Sometimes before you get to the main argument, you have to argue about what you are arguing about. Perhaps that seems tedious, but if you bear with me, you might be convinced that it is important. This issue of Religion & Liberty features several pieces that try to clarify what we are arguing about.
Our new managing editor, Ray Nothstine, reviews Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and praises the authors for sorting out the many phenomena that are described as capitalism. Oligarchic capitalism is not the same as entrepreneurial capitalism, and defenders of economic liberty should not burden themselves with defending the former. Liberty is not the same thing as capitalism, and there are variants of capitalism that threaten liberty. After all, a moral look at the economy does not defend capital as a good in itself, but rather human freedom as the desired goal.
Welcome, Ray, to the Acton Institute, and to R&L!
Acton’s Michael Miller revisits the historical debate about FDR in reviewing Amity Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man. Five years ago, Conrad Black published a magisterial FDR biography subtitled “champion of freedom,” arguing that FDR saved both democracy and the free economy from the twin threats of war and depression. Shlaes, with Miller’s agreement, takes a decidedly less favourable view on the economic liberty front. So before that next argument about FDR, it would be better to clear up which FDR you propose to argue about—the champion of freedom, or the emerging statist.
Similar issues are highlighted by our lead interview with Edward M. Kopko of Butler International. Before that next argument about CEOs, it would be worth clarifying what image of the CEO is under consideration. Is it the rapacious, likely corrupt figure we see so often in television dramas? Or is it the customer-serving problem-solver who sees to it that the firm is motivated by the proper values? Kopko argues for the latter, based on his own experience, as well as his editorship of a business magazine specifically devoted to management issues.
Finally, I contribute a review of what promises to be an important book in the economic field closest to my heart: development. Who should be our concern in the developing world? Is it the five billion who do not live in the world's rich countries? Is it the middle four billion who live in countries that are, by historical standards, rapidly growing? Or should it be the “bottom billion” who are diverging from global growth and actually falling backward in absolute terms? Paul Collier’s book may well change the way we think about development, and change what we are arguing about.