Capitalism and Democracy
Prosperity, Justice, and the Good Society
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
260 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780268200145
- Published: March 2021
This book serves as an introduction to the ongoing political debate about therelationship of capitalism and democracy.
In recent years, the ideological battles between advocates of free markets and minimal government, on the one hand, and adherents of greater democratic equality and some form of the welfare state, on the other hand, have returned in full force. Anyone who wants to make sense of contemporary American politics and policy battles needs to have some understanding of the divergent beliefs and goals that animate this debate. In Capitalism and Democracy, Thomas A. Spragens, Jr., examines the opposing sides of the free market versus welfare state debate through the lenses of political economy, moral philosophy, and political theory. He asks: Do unchecked markets maximize prosperity, or do they at times produce wasteful and damaging outcomes? Are market distributions morally appropriate, or does fairness require some form of redistribution? Would a society of free markets and minimal government be the best kind of society possible, or would it have serious problems? After leading the reader through a series of thought experiments designed to compare and clarify the thought processes and beliefs held by supporters of each side, Spragens explains why there are no definitive answers to these questions. He concludes, however, that some answers are better than others, and he explains why his own judgement is that a vigorous free marketplace provides great benefits to a democratic society, both economically and politically, but that it also requires regulation and supplementation by collective action for a society to maximize prosperity, to mitigate some of the unfairness of the human condition, and to be faithful to important democratic purposes and ideals. This engaging and accessible book will interest students and scholars of political economy, democratic theory, and theories of social justice. It will also appeal to general readers who are seeking greater clarity and understanding of contemporary debates about government’s role in the economy.
“This brief but powerful book is a much-needed—and timely—Guide for the Perplexed Citizen, and it is as wise as it is witty. Capitalism and Democracy is a masterful synthesis of disparate sources, and a highly intelligent assessment and critique of arguments advanced by various economists, political theorists, and politicians. Spragens’s prose is pithy, clear, and a delight to read.” —Terence Ball, co-author of Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal
“Capitalism and Democracy is a remarkably even-handed book, and especially so in these highly contentious days. Spragens joins a sophisticated understanding of political theory to economic analysis and provides a fuller account of what is at stake in debates about the extent to which the market should be ‘free’ and the government should ‘interfere’ with it than one usually finds in writings on these matters. I read it practically straight through and found it almost as enjoyable as reading a good novel.” —Richard Dagger, author of Playing Fair