John Gray: Is Capitalism Moral? | The American Interest
John Gray, author of Straw Dogs : Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, was recently part of a panel discussion on “Does the free market corrode moral character?”
The underlying moral message of the crisis, it seems to me, is not about capitalism but about utopias. People like utopias. They imagine that utopian thinking embodies a noble human impulse when in fact it has been horribly destructive of human well-being and human freedom. The market fundamentalist utopia that has just come crashing down fed hubris as much as it enabled greed. It promoted a short-sighted snatching after virtual wealth based on pyramids of debt.
We should be seeking not a utopia but a realistic arrangement recognizing that all economic systems that work tolerably well will be morally mixed. Which human virtues are assaulted most by any given economic arrangement will depend on time, place and circumstance. The thing to keep in mind always is that economic systems do not create human nature; rather, they provide a context for how it plays out. It is human nature that creates economic systems, and out of the crooked timber of humanity, as Kant put it, nothing straight can be built.