Acton Notes - President's Message

When I look at the sweep of intellectual history, I see several major problems in the characterization of free markets. Those problems are hurting the cause today. This is why I wrote my book Defending the Free Market.

Among many problems, people have come to believe that markets are about cold economic forces rather than human beings. This characterization does not match my understanding or my experience.

What are we talking about when we talk about markets? There are several features that are at the core. Private property is essential. This is about what people own and control. They own and control not for their own sake but in order to have the means to accomplish their life ends, which nearly always, by necessity, involve relationships and other people. These other people can be workers, consumers, service providers, creators, partners, or anything else.

The right to associate and exchange are essential to markets. The right to create and serve others is essential. The right to plan our futures and manage our lives in absence of arbitrary coercion is essential. To overcome the poverty and deprivation of the state of nature is a task given to all of us. We have to work together to make this happen.

Markets therefore speak to the issue of human cooperation. Markets aren't about selfishness, amassing wealth, and consuming. They are about getting along with others in mutually beneficial ways. They are about finding our way forward in a fallen world and striving to do good for others as they promote the common good. It is a way to reflect the glory of God and His creation.

Therefore, it is absurd to speak about anything in economics that does not involve and engage the human person in his or her activity in this world. Markets are an arena in which human decision-making takes place and human flourishing is possible. There is a science to understanding the relationships over material goods and services to which we must defer here. There is also a moral component that is absolutely impossible to wipe away.

Rev. Robert Sirico, President