A longtime friend emails the following. I’d appreciate any comments: Billy, Greg, JTK, John V, and anyone else.
The market economy is shaped upon a material template, in which every individual is a particle interacting with other particles out of self-interest, i.e. a trader. Here the central operating principle is me vs. you, i.e. competition. There are several philosophies that enable this natural system. Capitalism grants individuals property rights, thereby empowering them to participate in the system; the free market allows traders to interact freely with one another; market values encourage participation.
This economy is only one side of our social reality, however. It is the external, productive, material side, and no more. The other side of society is the internal, spiritual side, the culture. This is a very different template, in which the individual is not a self-contained, material particle, but part of a larger whole, us. The central operating principle of this side is moral, not productive. Instead of "productive becoming" (i.e. material progress) it is "good being." This Good expresses itself in a variety of values, be they cultural, familial, aesthetic, institutional, or social. Here the individual is not acting as a trader, but as a person. It is this higher sensibility that dampens the aggression of pure competition, and lifts us above the beast. There is a lot more to being human than producing, trading, and consuming.
Society is a balance of these two distinct and essential sides, the productive economy and the moral culture. They should not be confused. For either to be healthy, the good must control the productive, the spiritual the material, the internal the external, the moral the amoral, the human the animal. As long as this is the case, the result cannot be anything but good. If not, the individual and the society become unbalanced and unhealthy. The Market rules, and amorality spreads. Society becomes increasingly defined by quantity, the measure of the material world, and of the market price. Democracy, education, and religion are corrupted. The social system becomes senseless and chaotic. Life loses its meaning, purpose, and seriousness, becoming a kind of joke.
The primary cause of this imbalance is an overemphasis on quantitative reasoning, which sets the entire material assembly line in motion. Society is hammered upon the material template, where we are all particles, in order to make it more economically efficient. Materialism follows. Materialism rests on the notion that society only has one side–the external, material side–and hence, that all is economics, that free market capitalism defines all reality, and that the Market is God. The physical universe becomes the Universe itself. A deadly veil falls, and fully half of reality is lost. Materialism thus causes the deepest of all possible damage. It is the death of the soul.
The defense against materialism is education in all spheres: the family, the school, the religion, the society at large. However, such efforts are destined to fail if not rooted in an understanding of reality itself, which gives them legitimacy. The problem we are facing today is thus primarily metaphysical. We have cut ourselves off from the truth.