Today, increasing numbers of people live in free market economies. Yet despite its great success in diminishing poverty and growing wealth in countries such as the United States, many remain very unsure of the market economy’s social benefits. Others question its moral foundations. Defenses of the free market which extend beyond appeals to utility continue to be hard to find.
This course examines the moral and economic case for market economies by examining key texts that articulate moral and economic defenses of free market economies, including Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Michael Novak’s The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, and Wilhelm Röpke’s A Humane Economy. As these texts are examined, some of the questions posed for discussion will be: What is meant by self-interest? How does it differ from greed? What is the historical record of the market economy vis-à-vis wealth and poverty? Is there something distinctive about American capitalism? What are the justifications for state intervention into the market economy?
Meet the Instructors
Wake Forest University
Dr. James Otteson joined Wake Forest in the fall of 2013 as Executive Director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism and Teaching Professor of Political Economy. Before coming to Wake Forest, Dr. Otteson was joint professor of philosophy and economics, and philosophy department chair, at Yeshiva University. He has taught previously at New York University, Georgetown University, and the University of Alabama. He also serves currently as a Research Professor in the Freedom Center and in the Philosophy Department at the University of Arizona, and he is a Senior Scholar at the Fund for American Studies in Washington, D.C. Dr. Otteson’s scholarship focuses on political economy, political philosophy, history and philosophy of economics, and eighteenth-century moral and political thought. He is an expert on Adam Smith, on the moral foundations of capitalism, and on the comparative evaluation of competing systems of political economy.
Dr. Samuel Gregg is director of research at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He has a Doctor of Philosophy degree in moral philosophy and political economy from the University of Oxford and has written and spoken extensively on questions of political economy, economic history, and natural law theory. He is the author of several books, including Morality, Law, and Public Policy (2000), Economic Thinking for the Theologically Minded (2001), On Ordered Liberty (2003), his prize-winning The Commercial Society (2007), Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (2013), and Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing (2013). Dr. Gregg regularly publishes in journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy; Economic Affairs; Ethics and Public Policy; Foreign Affairs; and his opinion-pieces appear in publications such as the Wall Street Journal Europe; National Review; American Spectator; and Australian Financial Review.
Kate Havard Rozansky