February 18, 2017

Requiescat in pace

I have importuned readers to read Michael Novak's "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism" past the point of annoyance. I know.

Unlike the current pontiff and the Dalai Lama, Novak assembled the liberation of mind in self-rule and property rights with religious virtues. Chesterton said "St. Thomas Aquinas baptized Aristotle;" I'll take a leap and suggest Novak baptizes Ayn Rand -- though she may be kicking and screaming as the holy water burns her flesh.

Novak has passed away at the age of 83. The WSJ Ed Page posts a tribute and reprises a 1994 column on the themes of my too-oft recommended book.

My own field of inquiry is theology and philosophy. From the perspective of these fields, I would not want it to be thought that any system is the Kingdom of God on Earth. Capitalism isn't. Democracy isn't. The two combined are not. The best that can be said for them (and it is quite enough) is that, in combination, capitalism, democracy, and pluralism are more protective of the rights, opportunities, and conscience of ordinary citizens (all citizens) than any known alternative.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at February 18, 2017 1:14 PM

Speaking for myself, I would have read such a highly acclaimed book if I read anything at all. Dagny and I finally started on 'Equal is unFair' by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, from which I learned more than I expected, but were unable to finish it on a road trip last weekend. A completion date is, at present, ambiguous.

The linked article on his passing makes it clear he was first a theologian. He was also a neocon. Well, I thought that despite all our differences I might still enjoy a "beer summit" with our former president, and Novak's respect for capitalism seems genuine.

And readers may or may not know that I've softened in my hostility to the religious traditions. I value the purpose they give to some or even most people, as well as the moral guidance that is around 80 percent consistent with Objectivism.

I've written in the distant past that an acquaintance and I differed on the question, "Which is the greater threat to individual liberty - religion or socialism?" I defended the honor of the faithful and, as socialism's influence has grown in the last decade, am only more inclined to do so.

I'm an open defender of religious liberty, in the public sphere and even in the halls of power. Yet I oppose legislation that imposes any personal morality upon all of us. Laws are for objective moral issues, such as life and property rights.

One of Novak's last public statements is referenced in the linked piece, when he commented on our most recent presidential election:

Referring to Hillary Clinton, Novak said, "As for me, I cannot vote for a candidate so favorable to abortion, to the secularist agenda in the moral sphere and such a ferocious adversary of religious freedom."

"It is clear that Trump is not exactly the candidate by whom a Catholic would want to be represented," he said. "But in politics you elect a president, not a saint, or a bishop or the pope."

The conclusion of which I certainly agree, and even repeated to wavering NeverTrumpers. But my reasons for objecting to Hillary were more, shall we say, originalist in nature. As in the reasons of our nation's founding. Not that religious liberty was not one of those reasons, but the primacy of Novak's theme is clearly theological.

Posted by: johngalt at February 19, 2017 12:40 PM

You and dagny get official church dispensation from reading Novak. We'll fax over the indulgence as soon as the Pope signs it.

But it would be interesting. Novak is the anti-Pope Francis, taking on the assumption that Socialism comports with Catholic Theology. What emerges is a deeply moral case for liberty and rights preservation.

Posted by: jk at February 20, 2017 11:19 AM | What do you think? [2]