Question/Prompt: This assignment requires you to read "Moral Criticisms of the Market" by Ken S. Ewert https://fee.org/articles/moral-criticisms-of-the-market/ .Note that in his article, Ewert is defending the free market from "Christian Socialists." He states their position and then gives a rebuttal. Do you agree with the critique of the market in Ewert's article? Why or why not? Read carefully and offer cogent reasons. Your answer must be at least 250 words. Consider the context of the article; the Berlin Wall fell months after the article was published. The USSR followed shortly thereafter.
According to an author writing “Moral Criticisms of the Market" by Ken S. Ewert ,it points to an interesting fact, namely that while the opposition to free markets and less government control has declined in recent years among the “secular left,” the political-economic views of the “Christian left” seem to remain stubbornly unchanged.
Why is this so? Why are the secular critics of the market mellowing while the Christian critics are not?
Perhaps one major reason is the different criteria by which these two ideological allies measure economic systems. The secular left, after more than half a century of failed experiments in anti-free market policies, has begrudgingly softened its hostility towards the market for predominantly pragmatic reasons. Within their camp, the attitude seems to be that since it hasn’t worked, let’s get on with finding something that will. While this may be less than a heartfelt conversion to a philosophy of economic freedom, at least (for many) this recognition has meant taking a more sympathetic view of free markets.
However, within the Christian camp, the leftist intellectuals seem to be much less influenced by the demonstrated failure of state-directed economic policies. They remain unimpressed with arguments pointing out the efficiency and productivity of the free market, or statistics and examples showing the non-workability of traditional interventionist economic policies. Why? One likely reason is that the criteria by which these thinkers choose to measure capitalism are fundamentally moral in nature, so much so that socialism, despite its obvious shortcomings, is still preferred because of its perceived moral superiority. In their eyes, the justness and morality of an economic system are vastly more important than its efficiency.
ff indeed the Christian critics of the market are insisting that an economic system must be ultimately judged by moral standards, we should agree and applaud them for their principled position. They are asking a crucially important question: is the free market a moral economic system?
Unfortunately, these thinkers have answered the question with a resounding “No!” They have examined the free market and found it morally wanting. Some of the most common reasons given for this indictment are that the market is based on an ethic of selfishness and it fosters materialism; it atomizes and dehumanizes society by placing too much emphasis on the individual; and it gives rise to tyrannical economic powers which subsequently are used to oppress the weaker and more defenseless members of society.
If these accusations are correct, the market is justly condemned. But have these critics correctly judged the morality of the free market? Let’s re-examine their charges.
The market, it is suggested, is based on and encourages an ethic of selfishness. According to critics of the market, mere survival in this competitive economic system requires that we each “look after Number One.” Individuals are encouraged to focus on the profit motive to the exclusion of higher goals and as a result, selfishness becomes almost a virtue. And this, it is noted, is in stark contrast with the self-sacrificial love taught by the Scriptures. Instead of rewarding love, compassion, and kindness towards others, the free market seems to reward self-orientation and self-indulgence. Instead of encouraging us to be concerned about our neighbor, the free market seems to encourage us to be concerned about ourselves. Individuals who might otherwise be benevolent, according to this view, are corrupted by the demands of an economic system that forces them to put themselves first. In the thinking of these critics, the market is the logical precursor to the “me generation.”
However, this charge is superficial and misleading in several respects. It is important to remember that while the free market does allow “self-directed” economic actions, it does not require “selfish” economic actions. There is an important distinction here. it should be obvious that all human action is self-directed, Each of us has been created with a mind, allowing us to set priorities and goals, and a will, which enables us to take steps to realize these goals. This is equally true for those who live in a market economy and those who live under a politically directed economy. The difference between the two systems is not between self-directed action versus non-self-directed action, but rather between a peaceful pursuit of goals (through voluntary exchange in a free economy) versus a coercive pursuit of goals (through wealth transferred via the state in a “planned” economy). In other words, the only question is how will self-directed action manifest itself: will it take place through mutually beneficial economic exchanges, or through predatory political actions?
Clearly, the free market cannot be singled out and condemned for allowing self-directed actions to take place since self-directed actions are an inescapable part of human life. But can it be condemned for giving rise to selfishness? In other words, does the free market engender an attitude of selfishness in individuals? If we define selfishness as a devotion to one’s own advantage or welfare without regard for the welfare of others, it is incontestable that selfishness does exist in the free economy; many individuals act with only themselves ultimately in mind. And it is true, that according to the clear teaching of Scripture, selfishness is wrong.
But we must bear in mind that although selfishness does exist in the free market, it also exists under other economic systems. Is the Soviet factory manager less selfish than the American capitalist? Is greed any less prevalent in the politically directed system which operates via perpetual bribes, theft from state enterprises, and political purges? There is no reason to think so. The reason for this is clear: selfishness is not an environmentally induced condition, i.e., a moral disease caused by the economic system, but rather a result of man’s fallen nature. It is out of the heart, as Christ said, that a man is defiled. Moral failure is not spawned by the environment.
It is clear that not all self-directed action is necessarily selfish action. For example, when I enter the marketplace in order to earn wealth to feed, clothe, house, and provide education or medical care for my children, I am not acting selfishly. Likewise, if you or I want to extend charity to a needy neighbor or friend, we must first take “self-directed” action to create the wealth necessary to do so. Such action is hardly selfish.
The point is this: the free market allows individuals to peacefully pursue their chosen goals and priorities, but it doesn’t dictate or determine those priorities. It does not force an individual to focus on his own needs and desires but leaves him or her at liberty to be self-centered or benevolent. My ultimate goal may be self- indulgence or I may make a high priority of looking after others—the choice is mine. As to which I should do, the market is silent. As an economic system, the market simply does not speak in favor of selfish or unsel...
I agree with Ken S. Ewert’s take on Moral Criticism of the Market. He writes about the religious criticism of the “free market” and acknowledges that there are actually problems. These problems include selfishness, materialism, and abuse of power in the economy existing in the “free market”. The point of this article is that the “free market” allows everyone to peacefully pursue their goals, but does not force them to focus on their own needs. It does, however, leave them to be self-c...
l do agree with Ken S. Ewert because Ewert argues such critics misunderstand the root cause of sin—the falleness of man. Further, he suggests that the market itself is morally neutral and that the free market provides the means by which wealth for charity is generated.
[W]e must bear in mind that although selfishness does exist in the free market, it also exists under other economic systems. Is the Soviet factory manager less selfish than the American capitalist? Is greed any less p...