Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Free markets and morality

Peter Foster points us to a John Templeton Foundation "conversation" where prominent anti-capitalists debate pro-capitalists on the question: Does the free market corrode moral character?

Peter Foster:

The question is front and centre in the avalanche of claims that the ongoing financial crisis is rooted in the greed of fat cat Wall Street bankers, and that Wall Street is typical of capitalism more generally. But markets are far broader and more pervasive than Wall Street...

... Particularly intriguing among the Templeton presentations is how the old left/liberals in the group -- notably Robert Reich, John Gray and Michael Walzer --bristle with righteous condemnation of their demonic enemy, having, like the Bourbon monarchs, apparently "learned nothing and forgotten nothing."

... Fortunately, these three Rorschach inkblots of the left are counterbalanced by the far more balanced and nuanced contributions of the likes of Jagdish Bhagwati, Tyler Cowen, Qinglian He, Garry Kasparov, Michael Novak, Bernard-Henri Levy, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and John Bogle. None of them seeks to whitewash markets, but they make a cast-iron case that free markets promote morality way better than any alternative. Or, as the French philosopher Mr. Levy puts it: "[I]f the market corrupts, the various negations of the market corrupt absolutely."

Excellent stuff.

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