This has sparked a number of comments on Mark's post, some of which seem to say some rather odd things. One commenter insists that "The Economy" is not a real thing. It's just what men do. In fact ...Kevin O’Brien writes:On a recent blog post, I said, “The economy was made for man, not man for the economy.” Reader Manny replied,“The economy is not made for man … If you find it flawed, then fix mankind.”
The actual truth that’s getting lost here is that man didn’t make the economy. Man IS the economy. The “economy” is just an abstraction we’ve come up with to describe humans, and the collective choices they make with the resources they have. All attempts to fix the economy are therefore attempts to fix human behavior in some way.But this odd nominalism ignores some basic facts, the most basic of which is that the sphere of man's commercial activity ("The Economy") does not define man. Man IS NOT the economy, no more than Man IS sport and leisure or Man IS the electoral college or Man IS the internet. Like anything else that man does, our economic activity should serve to make men happier and ultimately to give glory to God. But even if you ignore the latter end and just focus on the temporal end of economic activity, "fixing the economy" is not exactly tampering with human nature, in the sense this comment seems to imply. Yes, fixing the economy means to some extent fixing the bad behavior of men, but that's my point. We should alter our bad behavior to live together in a happier way; we do that with laws regulating everything else - and we do that even now with laws that regulate the economy.
Think of it this way
- Slavery was once an integral part of "The Economy" in this nation. Since freedom and human dignity are more important than economic activity, we Yankees fought a war to abolish slavery. We "fixed the economy" by eliminating forced labor as one of its pillars. And even though slaveholders lost a lot of money on the deal, this is an example of realizing that the economy was made for man, not man for the economy.
- At one time, the courts in this country actively used to prosecute unfair competition; "trust busting" was aimed at fixing the injustice of monopolies. This is another example of realizing that the economy was made for man, not man for the economy.
- Regulations prohibiting unfair labor practices, sweatshops, and other laws regarding dangerous working conditions are an attempt to fix man's economic behavior so that the powerful do not take advantage of the weak.
- Today, Big Business has merged with Big Government so that more and more wealth and power is being transferred from the poor and the middle class to the very rich. Instead of throwing up our libertarian hands and sighing, "Well, you can't fix a free market, even when that market stops being free," or saying, "Capitalism is great, even Unreined Capitalism, despite what the Church says," we can say, "You know what? The economy was made for man, not man for the economy. We can fix this. We can regulate how people behave with money, the same way we regulate how people behave with contracts, marriage, interstate commerce and many other things. We can work to build a society the commercial and economic structure of which is not antithetical to man's happiness or human dignity, as slavery and monopolies and Big Business / Big Government are. We need not cower in fear before something that doesn't exist because it's an abstraction or that can't be fixed because it's just there. The Economy is no more taboo than roads and bridges, which are also products of man. We put up street lights and speed limit signs because we're not in awe of streets and highways. But we keep hearing we can't touch the economy, as it's a kind of god that no one understands, or an abstraction that can't be touched, or something that is integral to who we are like sex and we can't regulate sex can we? Although of course we do and we must."
I must say that if we had a Fear of God equal to our Fear of the Economy, we'd be a much more seriously religious people.