Last week the American Enterprise Institute hosted Jay W. Richards, visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and author of the new book Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem. The conversation focused on why capitalism and Christianity are compatible.
Highlighting three of the eight myths surrounding capitalism he makes in his book, Richards explained the “Piety Myth”, which he defines as well-intended people ignoring unintended consequences when searching for a quick fix solution to an economic or social problem. An example of this is the United States enforcing western-style laws outlawing child labor on developing countries where children may work in less-than-ideal circumstances, but are actually safer than alternative work environment. The laws protecting children in developed countries fit their situation, but have proven to have negative consequences in other places.
Richards also explained the “Greed Myth”–that the essence of capitalism is inherently greedy. Adam Smith, who was a moral philosopher, shows through his works that self-interest is not selfishness. In order for an individual to make money and provide for his family, one must first consider the needs of his neighbor.
The last chapter highlighted was the “Zero-Sum Myth.” which stipulates that some people only get richer if others become poorer. Richards showed that this is not the case, though, that capitalism is a positive sum-game because both parties are winners. The one who does not necessarily “win” can still improve her condition, therefore benefiting.
Richards, in his brief but thorough explanation of why Christians can be capitalists, showed that this idea is not rocket science. However, it does take the intellectual fortitude and patience to think through an economic problem and respond in the best interest of everyone involved.