Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Response to Richard Mouw

Richard Mouw's "Two Cheers for Capitalism" prompted me to once again refer to Jonathan Sacks.

Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote an excellent article in First Things entitled “Markets and Morals” that deals with the reason why capitalism doesn’t get that third cheer. Those interested can read it here.

Sacks contrasts the “this-worldliness” of Judaism with the “other-worldliness” of Christianity. He then discusses five features of Jewish life that oppose the market ethic, and, if observed, keep it from being viewed in messianic terms:

1) Sabbath
2) Marriage and family
3) education
4)the concept of property
5) the Law

“Socialism is not the only enemy of the market economy. Another enemy, all the more powerful for its recent global triumph, is the market economy itself. When everything that matters can be bought and sold, when commitments can be broken because they are no longer to our advantage, when shopping becomes salvation and advertising slogans become our litany, when our worth is measured by how much we earn and spend, then the market is destroying the very virtues on which in the long run it depends. That, not the return of socialism, is the danger that advanced economies now face. And in these times, when markets seem to hold out the promise of uninterrupted growth in our satisfaction of desires, the voice of our great religious traditions needs to be heard, warning us of the gods that devour their own children, and of the temples that stand today as relics of civilizations that once seemed invincible.”

Sacks wrote this a decade ago, when the Market was idolized and Alan Greenspan was its Prophet. Perhaps our current economic recession is God’s way of reminding us He alone is God.

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