The Virtuous Marketplace

Sen. John McCain enters the Capitol Oct. 1.
Sen. John McCain enters the Capitol Oct. 1. (photo: AFP)

As the U.S. Senate started debating its Wall Street bailout bill this evening, some suggest only moral repair can truly solve America’s debt crisis.

In a commentary published Oct. 1, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty board member David Milroy argues that free markets require personal virtue to function effectively.

But virtue has been in short supply in Wall Street boardrooms, where Milroy said senior executives have pocketed “outrageous” compensation even as the market meltdown unfolded.

Virtue has been scarce too among banks that blithely lent vast sums to borrowers who obviously posed a high risk of defaulting on their loans.

And a decline in virtue is evident also among everyday consumers who clamor for loans to buy things they don’t need and can’t afford.

“None of these purchases are bad in themselves, but if we push ourselves into financial ruin to obtain them, there is something disordered in our desires,” said Milroy, the president of Flatrock Capital Management in Columbus, Ind.

“There is only one thing that will fill our desires and, to borrow from Augustine, our hearts will be restless until they rest in Him,” Milroy concluded. “This society seems to increasingly lose focus on that truth.”

— Tom McFeely