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A moral economy

Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Economic Institute, is catching my eye these days and speaking my kind of language. This morning’s Capitalism and the Dalai Lama (http://nyti.ms/1nt5ptR) captures my sentiments almost entirely. Quoting the Dalai Lama with approval, he writes: “Markets are instrumental, not intrinsic, for human flourishing. As with any tool, wielding capitalism for good requires deep moral awareness.” And again, “Advocates of free enterprise must remember that the system’s moral core is neither profits nor efficiency. It is creating opportunity for individuals who need it the most.” Bravo!

Brooks then goes on to note that today’s younger generation in America is worse off than its parents. Capitalism is not delivering to the broad mass of Americans. Washington, Brooks says, “needs to be more like the Dalai Lama. Without abandoning principles, we need practical policies based on moral empathy. Tackling these issues may offend entrenched interests, but this is immaterial. It must be done. And temporary political discomfort pales in comparison with the suffering that vulnerable people bear every day.”

We may differ in some practical details such as whether creating charter schools is preferable to strengthening public schools or whether pre-K education really works. But, if we could join hands across the political spectrum in search of “policies based on moral empathy” then we really do have hope for a brighter future for all Americans. I am heartened when a leader of a right-of-center organization such as the AEI comes out saying things like this.

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