In this special series, we are focusing on foundational principles essential for sustaining the American Experiment in virtue-based liberty. Part One articulated the essential moral principles necessary for flourishing. Part Two offered a clarion call for human dignity, cherishing life from conception to coronation and championing care for all persons, especially the vulnerable.
In 1992, Bill Clinton ran for President with the famous tag line, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He recognized that most people spend most of their waking hours working. America’s future depends upon a robust economy with opportunities for all.
Economics is a moral science. Until the 20th century it was a subset of moral philosophy in most schools. Then the “scientific” and “technological” folks took over and separated markets from morality, trade from truth. Today we are left with polarized positions, with some advocating unrestrained free trade and others desiring even more federal control, taxes and programs.
For any economy to run well – local or global – there must be certain moral and practical principles in place. Our world is a beautiful one with opportunities for all to flourish and resources for value and wealth creation. We do not have too many people on the planet. Our economic woes are not for lack of resources. We struggle because of unjust people and systems; in other words, breakdowns in the moral economy.
Economies are moral and social systems of exchange. Here are some of the ingredients necessary for a flourishing economy:
- Personal responsibility and virtue that leads to mutual trust
- An entrepreneurial ethos
- Fidelity to verbal and written covenants and contracts
- Personal property opportunities and rights protected by law
- Access to markets
- The rule of law and a legal system marked by integrity
- Focus on value creation, not just profit
When all or most of these principles are in place, there is greater prosperity. The perversions of these are found in Marxist-influenced systems of central control or the related crony capitalism where the powerful and wealthy control markets and stifle creativity and competition.
The USA is at a socioeconomic tipping point, with a lower percentage of adults working to sustain a higher percentage not working. A flourishing future demands that this ration change as quickly as possible. Tax and welfare policies, regulatory agencies and local and state governments must partner with business and community leaders to re-empower entrepreneurship, offer incentives for welfare recipients to work and develop public/private partnerships to repair and rebuild the infrastructure needed for that 21st century global/local economy.
It is time for solutions, not soundbites, for accountability and wise management of public resources. Balanced federal, state and local budgets will help. Fair tax policies, ending favors to elites and pathways from welfare to work will forge a preferred future.
The economy is a moral system. Let’s put “moral” back into “economics” and watch our nation and world enjoy unprecedented prosperity.