Over at the American Enterprise Institute’s Values and Capitalism initiative, Jay Richards answers a few questions about morality and economics, emphasizing that the two can’t be addressed separately. In order to do the most good for society, we must first learn a few basic economic principles that equip us to look beyond our mere intentions to the practical consequences of the policies that we promote.
As Jay puts it:
Pick almost any subject that you like–for instance entitlement spending. What’s the nature of that? Do the benefits exceed the cost? Are we enabling people or are we crippling them? Are we spending the money of people who have contributed in the current time period or are we spending money now that someone in the future is going to have to pay for? All those questions deal will justice. They deal with fairness. They deal with whether we’re treating human beings with dignity and empowering them–or whether we’re not treating them with dignity and disempowering them.
He also hones in on the distinction between legitimate self-interest and selfishness, and discusses how they fit into a free market economy:
At its core, selfishness is about the desire to control and to possess something absolutely that we don’t, or shouldn’t, have absolute control over. I think it’s important for Christians to distinguish between self-interest and selfishness. And it’s important to recognize that the virtues of the free economy have something to do with both. We want an economic system in which we can pursue our daily, narrow interests and yet contribute to the common good in some way.
Read the full interview at the Values and Capitalism website.