Money, Greed and God: Is Capitalism Evil?

Jay Richards is the author of a book called Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem, in which he argues that capitalism is completely consistent with Jesus’ teachings and the Christian tradition as a whole.

I haven’t read the book yet, but am a frequent reader of Richards’ writings on the Enterprise Blog.

I came across this video over the weekend, and although it’s a bit long, I encourage you to take the time to watch it.

What I found most striking was Richards’ discussion of self-interest vs. selfishness, which is a topic I have often discussed on this blog (particularly in my review of Ron Chernow’s Titan).

Richards notes that self-interest must be properly ordered, and when it is, we will realize that our families, our neighbors, and our communities are all in our self-interest. Selfishness, on the other hand, is “disordered” self-interest. For example, I may choose to commit adultery, and although such an act would be an act of selfishness, I would clearly not be acting in my holistic, long-term self-interest. I would end up feeling guilty, unsatisfied, and miserable, and I would most likely be estranged, if not divorced, from those I love most.

Richards dives into all the nuances surrounding these terms, but focuses primarily on how Adam Smith saw both components. In the end, Richards doesn’t pretend that selfishness is non-existent in capitalism, but rather that it is properly channeled. Richards comes to this conclusion:

“Capitalism channels greed. It’s not based on greed.”

Money, Greed and God by Jay RichardsIn other words, capitalism may permit my unhealthy desire for money, but I can only satisfy such selfishness by providing something valuable to society (e.g. starting my own business, inventing the next great whatever, etc.). On the flip side, in a communist society, greed is not channeled, but (supposedly) overthrown — an extreme impossibility. This is why in capitalistic societies the rich people provide a service, whereas in the Soviet Union rich people provided mere governance.

Richards’ arguments should at least whet your appetite. I, for one, am looking forward to reading his book.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?

Is capitalism evil?

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  • Remnant Culture

    New post on the morality of capitalism. “Capitalism channels greed. It’s not based on greed.” -J.Richards #tlot #tcot