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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Politics and Morality

Most political arguments boil down to morality. Arthur Brooks (may his sins be forgiven) recounts a family dinner at which he had made an argument for liberty and free markets, demonstrating that both theory and historical observation proved (inescapably) that free markets promote the wellbeing of the poor to a degree that no other economic system has ever even approached. His sister-in-law recounted a newspaper article which mentioned a little girl who lived with her mother in a car. The argument was over. People respond to this kind of ‘moral’ appeal.

What is the essence of free market thinking? What are the principles upon which it is based?
Private Property.
The Rule of Law.
Equality of all before the Law.
Minimal State Interference.

The concept of equality of outcome is nowhere. Free Marketeers regard the very idea as absurd. We believe in it as little as we believe in unicorns. Firstly, because it is manifestly impossible. Secondly, because almost any policy designed even to approximate to it will (of necessity) involve injustice. You can mandate equality of height only by violating equality of toes.

‘Income equality’ is all the rage these days. Bad books are written advocating policies to advance it.
Good laws are those which encourage good behaviour, which reward the following:

In Britain today we read daily accounts of people living on benefits of many thousands of pounds per annum, money which is looted from those who do work. This does not encourage industry and self-responsibility AND it involves the unjust expropriation of the industrious and self-responsible.

For a democracy to work we need a moral electorate. The American Founders knew this very well. De Tocqueville praised American democracy; but he feared that it would be corrupted by electorates who voted themselves ever-increasing benefits. Tragically, his fears have been vindicated – not only in the US but in all Western countries. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the decline of Christianity has contributed massively to this baleful outcome.

The United States is overwhelmingly the most Christian of the Western nations. Americans also happen to be the most generous people in the world when it comes to charitable giving (both domestically and internationally). Religious Americans are the most generous of all.

An economic system which rewards honesty, creativity, hard work and self-responsibility is self-evidently superior to one which does not. Arthur Brooks (paraphrased) again: Happiness proceeds from earned success.

Free markets produce wealth in abundance; no other system comes close. Ever since the middle of the 18th Century, we have seen this to be true. From about 1750 to about 1950 the wealth of the West grew at an astonishing rate. Since the mid-twentieth Century, welfare states have proliferated and grown and the upward trend of wealth creation has faltered (at least in the West). Christianity has declined during the same period. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Am I preaching ‘the prosperity gospel’? No, devout Christians may be uninterested in acquiring great wealth. However, it is indubitably the case that the cultural phenomena of Science and Capitalism only ever developed in the Christian West. Alas, politicised Science and Welfareism gain ground apace.

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