You can’t separate economics from morality (Part 1)

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I recently read through Arthur C. Brooks’ new book “The Battle: How the Fight between Free Enterprise and Big Government will shape America’s Future”; I mostly agree with the fine reviews it’s getting. Unfortunately Mr. Brooks reveals some confusion in the opening sentences when he acts as if the economic debate between socialism and capitalism is a new facet of the culture war:

“America faces a new culture war.

This is not the culture war of the 1990s. This is not a fight over guns, abortions, religion, and gays. Nor is it about Republicans versus Democrats. Rather, it is a struggle between two competing visions of America’s future.”

He goes on to say that those visions are the principles of free markets on one side, and –

“…European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, increasing income redistribution, and government-controlled corporations.”

“These competing visions are not reconcilable,” Brooks writes, “We must choose.”

Of course he’s right about that choice – but he’s terribly wrong in thinking that somehow human behavior can be fully compartmentalized into the narrow topics of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, taxation, business or other facets of commerce.

Brooks is also wrong that this is a “new” culture war. Many people might now be waking up to this aspect of the culture war – but it has been here all along. The “old” culture war is still raging as much as ever. What Brooks now labels as “new” has always been a part of the battle.

The proponents of socialism purposefully targeted all aspects of the culture – both economic and the “social” issues. In fact, those who haven’t been afraid to talk about human behavior and traditional values have long understood that economic activity can’t be surgically removed from all the other things that make up culture.

This isn’t to say that there can’t be free market supporters who also support abortion rights and the confused homosexual rights movement. Obviously there are many individuals who would fall into that category.

But when a society begins to devalue human life – it’s difficult to believe that same society will preserve the kind of culture necessary for liberty and the pursuit of happiness to reign successfully.

When a majority of the adults in a society begin to treat sexual behavior as something to be celebrated much like a toddler does after being potty trained, it’s difficult to believe a whole host of other immature behaviors won’t also cry for toleration.

It’s not an accident that the two major party platforms line up the way they do. The Democratic Party’s platform aims toward socialism, toward abortion, and toward the confused sexual free-for-all that is homosexual rights. The Republican Party platform is pro free markets, pro life, and pro traditional values such as defending the importance of marriage as an institution.

Democrats like to have “pride parades,” which serve to help people feel better psychologically about their depraved sexual desires. Republicans typically don’t feel the need to politicize sex nor do they find it appropriate to evangelize impressionable young people towards unhealthy sexual behaviors.

Piling up massive unnecessary debt for future generations to pay is immoral. Taxing at levels that are punitive is also immoral. It’s my guess that most clear thinking people would agree with those two basic statements. In so doing, they also then admit that economics involves morality.

©2010 John Francis Biver

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