At the conclusion of a recent presentation I had given on a free market analysis of the unsustainable cost growth of our health-care system and a framework for viable reform, a gentleman in the audience dismissed my proposal out right, proclaiming that capitalism is inherently immoral. I responded by asking him what economic system he thought was more moral? He had no answer. I further pointed out that socialist economic theory had resulted in the now defunct European communist countries. Those societies not only failed economically but were notoriously oppressive and brutal.
Undeniably, our country faces an historic economic and societal crisis but this calamitous situation has resulted not from the failure of traditional American economic principles, individual freedoms, and morality; but rather, from significant corruption and abandonment of those principles, freedoms, and values. In fact, free market economics is the natural and therefore intrinsically moral product of the Judeo-Christian world view that underlies our country’s foundational ideology.
Although there was certainly no doctrinal religious consensus among the Founders or their European predecessors who significantly influenced their political thought, they shared a general Judeo-Christian world view with agreement on 2 essential and eternal Truths 1. There is an eternal and man-loving God who is the Creator of all life and the Universe. 2. That intrinsic to God’s creation is an absolute and unchanging Natural Law that governs the working of the Universe and defines (reveals) absolute Truth and Goodness concerning Man. From this existential understanding, the Founders conceived a government and society based on three principles: 1. Property rights, 2. Rule of Law, 3. Judeo-Christian morality as the ethical basis for American society.
The Founding Fathers understood the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness essentially as property rights. We are given life and no one else may lay claim to it. Liberty gives the freedom to live our life as we see fit. And pursuit of happiness is the right to appropriate the talent and opportunities we have been given, and to possess the fruit of our physical and intellectual labor.
The Rule of Law for the founders had 2 components. First, laws would be in concord with the eternal and immutable Natural Law. Natural Law, like our unalienable rights, is intrinsic to our creation. Notice a majority could pass a legislation abridging unalienable rights or contrary to Natural Law, and that law would be legal but definitely not lawful. The second component of the Rule of Law is all persons would have equal treatment before the law. This too has been corrupted in our political system with one standard for the political elite and another for ordinary – witness the disparate punishment for failing to pay taxes.
Judeo-Christian morality constitutes the 3rd pillar of our country’s foundation. Natural Law was understood in terms of 2 elements: Physical law governing the working of the universe; and God’s Law for Man – the precepts regarding humanity’s rights and ethics, more formally outlined and expressed in the Judeo-Christian moral code. For most of our country’s history, this code was reflected in the traditional American values of love for God, love for country, love of family, responsibility for one’s self and family, looking out for ones neighbors and community, honesty, fidelity, living within one’s means, and industriousness.
From this founding, despite corruption because of human frailty from the beginning, within a 100 years The United States of America was the most free, most just, and most prosperous country and society the world has ever known. In an uncorrupted state, the government, economy, and society that arise from the establishment of property rights, rule of law, and Judeo-Christian morality are quintessentially moral. Our current societal and economic morass has resulted from the corruption of all 3 principles but especially from abandonment of Judeo-Christian morality, and the rejection of the absolute nature of that code. The founding fathers recognized and warned of the danger of a society based in the liberty created by protection of our unalienable rights devolving into injustice and licentiousness without the salutary restraining influence of Judeo-Christian morality.
A final observation: Should it be surprising that policy based on truth not only is moral but also works? Some would reject such a proposition because they reject the concept of eternal and absolute truth. John Locke would retort it is “unreasonable” to see the obvious order, wonder, beauty, and love in the world around us and not perceive the Divine Reason behind it all. C.S. Lewis would point out that if there isn’t absolute Reason and Truth as cause of life and the universe around us, then whatever we call reason and truth must intrinsically be random and without foundation. The Church Fathers would teach us that God’s Laws are not arbitrary but rather instruction to Man so we would, as much as we can in this fallen world, know peace and joy.
Only by once again understanding and embracing these foundational principles, that made America the great “city on the hill” will we truly solve the economic and societal crisis that threatens our freedom, prosperity, national identity, and ultimately our very sovereignty.
God Bless and God Bless America!