Monday, December 19, 2005


Diana Hsieh has a has a long post about spending the day at a Foundation for Economic Education event. In the 1950’s, FEE was the cutting edge of free market thinking in America. Leonard Read, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, George Reisman, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek and many others contributed to their publication, The Freeman. Many of FEE’s books, some 40-50 years old, sit on my shelves.

FEE’s early promise never came to fruition. With a great start, enriched by some of the finest minds in America, it did not go on to greater glory. Instead, it kind of… kept plugging along, losing its first generation of stars as they died (or in Rand’s case, left a long time ago). FEE drifted into mediocrity and irrelevance. Do they make a difference at all now?

As usual, Ayn Rand saw the problem with FEE and modern conservatism before anyone else. Capitalism and religion are incompatible. Conservatives try to make the two work by claiming that capitalism does religion’s altruistic work. In the end, however their moral premises undermine the package deal. Look at the Bush presidency, which has sponsored the biggest welfare state program since LBJ’s Great Society, with that prescription drug program that no one seems to want. If one seriously believes the morality of sacrifice espoused by Christianity, then sooner or later one will support the expansion of the state to help the poor and needy.

I’ve never read the Bible, but the excerpts from the Sermon on the Mount that I’ve read sound like communism to me. There’s no way religious conservatives can square that ideology with the selfishness of pursuing profit. Leftists love to note this with great mocking glee. Being the charmers that they are, leftists make this point with crude, foam-flecked abuse -- but the point is essentially true.

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