Richard John Neuhaus, Part II
Posted by rswanson on Dec 7, 2010 at 12:11 am
One of the powerful themes of Neuhaus’ book, “Doing Well and Doing Good,” is the nuance it gives to capitalism as the best economic operating system given the current options. While it decries socialism as almost criminal, it offers a distinct view of capitalism called “democratic capitalism.”
According to Neuhaus, much of the criticism of capitalism is levied, not against the economic model, but against “consumerism,” or the “affluent society” as a way of life. A priority centered around this ideal makes material satisfaction the primary goal of human existence and reduces man to the economic sphere of life. Neuhaus writes…
“When producing and consuming goods becomes the meaning of life, ‘the reason is to be found not so much in the economic system itself, as in the fact that the entire sociocultural system, by ignoring the ethical and religious dimension, has been weakened and ends by limiting itself to the production of goods and services alone.’” (His quote is from Centesimus Annus )
He continues his thought: “Socialism…cannot be an alternative model. But the model presented by capitalism as it operates now is failing in important tasks, namely in the task of including the world’s poor in what John Paul calls the circle of productivity and exchange.”
Including the poor in this circle of productivity and exchange, then, is a principle challenge. This is also one difference between “consumerism” and Neuhaus’ “democratic capitalism.”
What do you think? Does Neuhaus have the right idea?