The Future of Democratic Capitalism

From the June/July 2015 Print Edition

In the eighteenth century, a host of thinkers began to use the compound term “political economy” to refer to the traditional subject matter of politics. Both parts are needed to express the complex social system necessary to human liberty and flourishing. For human liberty and human flourishing are fulfilled by neither politics alone nor economics alone. Rather, they require economic activity within a free polity, under the rule of law, and through the daily practice of personal habits of wisdom and self-control. Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, and their colleagues referred to the intellectual movement that led to this new conception of social well-being as the new science of politics.When I proposed the idea of “democratic capitalism” in the 1980s, it was as a new name for the sort of political economy that characterized the free world. Democratic capitalism means a system of natural liberty, incorporating both political liberty and economic liberty. Prior to those two is a particular moral and cultural system, constituted by civic institutions and well-ordered personal habits. True liberty must be derived from self-control, and such liberty is best ordered by laws. Hence the need for a third ­science, the science of moral ecology, to discern all the institutions and personal moral habits essential for the flourishing of self-governing peoples.Liberty under this view does not mean freedom from all restraints; rather, liberty means ordering one’s own life—that is, self-government—through reflection and deliberation. Democratic capitalism, therefore, is a system of three liberties: political liberty, economic liberty, and liberty in religion and conscience, in arts and science, and in cultural expression. Continue Reading »

Trinity As Communio

From Web Exclusives

In the preparatory period before Vatican II, when St. John XXIII asked all the bishops of the world to send in memoranda on the subjects most important for the Council to address, Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow suggested organizing all the materials of the Council around two central topics: person and communio. Behind his logic lay contemplation of the Trinity. Continue Reading »

Goodbye, Judge Bork—Goodbye, My Friend

From Web Exclusives

As it happened, I was able to spend a couple of hours between flights with Bob Bork just ten days before he died, and I got to tell him of my gratitude for so much friendship and laughter over the past quarter-century, of my admiration for his depth, and”embarrassing him, as I knew this would”of my love for him. Bob was of the strong stock that keeps emotions such as love to himself. That’s one reason I loved him… . Continue Reading »

Don’t Confuse the Common Good with Statism

From Web Exclusives

I remember so well the founding days of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. We were such a small and humble organization, so few of us, so lightly funded. Yet we had strong hearts, bold ambitions, and lots and lots of good information. As anyone can guess, Richard John Neuhaus was the leading spirit, the intellectual guide. He was still a Lutheran then and loved to nail manifestoes on Cathedral doors, so he nailed up the founding manifesto of IRD, telling how the key democratic ideas of human dignity, equality, fraternity, and liberty flowed from Christian roots and Christian understandings… . Continue Reading »

As Two Years Arrive

From First Thoughts

As two years arrive before your anniversary Mostly I think of you, my darling, With love and gratitude Yet sometimes I am overwhelmed with sorrow. I am so sorry, darling. I am so sorry. I regret every word that caused you pain. I know I did. Three times those last few years you dissolved In . . . . Continue Reading »

The Myth of Romantic Love

From Web Exclusives

A young Catholic today inherits a long, long tradition of reflection on love that is unmatched in any other culture in the world, beginning with the sublime “Song of Songs” of the Jewish Testament, and the many sections of the Christian Testament dedicated to the theme… . Continue Reading »

Solidarity and the Work of Free Men

From Web Exclusives

As one member of Solidarnosc said to me with some bitterness in 1990, “If you socialized the Sahara, in two years people would be lining up to buy sand.” In fact, most of those associated with the early years of Solidarnosc”the great Polish liberation movement SolidarIty”had had all the collectivism, socialism, government-controlled economy, nanny state, and thugocracy they could stomach… . Continue Reading »