Financial History Issue 125 (Spring 2018) - Page 14
Statue of communist leader Vladimir Lenin is toppled in Lithuania, 1991.
Capitalism is not a transitory economic
state that will eventually be superseded
by an economic paradise, nor is it inher-
ently evil. It is a human institution that
reflects all the warts and flaws of its cre-
ators. Like any human being, it can soar
to great heights and sink to unbelievable
lows. This is why capitalism needs govern-
ment regulation and an ethical framework
established by society outside of the realm
of government to succeed.
The genius of capitalism is not that it
promises heaven on earth through eco-
nomic means, but that it is able to harness
self-interest, with its great potential for
evil, and use it for the benefit of man-
kind. This isn’t accomplished by elevating
self-interest to a position of prominence
or superiority over other virtues, but by
ensuring that it works within an ethical
system that tempers it.
In the next “Educators’ Perspective,” we
will investigate the role self-interest plays
in capitalism. Is self-interest the key to
success, or have economists overempha-
sized the dependence of capital markets on
this supposed vice? Can economists help
clarify self-interest’s role in the economy?
Are we doomed to a world of selfishness,
or is there hope for a better future?
Brian Grinder is a professor at Eastern
Washington University and a member
of Financial History’s editorial board.
Dr. Dan Cooper is the president of Active
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12 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Spring 2018 | www.MoAF.org
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Novak, Michael. The Spirit of Democratic Capi-
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Sedláček, Tomáš. Economics of Good and Evil:
The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gil-
gamesh to Wall Street. Oxford University
Press: New York. 2011.
Volf, Miroslav. “In the Cage of Vanities,” in
Robert Wuthnow, ed., Rethinking Material-
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