The Glue Binding Democracy and a Free Economy Has Melted

Writes Charles Hugh Smith in an article with that title on the blog “Of Two Minds”.


The single-minded pursuit of greed does not magically organize the economy or society to serve everyone’s interests equally. As Adam Smith explained, capitalism and the social order both require a moral foundation, which in a free society takes the form of civic virtue: it is the responsibility of every citizen who is able to contribute to the social capital that serves us all to do so not in response to an oppressive state but of their own free will.

Here’s the problem though: What if the citizen opts to use his free will to not contribute to the social capital? What if, instead, he opts to use his free will to exploit the social capital without giving anything back, ever? Who’s to stop him, and how and why?

This is where the force of religion comes in. Wherever we use the word “responsibility” we need to examine this: “To whom are we responsible”? In a society where we can assume the vast majority of members believe in a God to whom they feel “responsible”, we can assume that they will behave largely along the lines of the commandments handed down from on high.

This can no longer be taken for granted in erstwhile Christian societies. This general presupposition began to be eroded to a large extent during the (pre-French Revolution) Enlightenment (with precursors of this trend beginning in the Renaissance). The French Revolution massively strengthened and accelerated this trend. The logical end points of this trend were the concentration and death camps of the 20th century.

We have since taken one (!) step back from that abyss. But we haven’t “turned around” yet and walked away from it.