THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM by Michael Novak

THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The theological significance of democratic capitalism""; or, more precisely, capitalism for Catholics--co-published by the American Enterprise Institute. Novak, author most recently of the Institute's Toward a Theology of the Corporation, first defines ""democratic capitalism"" as an amalgam of three systems: ""a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is pluralistic and, in the largest sense, liberal."" The book's first two sections, ""The Ideal of Democratic Capitalism"" and ""The Twilight of Socialism"" are chiefly comprised of conventional defenses of capitalism and conventional criticisms of socialism (conventionally, too, ignoring the realities of democratic socialism). But even in these sections there is a strong ""moral-cultural"" component--some of it along George Gilder lines (investment as ""an act of faith, trust, confidence, even fraternity""), some with a tempering suggestion of social responsibility (""A commercial system needs taming and correction by a moral-cultural system independent of commerce""). All this is prefatory, however, to the third section in which Novak attempts to counter ""the Catholic anti-capitalist tradition"" and, most especially, Latin American ""liberation theology."" In the latter case, he charges the Catholic Church itself with failure ""to grasp the creative potential of democratic capitalism."" (""Latin Americans do not value the same moral qualities North Americans do. . . Latin Americans seem to feel inferior to North Americans in practical matters, but superior in spiritual ones."") Instead of recognizing their mistake, they blame the US for Latin American backwardness; and some North Americans ""are susceptible to the guilt feelings which flow from the reverse side of the 'Protestant' ethic: the demand for perfect charity."" (Novak will conclude that there is no such thing.) As a neoconservative answer to liberation theology, this has a certain curiosity interest. As yet another free-market polemic, it is typically blinkered (CEOs, for instance, have to deal with too many people to be ""autocrats""), but atypically benign.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster