Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Excerpt from Irving Kristol (part I)

Interesting excerpt from the prolific writings of the late social and political philosopher Irving Kristol who echoed the sentiments of Tocqueville that America's individualist-capitalist spirit was balanced out by a religious, communitarian spirit. Only through this synthesis was the United States able to successfully reconcile a vibrant civic and community life while simultaneously promoting a dynamic, individualist economy. And according to Tocqueville and Kristol, these religious and cultural aspects of American life allowed capitalism to flourish. I do agree with him, because as we see in many countries and increasingly in the US, no amount of government regulation and mandates can make individuals and citizens maintain the minimal ethical standards necessary for a capitalist system to function. Enough of my nonsense; read and enjoy Irving Kristol:

Now, if we have such a successful and refined political tradition in economic affairs, which leaves so much up to the initiative and decisions of the individual, why do we need religion? Doesn’t liberty suffice to create the good society? Although there are certainly those who make this claim, the Western conservative tradition holds otherwise. According to conservative thought, a market economy cannot work except in a society comprised of people who are, in sufficient degree, bourgeois: That is, people who are orderly, law-abiding and diligent, and who resolutely defer gratification—sexual as well as financial—so that, despite the freedom granted each individual, the future nonetheless continues to be nourished at the expense of the present. For people of this kind to lead lives of this kind, it seems to be the case that religion is indispensable. This appears to be a sociological truth. It is religion that reassures people that this world of ours is a home, not just a habitat, and that the tragedies and unfairness we all experience are features of a more benign, if not necessarily comprehensible, whole. It is religion that restrains the self-seeking hedonistic impulse so easily engendered by a successful market economy.

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