05 Jun When a Priest Understands Economics Better than an Ivy League Professor
Father Robert Sirico does not count as any ordinary Priest … He is truly a remarkable man of God, evidenced by his care for his parish over many years, and visible in his demeanor, warmth, spirit, and character. I am blessed to call him a friend, and equally blessed to have him as a spiritual and intellectual influence in my life. When I found out that he was doing an easy-to-read apologetic for the free market through Regnery, I knew that he would be successful at popularizing the message of the free and virtuous society. I had no idea how successful he would be.
His new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, is a perfect complement to the work that Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has been doing as of late. Essentially, an impressive group of faith-oriented free market intellectuals are taking to the streets pleasing with those of us who believe in the superiority of capitalism to quit trying to make our case on utilitarian grounds, and rather to make the case for the moral superiority of an economics of freedom and responsibility. Sirico accomplishes this and then some with this 200-page little gem, and he uses his own personal testimony to tell the story. Father Sirico is a product of the 1960’s left, and his conversion out of the radical socialism of the 1960’s brought with it a conversion back to the faith of his childhood. Readers will be captivated by the manner in which these various moving parts are juxtaposed in Father Sirico’s journey. At the end of the day, not only did God receive back a wayward son, and not only did Father Sirico find his calling in life, but all of us now are the beneficiaries of his journey, both in his testimony and in his message.
That message is a simple one: the free market always must be, above all else, a system advocated for its respect of the human being. It is an ideology based on man as created in the image of God, or it is a failed ideology. I will not let this review go on and on lest I attempt to write the book that Father Sirico wrote in my review of it, so let me just say this: I have read more treatises on free market economics than I could ever count throughout my ideological journey. I have read deeply academic works and I have read popular synopses. I have read fantastic books, and I have read atrocious ones. There is nothing “new”, per se, in this book from Father Sirico. (Now, that may not be true for many of you, as there admittedly is a huge shortage of books that provide both an intellectual and moral defense of free markets). What I will say is new, though, is not necessarily in the content of this book (content that I genuinely believe EVERY single student in America from 7th grade through graduate school ought to become familiar with), but rather in the passions that it stirs. Economic principles do not often evoke much emotion. Financial-minded guys like me may get a little more stirred up by esoteric economic theorems that most, but the truth is that most people’s libraries do not contain a lot of inspirational economic material. Father Sirico’s new book evokes an optimism and a passion out of his readers that is the crying need of the hour. We are going to win this battle for the hearts and minds of men. The reason why we are going to win is because the cause we are fighting for is way, way too important to lose. We are fighting over the dignity of mankind. We are fighting over the flourishing of the human spirit. Paul Krugman is a failed economist advocating failed ideas, and that is too bad that his ideas are proven losers in the field of economics. But that is not the real tragedy – the real tragedy is that Paul Krugman advocates a system of economics that could never, ever allow for human beings to live in the maximum human cooperation and dignified opportunity that God, their creator, would have for them. The approach of Father Robert Sirico does. And that is where the passion comes from – that is why I read his book and know what God wants me to be obsessing with: I do not feel the way I do about capitalism because I believe in any particular macro-economic formula (though I believe in plenty of formulas) … My calling, my passion, my obsession is this: The free and virtuous society is a venue for maximizing the glory God wants for His creation. Who could possibly want to skip a book about such a thing?