C.S. Lewis Knew How Free Markets Work

The Values & Capitalism blog shines new light on a famous C.S. Lewis quote, namely, this one:

In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

This commentary follows:

Usually I read the quote like this: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue.” And then I go on from there. How ironic! How foolish! We all know that virtues and morals are the keystone to a prosperous society. And so on…

But Lewis put this little word in there after “virtue” that changes everything—and. That means it can be read this way as well: “We make men without chests and expect of them enterprise.”

It is the go-get-’em-ness that makes dedicated students stay up and study, ambitious employees wake up before dawn, and business owners take new risks. Enterprise is the power behind entrepreneurship. It is the energy that drives a free market.

Is it possible then, as Lewis asserts, that by making men without chests, we make men that are not inherently moral—who are not capable of being enterprising? Men who do not understand the moral urgency of freedom?

It certainly looks that way. Morality and virtue are essential parts of economic vitality. Lose one and you lose the other.

Leave a Reply