Financial History Issue 125 (Spring 2018) | Page 14

EDUCATORS’ PERSPECTIVE Statue of communist leader Vladimir Lenin is toppled in Lithuania, 1991. Capitalism is not a transitory economic state that will eventually be superseded by an economic paradise, nor is it inher- ently evil. It is a human institution that reflects all the warts and flaws of its cre- ators. Like any human being, it can soar to great heights and sink to unbelievable lows. This is why capitalism needs govern- ment regulation and an ethical framework established by society outside of the realm of government to succeed. The genius of capitalism is not that it promises heaven on earth through eco- nomic means, but that it is able to harness self-interest, with its great potential for evil, and use it for the benefit of man- kind. This isn’t accomplished by elevating self-interest to a position of prominence or superiority over other virtues, but by ensuring that it works within an ethical system that tempers it. In the next “Educators’ Perspective,” we will investigate the role self-interest plays in capitalism. Is self-interest the key to success, or have economists overempha- sized the dependence of capital markets on this supposed vice? Can economists help clarify self-interest’s role in the economy? Are we doomed to a world of selfishness, or is there hope for a better future?  Brian Grinder is a professor at Eastern Washington University and a member of Financial History’s editorial board. Dr. Dan Cooper is the president of Active Learning Technologies. Sources Frazier, Ian. “What Ever Happened to the Rus- sian Revolution?” Smithsonian. 48, 48–8. 2017. Keynes, John M. Essays in Persuasion. Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd: London. 1952. 12    FINANCIAL HISTORY  |  Spring 2018  | Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto. Electric Book Co.: London. 2001. Nelson, Robert H. Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond. Penn- sylvania State University Press: University Park, PA. 2001. Novak, Michael. The Spirit of Democratic Capi- talism. Madison Books: Lanham, MD. 1991. Sedláček, Tomáš. Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gil- gamesh to Wall Street. Oxford University Press: New York. 2011. Volf, Miroslav. “In the Cage of Vanities,” in Robert Wuthnow, ed., Rethinking Material- ism: Perspectives on the Spiritual Dimension of Economic Behavior. W.B. Eerdmans Pub- lishing Co.: Grand Rapids, MI. 1995.