Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quote of the day: Does the free market serve 'self-interest' or 'selfishness?'

"A common mistake is to identify the purposes of people exclusively with their 'self-interest,' which is then in turn confused with 'selfishness.' The purposes of people in the market are indeed purposes of selves, but as selves with purposes we are also concerned about the interests and well being of others -- our family members, our friends, our neighbors, and even total strangers whom we will never meet. Indeed, markets help to condition people to consider the needs of others, including total strangers." --Tom G. Palmer, "The Morality of Capitalism"


Hempy said...

The problem with the "free market" concept is that it doesn't exist. As long as their are prohibitions that stifles or prevents competition, there is no free market.

Palmer's argument about the morality of capitalism is correct. He states:

"We are also concerned about the interests and well being of others -- our family members, our friends, our neighbors, and even total strangers whom we will never meet."

That is in agreement with Adam Smith who argued the basis of an economic system is the one command of Christianity - to love your neighbor as yourself.

That's why the Affordable Care Act could better be called Good Samaritan Care. A single payer system would be even more capitalistic and would better reflect the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Yet it's these kinds of values that conservatives inveigh against endlessly. They prattle the anti-Christian atheistic ideology of their high priestess, Ayn Rand.

Anonymous said...

Hempy, kindly enlighten me as to where exactly Jesus sanctioned abdicating mine and your responsibility for our fellow men to the cold numbers and lifeless forms of government. The Good Samaritan was good of their own free will and action, government not required.

Hempy said...

The Good Samaritan parable is just that--a parable. The Samaritan represents individuals, community organizations and government. No one is excluded.

In Federalist Paper 45 James Madison wrote: "The public good, the real welfare of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued." This is the political application of the Good Samaritan parable.

In the Good Samaritan parable the Samaritan paid the inn keeper to take care of the injured man. Luke 10:35 records: "The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, 'Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.' That is the principle of providing for the care of the injured and the care of all.

Your comment, "the cold numbers and lifeless forms of government" is just empty headed political rhetoric. Medicare is not lifeless. It gives life to those who otherwise would not have it.

Anonymous said...

You still miss the point that it is YOU who are supposed to care for these people. If there are any homeless amongst us, it is because we have not taken them in. If there are any hungry amongst us, it is because we have not fed them. If you are so concerned about those in need, then perhaps your time would be better spent actually serving those in need with your own had and your own effort. The truth of life and the beauty of the world can only be reached through personal interaction with those around us. Abdicating your responsibility to actively display your humanity to those less fortunate speaks volumes for your sincerity to your fellow man's needs.

Liberty General said...


Capitalism is the only true biblical economic form. It encourages investment (what other economic form does that?). But the main thing about it is it is UNCOERCED. Obamacare was FORCED upon us.

Anonymous is right. Nowhere do you find him commanding us to abdicate to the government our responsibility for caring for the poor and needy.

The great point about the parable you mention is that the Samaritan took care of the man, including paying for his lodging, VOLUNTARILY. That, in fact, is the point of the parable -- while others CHOSE to pass by and not help the man, the Samaritan CHOSE to help him.

Hempy said...

No, you're the one that misses the point. You have no biblical evidence that the Good Samaritan parable is confined only to individuals. In fact the overall biblical message is not confined to individuals. That's just some golden calf theology.

Individuals can function in community groups., e.g., religious institutions, and they can function in government. We are a government of, by and for the people.

In Federalist Paper 45, James Madison wrote:

"It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object."

Thus, a single payer public healthcare system as illustrated in the Good Samaritan parable is a vehicle to provide for the public good.

Thomas Jefferson similarly wrote:

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

A single payer healthcare also reflects this value.

Hempy said...


There’s no particular economic system advocated in the Bible. The Apostle Paul advocated paying slaves a fair and just wage. This was in a Roman slave-based economic system.

In Leviticus 25 there is a redistribution of wealth procedure advocated. But there is also slavery. The Apostle Paul was the closest to capitalism.

He also advocated providing for everyone. His analogy that the body is composed of many members and that if one member suffers the whole body suffers. Hence, it’s to one’s mutual benefit to provide for the care of all members.

Your theology has the same golden calf as does Anon’s. A parable is to illustrate a point. It is not confined just to individuals. It’s the same with the Cain & Abel story and the Abrahamic covenant.

Even if the government provides healthcare for all it doesn’t mean that you abdicate your responsibility for caring for others or that community organizations abdicate theirs. There’s still mutual moral obligations. One could go into the medical field and fulfill their moral obligations that way.

The point of the parable is not voluntariness. That’s some more golden calf theology.

The parable points out the hypocrisy of the priests and Levites who put their religious beliefs above the moral obligations of their scriptures whereas the hated Samaritan did those moral obligations.

Calling something a choice does not justify a failure to follow one’s moral obligation. When one member suffers the whole body suffers