituality.

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