How Capitalistic Is the Constitution?

How Capitalistic Is the Constitution?

How Capitalistic Is the Constitution?

How Capitalistic Is the Constitution?

Excerpt

What is the relationship between free, democratic government and a capitalistic economic system? That is an enduring public issue for the United States. It not only is the source of heated scholarly disputes and protracted political struggles--it also touches all of us in our everyday lives. How we adjust the relationship between government and the economy determines how much tax we must pay, whether we spend or save our pay increases (or whether we get one at all), and whether it is difficult or easy to start and maintain a business or to find and keep a job. In a larger sense, it affects how much freedom and equality we enjoy as citizens and whether our society secures enrichment for the few, or justice for all.

The source of this issue, and therefore the best starting point for consideration of it, and of almost all issues of such magnitude, is the Constitution and the thought of the Founding Fathers. We cannot make a sound adjustment in the relationship of government and the economy today without first understanding what that relationship was intended to be in our founding document and what it has become with time. More important, we may discover in the Constitution and in the thought of the Founding Fathers an understanding of politics and economics as profound as anything we are likely to encounter today.

Consideration of the Constitution is almost always helpful but almost never uncontroversial, as the essays in this volume demonstrate. Some of our authors, for instance, argue that there is a deep contradiction between the democratic, egalitarian promises of the Constitution and the inequalities generated by American capitalism. Others argue that capitalism is not simply compatible with democracy, it is in fact essential for democracy as it was understood by the Founders and as it was established by the Constitution.

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