Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Chicago School(s), Deneen, and the Social Compact

Friedman's theories are less Shiny and New these days. (HT: The Big Picture)

It's important to remember "University of Chicago." That's because when you get to the very end of the article linked above, and see the name "Dewey" as part of the U of Chicago constellation, you will (undoubtedly) recall my post of a few days ago, in which Deneen argued that Dewey and Bloom (another U of C guy) had a great deal in common.

Well, yah, besides the U of C faculty slots, they did; a demi-Puritan philosophy. And that Chicago-school demi-Puritan philosophy, (initially financed by J D Rockefeller), has a glaring flaw that has caused a few problems.

Here's the relevant quote concerning Dewey/Bloom:

...they are linked in a common definition of “liberal education” that stresses the liberative quality of education, and can be seen as common antagonists toward an alternative definition of liberal education which rests more deeply upon an acceptance of limits and restraint. One sees especially this common antagonism in their views toward religious education, or more broadly, an education in “virtue.”

The Bloomberg article highlights this 'virtue-lacuna' indirectly; what Friedman & Co., (Hayek was in the group, too...) propose is the economic corollary: that 'markets' will provide the optimum solution--that they are inherently efficient in producing "what's best." This underlies the crusade for de-regulation preached by the Chicago School types, which usually include libertarians of the Hayek/VonMises persuasion.

Big Picture's Ritholtz is particularly biting in his criticism of the Chicago school:

...The Chicagoists somehow read into law a market efficiency component that was never there. I recoiled against it — not because of the libertarianism, which I embraced. Rather, it seemed a backdoor way to circumvent democracy, and force into the legal system rules that were never debated, voted on, or agreed to by a representative government. I found the extremist legal theories of Judges like Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook intellectually repulsive. They were undemocratic, anti-representative government

If there is one silver lining in the entire collapse, its that this group of intellectual charlatans have been revealed as utterly wanting...

The single item missing from Hayek/Friedman and Dewey/Bloom is the 'virtue' issue, or if you prefer, the 'religion thing.' As Deneen points out, Dewey/Bloom rely on "education" divorced from religion as The Solution. Similarly, Hayek/Friedman rely on "the free market" (no religion there, either) as The Solution. The glaring common flaw: reading religion (or virtue) out of the picture.

You don't have to have a long memory to understand the problems which flow from absence of virtue. There's Blago; there's the co-conspirator-Regulator; there are the Bonus Bankers (thankyouverymuch, taxpayers), and of course, there is Madoff.

Seems to me that Ritholtz and Deneen could have a lot of fun if they got together and wrote an essay on the question. It would be even better if they started from the quote of John Paul II regarding “the inalienable value of the human person” who “must always be an end and not a means, a subject, not an object, not a commodity of trade.”

That is the "Social Compact" rightly understood. It is NOT the 'social compact' of Rousseau, another scoundrel whose compact also excluded religion (and whose life didn't have all that much virtue, either...)

It is the social compact which should animate economic decisions, because it reads "virtue" INTO the equasion; it takes into consideration Original Sin, the real reason for regulation.

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