Virtuous Capitalism

by Jerry O’Driscoll 

Over at the Austrian Economists, Steve Horowitz has posted a challenging statement and asked for reactions: “The great virtue of the free market is that it requires so little virtue to work effectively.”  The thrust of the responses is that defenders of free markets have had little to say about virtue (at least since Adam Smith).  

In a brilliant paper for APEE a few years ago, Liberty Fund’s Doug den Uyl asked whether we need ethics if we have free markets. That is a broader question, but on point.  Do markets discipline transactors to act virtuously and ethically?  Many would be tempted to answer affirmatively, but that would be facile. (Doug is not facile.)   Continue reading


by Gene Callahan

I’ve been reading the anthropologist Clifford Geertz‘s book, The Interpretation of Cultures, this week. I had read a little Geertz when doing my master’s at LSE, and liked him then, and I like him even more now. For instance, Hayek, Oakeshott, Polanyi, Wittgenstein, MacIntyre and others have all noted how the Enlightenment goal of freeing reason from all allegiance to traditions, customs, habits and so on is not an ideal we should approach as closely as possible but an impossibility, and an impossibility that, if held as a goal, only creates mischief. Here is Geertz making much the same point:

‘Undirected by culture patterns — organized systems of significant symbols — man’s behavior would be virtually ungovernable, a mere chaos of pointless acts and exploding emotions, his experience virtually shapeless’ (46).

Geertz also drew on the work of some of my favorite philosophers, including Whitehead, Cassirer, and Langer.

Coffeehouse Culture: New York v. Elsewhere

by Sandy Ikeda

The life of a city mainly consists of what goes on in its public spaces. In New York, and increasingly in other American cities, coffeehouses are a vital part of this public life.

According to Café Life in New York, “cafés” or “coffeehouses” as I prefer to call them, “function mainly as gathering places with coffee and/or tea as the central offering. … These cafés beckon the patron who has come to stay awhile, often a long while – order a single cup of coffee, and you are welcome to stay as long as you wish … the primary purpose is to provide a ‘third place’ – beyond home and work.” (I’m not really recommending this cute little book, subtitled “An insider’s guide to the City’s neighborhood cafés,” because it doesn’t mention any, not one, of my favorite coffeehouses!)

While it may not be as old, coffeehouse culture in its various forms thrives in New York. But if I may generalize there do seem to me to be important differences. Continue reading