But I want to quote Gideon Strauss of CARDUS (formerly the Work Research Foundation), who makes a very important distinction. I think that those Christians on the two extremes of the economics debate (those who believe that markets need to be completely unfettered with no intervention and those who are wary of free market capitalism because of the abuses and vices that occur in the system) can learn from this very balanced assessment of the reality of where we are and what we should do.
We believe markets to be the best way—no, the only sane way—to structure interactions in economic life. We don't only believe this because of the historical evidence from the complete failure and ghastly horror of socialism and fascism, but even more because we consider markets to be built into the very design of economic life. Markets as the proper setting for economic interaction, for buying and selling, are in our view a feature of the structure of reality. So we flagrantly support the idea and the reality of a market economy.
But this does not mean we support the idea of a market society. Human life is not all about economics. Contrary to rational choice theory, we human beings do not make all of our decisions simply in terms of cost/benefit analyses.
While economic life needs room to flourish, and needs protection from the encroachment of excessive government intrusion, it also needs limits. The sphere of economic life does not only provide businesses with a space for their wealth-generating manufacture of products and provision of services, and labor unions with a space for negotiating fair participation in these activities—it also sets the outer limits for business and labor.
There are many spheres of human life where economic considerations appropriately play a role but do not dictate decision-making. Families, schools and hospitals all have to balance their books—but they don't exist to balance their books. In each of their cases, love, learning, and care, respectively, trumps the bottom line.
One of the great challenges facing us is cultivating a society in which economic markets can flourish, but without overwhelming other spheres of human life.
What do you think?