Human Nature and Capitalism
At the core of every social, political, and economic system is a picture of human nature (to paraphrase 20th-century columnist Walter Lippmann). The suppositions we begin with—the ways in which that picture is developed—determine the lives we lead, the institutions we build, and the civilizations we create. They are the foundation stone.
Three Views of Human Nature
During the 18th century—a period that saw the advent of modern capitalism—there were several different currents of thought about the nature of the human person. Three models were particularly significant.
One model was that humans, while flawed, are perfectible. A second was that we are flawed, and fatally so; we need to accept and build our society around this unpleasant reality. A third view was that although human beings are flawed, we are capable of virtuous acts and self-government—that under the right circumstances, human nature can work to the advantage of the whole.