Two new books make the case for moral capitalism irrefutable. According to two students of human evolution, it turns out that integrating social calculations into real world strategies for living well is what we humans are designed to do.
Therefore, being moral with the use of private property and with free-market entrepreneurship is feasible. We can expect those in capitalism to listen to “the better angels of their natures” because such angels can really be a compelling part of their natures.
Richard Wrangham has a new book titled The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution and Michael Tomasello has a new book with the title Becoming Human.
Wrangham argues that as humans evolved physically out of their original primate bodily configuration, they turned from wild creatures to domesticated ones with their bodies changing shape as evidence of such growing socialization.
Tomasello argues that human children display “joint intentionality” with their caregivers to better succeed in cooperative living.
In other words, just as Aristotle postulated in the pre-scientific age, humans are social animals. In his Politics, Aristotle wrote:
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”
Wrangham and Tomasello use science to validate the thinking of: Confucius, Mencius, Buddha, Jesus, the Qur’an, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Adam Smith when he wrote on the moral sentiments in 1759 and today’s Catholic Social Teachings.
We would be fools not to follow what has been taught to us over so many centuries.
For ten years now, we have listened to Professor Doran Hunter, now a member of our board of directors, on the constructive lessons to be learned from evolutionary biology and neuro-science.
Because we are social animals, we can set expectations for each other to be ethical and responsible. Ethics and responsibility, duty that we use our powers thoughtful of the consequences, are part of human nature.
Social Darwinism, which is used by some to justify brute capitalism (think of Wall Street in the run up to 2008) – the Hobbesian law of the jungle where only the fittest in tooth and claw are said to survive – is inconsistent with our deepest needs as human persons.
As Harvard psychologist William James affirmed:
“The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.”
The implication of what Wrangham and Tomasello are telling us is that we cannot be well unless we are social. But as society is a reciprocal arrangement among the one and the many, society has its corresponding duty to keep us well as individuals.
But how we have evolved leaves us with decisions to make daily: do we listen to the “better angels of our nature” or do we behave as brutes do, or alternatively, seek to be Gods liberated from all obligation and moral sense?
The infusion of morality, ethics and the acceptance of personal responsibility into our decision-making is leadership. We must learn to lead by activating our moral sense.
Thus, as I wrote in my 2004 book Moral Capitalism, it can’t happen on its own; it must be made to happen, by us.