From Adam Smith to the american catholic bishops: Debating visions of economic life [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 7 (6):405 - 411 (1988)
Abstract
Considerable controversy was stirred by the contrast between the specific approaches to public policy contained in the first draft of the Catholic bishops' letter on the U.S. economy and the policies favored by the Reagan administration. However, a much more basic contrast actually existed between the bishops' underlying vision of economic life and contemporary capitalism. The pastoral challenges a separation between moral criteria and economic activity that is deeply embedded in modernity itself. Indeed, the splitting off of economic life from its moral-religious matrix is seen by the bishops' critics as a positive, defining feature of democratic capitalism. The critics see the separate economic and moral-religious spheres related by due balance; the bishops, while acknowledging an autonomy to economic life, emphasize that its fundamental choices remain moral. The bishops (and, for different reasons, their critics) have preferred to minimize the contrast between the letter's vision and the contemporary economy. They avoid any clearcut judgment on the economic system by stressing pragmatism and reforms; but implicitly they are granting a strictly conditioned acceptance of reformist capitalism, the condition being the system's openness to questioning and change.
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