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Acton Notes - President's Message

I've spent decades explaining the operations of the market economy and how it relates to human well being. And yet, I've found that there will always be some people who do not get it. No matter how many times and how many ways we work to show how commerce and civility go together, they persist in thinking that controls, regulations, taxes, and impositions can make society more fair, just, and moral. Some even say it will make it more religious or Christian.

I've tried for years to understand the anti-market mentality. I've found that a major point of contention concerns the motive force for entrepreneurship. Popular lore regards innovators and agents of economic change as primarily driven by material greed. It is a difficult bias to overcome.

It doesn't take much experience in real-world commerce to see what's wrong with this characterization. Business owners and innovators might be materially greedy but this impulse does not get one very far in realworld markets. Just wanting money and wanting it really badly is not a recipe for success.

In fact, a common trait among all successful entrepreneurs is the special burning passion to make a difference in the world, not for themselves so much as for the world around them. The structure of the market is that it enables that success most readily in the service of others.

It really isn't about the money. The money often comes as an afterthought. However, the money side of things is indispensable because it is the balance sheet that disciplines the business enterprise. It is what gives off the signs of success or the signs of failure. It serves a utilitarian purpose, not a moral one.

If anti-market ideologues could absorb this one point, they would be on the road to understanding economics in general. Human contact is often the key, which is why the Acton Institute's programs work to link up intellectuals, pastors, and entrepreneurs. This human and personal contact is one path toward healing the world.

Sincerely,
Rev. Robert Sirico, President