Capitalism for Humans
Democrats are made, not born; and so are democratic capitalists. Children, who are born tyrants and who quickly display a propensity for forming neighborhood and schoolyard aristocracies, must be trained in the arts of civility and the ethos of democratic equality. As for economics, well, anyone who has tried to help a child manage an allowance knows that saving, investment, and deferred gratification do not occur spontaneously to the untutored spirit. That democracy and the market are “learned behaviors” seems a matter of common sense.
Yet when I urge this truism on students and colleagues in the new democracies of East Central Europe, their first reaction is often incomprehension, sometimes bordering on annoyance. During the hard days of anti-Communist resistance, the dissidents in those countries used to say that they wanted a “normal society”—by which they meant civil liberties, democratic politics, and a market-based economy. Now many of the attributes of that long-sought normality are in place: real political parties, a free press, real elections following real campaigns, a growing small-business sector, investment opportunities, a stock market, and convertible currencies. Is that not, they ask, sufficient? Is it not “normality”?
About the Author
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and the author most recently of God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (HarperCollins).