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Michael Novak 1933-2017

February 18, 2017

If you don’t know the work of Michael Novak, let me recommend his writings to you, especially his Spirit of Democratic Capitalism which had a big influence on me. This is a memoriam titled The Soul of Democratic Capitalism which begins:

Michael Novak died February 17, at the age of 83, after a battle with cancer. It’s hard to imagine the Catholic Church—or the world—without him.

Novak is perhaps best known for his comprehensive examinations of the practical realities and ideals of “democratic capitalism,” first advanced in his 1982 masterpiece The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and developed in a series of subsequent books, including The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1993), Business as a Calling (1996), and, most recently, Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is (2015), co-authored with Paul Adams.

Novak’s writings on democratic capitalism fought socialism not just on the level of economic efficiency, but on moral terrain, too. Socialists have long attacked market-based economies for their inequalities and consumerist frenzies, but, as Novak argued, their arguments invariably compared luminous socialist ideals with the often prosaic realities of capitalist societies. Had socialists looked instead at the socialist world as it actually existed, they would have found truncheon-enforced political conformity, economic ruin, and spiritual decay.

Requiem in pacem.

And I might add that had Tony Abbott better understood the economy as a moral issue he might have been a better Prime Minister.

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