Niebuhr vs. The Free Market

The deeper I get into Moral Man and Immoral Society, the more I realize that Reinhold Niebuhr was tremendously prescient. Or, perhaps, the world just hasn’t changed in the 70 years since he wrote the book.

For example:

“Thus, for instance, a laissez faire economic theory is maintained in an industrial era through the ignorant believe that the general welfare is best served by placing the least possible political restraints upon economic activity. The history of the past hundred years is a refutation of the theory….The men in power in modern industry would not, of course, capitulate simply because the social philosophy by which they justify their policies had been discredited. “

And yet, since the Reagan presidency, we have seen nothing but deregulation and an emphasis on laissez faire economics. And even after the meltdown of the past two years, the Right is clinging more than ever to its free market mantra, following the siren song of Ayn Rand, letting the Howard Roarks of the world build their luxury highrises while the city crumbles around them (that was buildings as metaphors and as concrete examples (and THAT was using a word which is a component of buildings also as a descriptive (Thoughtbasket has layers, baby))).

Just yesterday the NY Times reported on how Congress is gutting the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, removing the post-Enron regulations that were meant to prevent corporate chicanery, succumbing to corporate and banking lobbyists at the expense of small investors. Were Niebuhr alive he would be knowingly, and sadly, shaking his head.


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