Friday, November 23, 2007

. . . Adam Smith was fond of saying that nobody has ever seen a dog exchange a bone with another dog. He meant that only humans exchange goods for mutual benefit. Capitalism is uniquely human because it lifts us above the mere struggle for survival and forces us to reflect on our capacity to alter our environment. Capitalism is guilty of making our wants seem like needs and thus turning material objects into the stuff of our salvation, but it is also realistic in acknowledging that human solidarity cannot be achieved outside the making and trading of supplies and services. For that reason, capitalism has been a helpful corrective to theologies that portray salvation as an absolutely otherworldly affair.

At its best, capitalism imagines a world where the pursuit of the good involves the making of goods in a way that affirms both individual dignity and personal responsibility. It would be a shame if Radical Orthodoxy turned out to earn its adjective—and thus its right to be distinguished from ordinary orthodoxy—by its devotion to Marxism. Affluent theologians owe it to Christians struggling in the developing world to give them the same opportunity to develop prosperous economies as our ancestors gave us.

-- Stephen H. Webb. First Things April 2007 [Review of Theology and the Political: The New Debate (Duke UP, 2007)]