in an article published a few months ago in America magazine, Arthur Brooks—president of the American Enterprise Institute—described his conversion to capitalism. His basic argument is that the free-market system has lifted an unprecedented number of people out of poverty, which means that opposition to free enterprise is deeply misguided. . . .
Brooks is well aware of the claims that market ideology—by emphasizing such traits as selfishness, competitiveness, and boundless acquisitiveness—can undermine virtue. Yet he has no real answer other than to say that “systems are fundamentally amoral” and that what matters is the morality of the people who participate in the system. But this view is not in accord with Catholic social teaching. In Caritas in veritate Pope Benedict XVI states explicitly that the economic sphere cannot be regarded as “ethically neutral”: “It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner.” Indeed, as the theologian David Cloutier pointed out in his own response to Brooks, it is ludicrous to conjure up a powerful economic system that depends on such vices as fear and greed, and then claim that the problem is only with the vices, not with the system itself.
The bottom line is that the toxic interplay of inequality and ideology gives rise to an economic system antithetical to solidarity. It gives rise to what Pope Francis has described as the economy of exclusion, the throwaway culture, and the globalization of indifference.
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