The subject of this book, the author writes, "is how to build institutions of liberty in this hemisphere of the Americas." Its thrust is twofold. First, Novak argues that North Americans and Latin Americans often speak past each other conceptually. Without an understanding of the Catholic intellectual traditions of southern Europe and Latin America, he contends, "one cannot really enter the horizon of Latin American intellectual discourse." Second, he asserts that the basic reason Latin America has not reached full liberation is that it offers insufficient economic opportunity for the masses of its people. For this he offers a prescription: capitalism with minimal state intervention. But Novak has simply put a moral gloss on the standard argument that capitalism will solve the severe problems of backward economies; lacking any new ideas, his book fails to convince.
"“Michael Novak is one of the most eloquent Christian advocates of capitalism in the United States. His 1982 volume The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism demonstrated that rather than suffering from too much capitalism, the world suffered from too little; capitalism, he explained, had liberated man from poverty and tyranny. Four years later, in his book Will It Liberate? Questions About Liberation Theology, he defended the market economy from attacks by Christian socialists.
In his latest work, This Hemisphere of Liberty: A Philosophy of the Americas, he turns his focus to Latin America and argues that the prosperity enjoyed in North America can be South America's as well — if South America will adopt market-oriented institutions.
But Novak's exposition involves more than just the economic case for capitalism and against socialism and mercantilism. His purpose is a much broader one. He demonstrates that not only is capitalism consistent with Christian (particularly Catholic) theology but is, in fact, the economic institutional order which is most supportive of Christian morality and virtuous living.
The foundation stones for a correct understanding of free-market capitalism, Novak argues, are the following:
Creativity and Enterprise…
Fallen Man and the Free Market…
..The lesson which Novak draws from these ideas is that only freedom can serve as the garden in which man can grow morally and virtuously. And another lesson is that poverty is neither necessary nor inevitable. Its elimination can come from the creation of wealth. But since wealth is a creation of the human mind, man must be set free in order for his creative potential to be fulfilled.
Prosperity cannot be planned or commanded from the top by those in political power. It can only grow from the bottom up. If Christians wish to help eliminate poverty, they must advocate the establishment of a true private-property order. They must call for the repeal of all government privileges — privileges which benefit some at the expense of others. They must support the case for a radical, free-market economy. They must endorse the principle that every man has the right to the fruits of his own creative labor.
The institutions of human liberty — constitutionally restrained government, individual liberty under the rule of law, and the market order of peaceful, voluntary exchange — were first planted in the Americas. Michael Novak's argument and plea is for the fulfillment of this system of natural, ordered liberty throughout the Americas and eventually throughout the world.”
- Richard M. Ebeling, Book Review, The Future of Freedom Foundation, Book review, May 1991
Michael Novak (born 9 September, 1933) is an American Catholic philosopher, journalist, novelist, and diplomat. The author of more than twenty-five books on the philosophy and theology of culture, Novak is most widely known for his book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982). In 1994 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which included a million-dollar purse awarded at Buckingham Palace. He writes books and articles focused on capitalism, religion, and the politics of democratization.
Novak served as U.S. chief ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1981 and led the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1986.
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