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Economic Power?

Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice pointed me to this interesting site for the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. The article Be Wary of Power by Rev. Robert A. Sirico caught my eye. He warns against turning to government programs to cure economic ills.

Some people imagine that there is a third way between the market economy and socialism, and in a sense they are right. But the way to it does not lie with government programs. Before I explain that, let us consider the unseen effects of substituting government means for voluntary human energies.

We often use the word voluntary to identify charitable actions taken in society that do not result in profit. But consider that profit in a market economy also results from voluntary actions. They involve willing buyers and willing sellers, willing workers and willing capital owners. All “capitalist” acts result from volitional choice, a decision by individuals to make exchange based on the forecast that doing so will improve their lots in life. A better term for charitable activities, as distinct from commercial ones, would be non-pecuniary activities.

So by voluntary human energies, I really intend to sum up the whole of economic affairs insofar as they do not involve forcing people to do things they would not otherwise do. This includes activities ranging from the small scale transactions of the peasant farmer to the complex financial transactions of Wall Street. All involve individuals choosing to trade to improve their standard of living.

We can contrast this with government means, which always involves an element of force. Whether it is taxation, regulation, or restrictions on consumption, all government programs are designed to thwart what would otherwise be voluntary decisions. Whether you believe some intervention is necessary, let us be clear that an increase in government management of the economy always means an increase in the use of force.

I am not ready to wholly endorse his argument, but it is well written and provides important ideas to ponder. It is a good follow on to my earlier post on the EEOC.


bookstopper said…
The author here is lumping both altruistic and trade transactions in the same boat by calling them "voluntary". Certainly, voluntary economy is better than involuntary (tax and spend) for the country over the long run, but it seems like the author is going a little too far, suggesting that charity and trade have the same moral value. They don't.
Michelle said…
At least the author recognizes that there is a significant economic force that is not necessarily motivated by what is in a person's best economic interest (charity or other motivators like economic boycotts are not in the best economic interest of the consumer). Both socialism and capitalism downplay or ignore these economic forces.

I think the author is correct to point out that these other motivators from simple charity to solicting a business because they are friendly (even if the products cost more) to not soliciting a business because they support Planned Parenthood are significant and could be utilized to an even greater extent. My problem wiht the article is that it doesn't say "how." It reads more like the opening page of a 50 page dissertation.

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