We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Is it moral to sell your kidney? Your placenta for stem cells (or does it belong to your kid?) What are the ethics - if any - and morals of commerce of the human body?
Which is an indirect way of asking what the morals and ethics of capitalism are. We know what many libertarians would say, but what would each of us say?
Eric Cohen at New Atlantis has a fine wide-ranging essay on the subject, covering Calvin, Voltaire, Weber, Adam Smith, Irving Kristol, etc etc.: Biotechnology and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Couple of quotes:
In 1991, with the last vestiges of communism crumbling and the Cold War ending, Irving Kristol warned that the greatest threats to a capitalist future were spiritual and cultural. “In a sense,” he said, “it is all Adam Smith’s fault. That amiable, decent genius simply could not imagine a world where traditional moral certainties could be effectively challenged and repudiated. Bourgeois society is his legacy, for good and ill. For good, in that it has produced, through the market economy, a world prosperous beyond all previous imaginings—including socialist imaginings. For ill, in that this world, with every passing decade, has become ever more spiritually impoverished.”
In the end, Smith’s error was his lack of “eschatological realism.” Man is not simply an average being who seeks to improve in material ways. He is also an imperfect being who yearns for perfection, a mortal being who yearns for immortality, and an ambitious being who sometimes believes that he can make others more perfect or less mortal through his own mastery of nature. And so Adam Smith’s world of practical commerce—a great success—is still haunted by the Protestant desire for other-worldly grace and by Voltaire’s desire for “terrestrial paradise.” We demand that material progress offer salvation—which is exactly what socialism once promised and what biotechnology may promise in the future. Or we demand that material progress be abandoned in the name of salvation—soberly, by those who seek to preserve sacred retreats in a profane world, or radically, by extremists who seek to dismantle modern life altogether.