Robert Sirico on Markets, Morality, Faith & Freedom
Date: June 4th, 2012
Religious leaders are often quick to criticize free market economics because of the belief that it harms the poor, creates greater inequality, and relies upon the base motives of selfishness. However, can a moral case be made for capitalism and free markets? Rev. Robert Sirico, co-founder and president of The Acton Institute, explores this question in depth. We begin our discussion by reviewing Father Sirico’s personal journey from his idealistic youth in the 1960s and early ’70s to his transformation into a proponent of free market economics. His intellectual development is all the more interesting in that it occured as he was simultaneously drawn back to the Catholic faith of his youth, eventually choosing to enter the seminary and become an ordained priest. During this discussion we review his thoughts on Ayn Rand and other libertarian thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek and Frédéric Bastiat. We then venture into a discussion about greed, selfishness, and self-interest with Rev. Sirico laying out the difference between these different concepts and noting how the pursuit of self-interest can also be good for others as entrepreneurs attempt to benefit themselves by making others happy. Greed, on the other hand, is defined as the pursuit of desire with the intent of subordinating others. Father Sirico then makes a case that socialism tends to promote greed more so than capitalism. This discussion allows us to review early communal experiments by the Pilgrims and Fr. Sirico explains why liberation theologians and others are mistaken to interpret the social organization of the early Church Fathers as an example of socialism. We then discuss the role of profits, the gap between the rich and poor, the nature of envy, and the importance of voluntarism. Our discussion closes with an examination of President Bush’s faith-based initiative (which Rev. Sirico gave some early input on), how government policy (even if pursued with good intentions) may inhibit the important social role of individual charity, and a discussion of the recent controversy surrounding the health care mandate and the Catholic bishops. With the latter issue, we review the tension between a corporatist worldview and the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, a nice review of our earlier discussion with Prof. Phillip Muñoz. Finally, Rev. Sirico details the origins of the Action Institute and his role with that institution. Recorded: May 29, 2012.
Rev. Robert Sirico’s biography.
The Acton Institute.
Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, but Robert A. Sirico.
“Who Really Was Jon Galt Anyway?” by Robert A. Sirico on Patheos.com (mentioned in interview).
Phillip Muñoz on Catholic Bishops, Religious Liberty, and Health Care Mandates.
Timothy Shah on the Case for Religious Liberty.
Jason Jewell on John Locke and Religious Toleration.
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