Miroslav Volf and David French discuss economy, morality, and human flourishing—looking in particular at the questions of whether capitalism and conservative moral values can coexist, and how the demands of Jesus’s ethics implicate free market economy.
David French is a conservative political commentator for The Dispatch, known for his opposition to Donald Trump, his commitment to religious liberty, his advocacy for civility in public discourse, and his willingness to take a clear stand on political and cultural issues informed by his Christian faith commitments.
The nature of the tug-o-war about reopening the American economy in the wake of COVID-19’s onset, and of course now in the wake of its second surge, was primarily a debate about the incommensurable values of economic wealth and personal health—or maybe better, economy and person. But more than that, it pit the concept of what it means for human beings to flourish against the political and economic aspirations of both political parties.
It sure is easy to lose sight of the human in all of this.
But Christian values and commitments require that our economic theorizing and policy making mean that the economy serves the person, honoring the dignity of human life, creating opportunity for justice and health, peace and flourishing, for the good of God’s kingdom.
To set up the conversation, we asked David about a 2019 back and forth he had with Sohrab Amari on the future of conservative thought, asking specifically about the way conservative moral values (things like family, integrity, honesty, generosity, forgiveness, purity) have been fused with free market capitalism. As he says, "in the absence of cultural virtue … a virtue in citizenry, a dog-eat-dog capitalism can be a miserable place.”
"There are no effective replacements for capitalism. The question is, what is the Christian responsibility for the proper functioning of it, and to what extent can we steer the whole of capitalist production to serve genuinely human ends as they are articulated by the Christian faith?" (Miroslav Volf, from the episode)
"In the absence of cultural virtue … a virtue in citizenry, a dog-eat-dog capitalism can be a miserable place.” (David French, from the episode)