Wednesday had me thinking quite a lot about sin.

About what a fallen world it is.   About my own inability to behave as I ought.  And then of course I couldn’t help but notice other people seem to be having this problem as well.  (Full disclosure: I noticed the other people first.  You knew that.)

–> And all that finally settled into a realization new to me, though I suppose the rest of you junior & senior economists already understood this:

There are people who believe true socialism can work, and there are people who believe pure capitalism can work.  And here I’m assuming they believe in a good way — that their system is in fact the solution to economic problems, for the betterment of all humanity.  But either way, they have something in common:  They do not believe in original sin.

And of course that is why as catholics we don’t support either system in a “pure” form.   Socialism tries to achieve by force what man would naturally do if only he were good.    But of course, the people running the system aren’t any better than the ones who can’t be persuaded to freely share and share alike in the first place.  Capitalism tries to harness the natural tendency of man to assume responsibility for his own good — but forgets that left to our own devices, we do not necessarily do what is good for ourselves, let alone show any caution for our neighbor.

People do sin.   There is no real solution to the human condition until you admit that.


7 thoughts on “

  1. “we do not necessarily do what is good for ourselves, let alone show any caution for our neighbor.”

    Yes, it’s an imperfect system since “we do not necessarily do what is good for ourselves.” But what economic system would do a better job of seeing to it that “we do what is good for ourselves?”

  2. Oh dear. I wasn’t ready for that. Remember I am a junior economist, just having little starting-point moment.

    But I’m going to guess that system-thinking is the wrong thing. It would be like asking “what shall we put in place of this river?” The free market forces described by economists are pretty much there. They are what people do. (Though sometimes they don’t work like expected — people can surprise.) Try to be socialist, and you just end up with really really convoluted, dysfunctional markets.

    –> But as a society (or a government, if you like — but in a democracy, the society is the government, in theory anyway), we can no more say “well, that’s what the markets do” than we can say “that’s what people do” with respect to the rest of the law. We mostly let people just do what they want, and that’s the best thing. Lots of things people do wrong that shouldn’t be against the law even though it isn’t ideal. But with behavior in general and with market behavior, there are times when the state needs to intervene. I would argue only for the very serious cases.

    The only thing I’m arguing, I suppose, is that we should not use “capitalism” as an excuse to turn off our morality.


    Any thoughts?

  3. “we should not use “capitalism” as an excuse to turn off our morality.”

    Yes, you are right. Too often people equate the economic system of capitalism with being a system of morality.

    1. Hehe. Yep.

      (Though I am a much kinder and less grumpy person if I keep my eyes on my own soul, and give all the others the benefit of the doubt. So in the long run, the overall happiness is greater that way.)

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