The Virtue of Prosperity

On Friday evening I was blessed to share the stage with Dinesh D’Souza as the long-promoted conference, The Virtue of Prosperity: Moral Implications for Wealth and Work, got underway.  I have worked on the conference for half of a year, and brought in my dear friends at the Acton Institute and the Center for Cultural Leadership who share the same vision I do.  The conference was a tremendous success, and I will soon be providing the information for how MP3’s and DVD’s can be obtained.

Saturday’s line-up included Father Robert Sirico, Andrew Sandlin, and Jay Richards, well-renowned authors and speakers and thought leaders in the fields of moral and economic philosophy.  Sandlin established that collectivist interventionism is in direct contradiction with the Christian faith.  Father Sirico made the case for getting the anthropology right, and rooting our commitments to the free market in a defense of the dignity of man, created in the image of God.  He repudiated the dangerous collectivism of the left and the “greed is good” edicts of the Randian-right, and instead encouraged us to find the perspective laid out in the foundational teachings of Genesis.  Jay Richards explained the basic economic fallacies that so many are guilty of, and demonstrated carefully and precisely how these fallacies lead to all sorts of practical errors in one’s thinking about money.

D’Souza spent Friday night’s keynote address reminding the audience that freedom is not its own defender.  He defended the cause of the founding fathers, and encouraged a re-thinking of how we view not just “capitalism”, but “capitalists”.  For D’Souza, capitalism’s success over socialism in the 20th century as the most efficient system will not matter if it does not re-gain the high ground as the most moral system.

My talk was intended to set the tone for the weekend, laying out the foundational beliefs we behind the conference find so important.  I believe that before a proper view of work and vocational calling is going to be re-discovered, we are going to have to get the right view of money and economics.  “Social justice” has become a bad, bad replacement for “redistribution”, and is defined narrowly and wrongly as the “disparity between rich and poor”.  If there is one factor driving the collectivists, it is their misguided desire to eliminate or at least dampen the effects of risk and failure.  As all the speakers of the conference so eloquently established this weekend in one way or another, the system that both optimally accounts for risk and reward, and simultaneously enables the protection of man’s very dignity, is free market capitalism.  I leave you with an excerpt from my Friday night address:

“Perhaps the most tragic contribution the left has made to our basic way of thinking is that they have taken away the very possibility of success in our society, and they have done that, ironically enough, by tirelessly working to take away the possibility of failure.  Let me say it stronger, for I am not making a technical point or an academic one.  We have strangled the glory and triumph of success right out of our lives when we operate as if failure is something to be ashamed of – something to be loathed – something to be artificially avoided.  The unintentional consequence of trying to neuter failure is to annihilate success – to strip away from man the most essential and greatest achievement he can ever feel – the success that comes with overcoming failure.  Success does not exist without failure.  When you attempt to eliminate valleys you only succeed in eliminating peaks.  When a disinterested third party like Uncle Sam comes in with their nanny intentions of delivering everyone a sort of unearned success, they not only strive to do the impossible, they rob man of the drama, the dignity, the glory of real success.  This, my friends, is an unforgivable act by an out of control magistrate.  It must be stopped.”