Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Book Review: Natural Law

Natural Law by Alberto M. Piedra is the fifth book in the Studies in Ethics and Economics series sponsored by Acton Institute and published by Lexington Books. The purpose of the series is stated as follows in the book:

Economics as a discipline cannot be detached from a historical background that was, it is increasingly recognized, religious in nature. Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith drew on the work of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish theologians, who strove to understand the process of exchange and trade in order to better address the moral dilemmas they saw arising from the spread of commerce in the New World. After a long period in which economics became detached from theology and ethics, many economists and theologians now see the benefit of studying economic realities in their full cultural, often religious, context. This new series provides an international forum for exploring the difficult theological and economic questions that arise in the pursuit of this objective.

In this slim volume, Mr. Piedra tackles the thorny topic of economic systems as they relate to moral standards and absolutes. In the introduction to the book he clearly states his purpose:

Can capilatlism or any other economic or political system be totally separated from the realm of an ethics based on Natural Law? In other workds, can it be said that economics and ethics are so independent from each other that the moral law does not apply within the area of economic activity? Even under the most favorable conditions, can the most efficient political and economic systems devised by the human mind survive if they lack the right moral foundations and a proper understanding of man as a human person? Is it not realistic to believe that any economic or political system void of the notion of the transcendental, no matter how "efficient" it may be, can lead to flagrant abuses of man's dignity by the misuse of science and technology? (page 5)

Mr. Piedra examines in the subsequent chapters many economic systems including a critical review of capitalism and its shortcomings. He comes to the conclusion that without a strong moral foundation that any economic system is going to collapse:

Lacking a strong moral foundation based on Natural Law, freedom gradually turns into license and with it the most reprehensible excesses tend to follow. Sooner or later, chaos cries for order. Society cannot exist without it. From there, only a short step will lead to totalitarianism and the eventual loss of both economic and political freedoms. (page 183)

Natural Law is a very scholarly study of the ethics behind economics and reinforces the view that a moral absolute is necessary in order for an orderly society or economic system to be maintained.

This book was provided to me by Acton Institute through my association with Mind and Media. No other consideration apart from the book was received in exchange for this review.

No comments: