We’ve heard lots of moralism about the economy recently from both ends of the political spectrum. Wall Street is guilty of greed and homeowners in trouble are guilty of irresponsibility. Instead of offering a cogent systemic analysis of how we got into this financial mess, and the best way to change our economic and financial system in order to fix it, both parties seem to prefer preaching about the wages of sin.
But while wagging a self-righteous finger while invoking the Seven Deadly Sins (in particular Greed, Envy, Sloth, and Pride, but we could also make a case for Gluttony and Lust) makes for good politics, it is a terrible way to approach the current crisis.
We should not expect capitalists not to be greedy. And we should not expect consumers to want fewer or less expensive goods, including fewer and less expensive homes and cars.
The desire for more, for bigger, and for better is not the enemy of capitalism.
Unregulated capitalism is the enemy of capitalism.
What we should expect, and what we need, is for the economic and financial system to be structured by law and regulation to channel the desires of both capitalists and consumers for more, for bigger, and for better into productive, sustainable economic growth.
Moralism won’t get us there, and will distract us from seeing the problem for what it is: a matter of systemic, not moral or individual, failure.