It’s one thing to conclude that markets are immoral after learning how markets work and what life would be like in their absence. Such a conclusion is intellectually defensible because it would reflect an informed – if, in my view, bizarre – value judgment.
But the conclusion that markets are immoral typically reflects – as it surely does in the case of Pope Francis – utter ignorance of the logic and history of markets (and of the logic and history of governments).
Markets are deeply moral, for they, compared to all feasible alternatives,
- are driven by voluntary choices rather than by diktats;
- concentrate the costs and the benefits of each choice as closely as possible on the individual who makes that choice;
- allow for great diversity of choices and life-styles;
- create mass flourishing; they raise the living standards of the poor far more than they raise the living standards of the rich;
- transform the manifestations of economic hardship from literal starvation to much-less severe financial distress; (losing a job or a home, however agonizing, is far better than losing your and your children’s lives);
- ‘churn’ over time the rich and poor; dynastic wealth, while not unknown in markets, is less common than unthinking and historically uninformed people suppose, and such wealth is always exposed to the forces of creative destruction;
- bring together literally hundreds of millions of strangers from around the globe and from many different cultures and religious faiths into a peaceful and cooperative productive effort.