Editor’s note: This essay appeared in Capitalism and the Common Good According Michael Novak: A Law and Liberty Symposium on First Things
First Things editor R.R. Reno, a good friend of 25 years, is surely right that Michael Novak’s classic book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982), is a work birthed in response to intellectual trends of the 1960s and 1970s.
No one likes being in a prisoners’ dilemma. The tragedy of the prisoners’ dilemma, as it were, is that all the players in the game can see the cooperative, Pareto-superior outcome, but they can’t reach it, at least not without changing the game. They can’t reach it even though it’s right there, seemingly within grasp, and even though they all agree they’d all be better off if they did reach it.
Many obituaries of Antonin Scalia were accompanied by a picture of the justice and Ronald Reagan standing together on the day of his nomination. And that photograph perfectly captures Scalia’s importance to the American polity. Scalia changed our jurisprudence as much as Reagan changed our politics.
In an essay at City Journal I explore some of the deep connections between these two iconic figures of the conservative movement:
In a recent speech in Bolivia, Pope Francis voiced his indictment of what he calls “the globalization of exclusion and indifference.” Speaking of what he believes to be problems universal to Latin America, he wishes, “May the cry of the excluded be heard in Latin America and throughout the world.” But who, I wonder, are they listening to?
John Tamny comes to Liberty Law Talk to discuss his excellent new book Popular Economics. Many will recall the first time they read Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. That book’s clear prose and striking examples provided a foundational introduction to free markets. But, as is often true, our practices are better than our theories. We instinctively grasp economics in our daily habits and choices but misunderstand the conditions and principles that support economic growth. Americans are confused about inequality, trade deficits, antitrust policy, fiscal policy, minimum wage, job creation, etc, despite pursuing their own economic self-interest without much thought. Dispelling such…
It was Robert Louis Stevenson who said: “Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone but principally by catchwords.” Refining our thoughts with qualifications can get tiring, so we recur to slogans to capture a reality that is almost always complex.
Alas, what should be the shorthand of thought often turns out to be the short-circuit of thought. When we think of Margaret Thatcher, for example, we think of free-market reforms—whether we are for such reforms or against them, whether we welcome or abominate them.
Is this right? Was Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy one of free markets, of laissez-faire? I am far from sure.
I appreciate John McGinnis’s account of the state of our liberty. He’s right that by some objective measures liberty is on the decline. But, a consistent individualist might say, liberty is on the march when it comes to same-sex marriage, legalized marijuana, and the general front of “lifestyle liberty.”
In 1964 Herbert Hoover died at the age of ninety. He had lived a phenomenally productive life, including more than half a century in one form or another of public service. It was a record that in sheer scope and duration may be without parallel in American history.
His life had begun in humble circumstances in 1874 in a little Iowa farming community, as the son of the village blacksmith. Orphaned before he was ten, Hoover managed to enter Stanford University when it opened its doors in 1891. Four years later he graduated with a degree in geology and a determination to become a mining engineer.
From then on, Hoover’s rise in the world was meteoric.
It is not difficult both to dislike and to criticize consumerism. It is often as vacuous as it is unattractive. Last week, for example, my wife took me to something called an ‘outlet village,’ an expanse of shops built in faux Eighteenth Century style that sold designer products at allegedly low prices (though, wanting nothing in particular, they seemed high enough to me). There was actually a queue to obtain entry into Prada whose products are hardly those of first or primary necessity. However deep our economic crisis, this was no queue for rations in wartime; and though I am far from an egalitarian I felt uneasy that there were so many people wanting and even eager to pay hundreds or perhaps thousands for what seemed to me to be aesthetically cheap and vulgar gewgaws while so many people await their heating bill with extreme anxiety and trepidation.