The Hunter’s Bow

What is a bow? A bit of wood and deer gut; a means for projecting small, pointy sticks great distances; a tool for storing and releasing mechanical energy. These are physical descriptions which are objectively so, but when most people look at a bow they don’t see the plain mechanics of its nature, but rather the ethical weight they attach to it. To them a bow may be a bit of athletic equipment for shooting competition, or a means of putting food on the table, or a weapon of death feared for centuries (though not so much this century or the previous two).

The point is, most things in the world around us are merely tools, and it is not found within the thing itself whether they are good or bad. No amount of studying a bow will tell you if it’s harmless sport, honorable means of feeding others, or a threat. You must look into the heart and mind of the man wielding it to know these things.

I believe the above is the source of Adam Gurri’s concern with my post on Ordoliberalism. Ordoliberalism is associated with economic liberalism and economic systems’ planning, but it does not contain within itself a system of ethics. It doesn’t say how to treat people who are incapable of work, or the unborn. I see Ordoliberalism more as a discipline of engineering that describes how we approach governing ourselves and constructing our institutions. In the hands of a good Catholic like our own Andrew, you might get results you (personally) disagree with at the margin, but you wouldn’t get gulags and or even the “softer” despotism of a Pinochet. In the hands of an actual Pinochet though …

There were several purposes in my previous post, but none of them were to describe an “ought”, merely an “is”. Ordoliberalism is useful for looking at government and society as things that can be steadily and purposefully improved (though not always without missteps or uncertain outcomes), and in this respect it is both great and good. The modern era of liberal government has issued in an era of unprecedented prosperity and peace. It would be a shame if ever larger sections of our society gave up on liberal government out of excessive cynicism over our ability to check its excesses and weaknesses. To them I say, fear not! There’s a way of fixing what ails us, and it has been shown to work to good effect. Ordoliberalism is no silver bullet, but it’s a great arrow to have in our quiver on the hunt for a better tomorrow.

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