On November 7, the Heritage Foundation hosted Dr. Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who argued that socialism is immoral and that free markets are moral.
Dr. McCloskey said: “…we’re supposed to use reason, and it’s decidedly unethical not to in thinking about the politics that we’re going to impose on our neighbors.” Socialists resist reason according to McCloskey. McCloskey was formerly a socialist but then claimed she used reason and looked at evidence to become an advocate of free markets.
She says that a good argument in favor of free markets is that “…the rise of income per head in the countries that have adopted what you could properly call historically liberalism-free markets and free minds-has since 1800 increased by 3000%…in fact it was the poor who benefited the most from this gigantic increase in income.”
Progressives view the free market as exploitative and unjust: “There’s a kind of theory on the left…that the bosses have piles of gold in the backroom and that the job of us progressives is to extract the gold and give it to the workers.” This idea is rebutted by McCloskey, who points out that “Wages are determined, as economists have understood since the late 19th century, by supply and demand for workers…”
McCloskey cites the Soviet Union as an example of s unethical socialism: “In fact, the seventy years of communism in the Soviet Union wrecked the ethics of ordinary Russians.” McCloskey believes that “…the named virtues-prudence, justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope, and love…with their libraries of cultural products behind each of them-should be models for behavior…These should be our guides, not the abstract rules that became unsurprisingly popular in the 18th century, abstract rules like contractarianism a la Hobbes and Locke or Kant (justice elevated to the one ethical principle) or Jeremy Bentham with prudence elevated to the one.”
The virtues should be arranged together, because “…if all you have in your heart is justice, you’ll lack love. If all you have in your heart is love you’ll lack justice.” A socialist society cannot have both justice and love, according to McCloskey, and “To be the kind of person who does good you need to live in a free and responsible society…”