The key to understand the economic crisis is to look for its cause. Deep inside the soul of modern man we find this cause: frenetic intemperance. This vice can be defined as a restless spirit inside certain sectors of modern economy that foments a drive within men to throw off legitimate restraints and gratify disordered passions.
To better show how this single vice can throw economy and society out of balance, we will outline its characteristics.
The Cause of Frenzied Markets
1. This frenetic intemperance is not a specifically economic problem but a moral and psychological vice that manifests itself in economy. It tends to form an undercurrent inside the economic world that can be observed in individuals or groups. It operates in all business environments, giant and small, rich and poor. As Return to Order demonstrates, unless frenetic intemperance be addressed, any solution, perfect though it may seem, will be found lacking since frenzied minds and habits lead to frenzied markets.
Reason vs. Irrational Desires
2. Temperance is the virtue whereby man governs and moderates his natural appetites and passions in accordance with the norms prescribed by reason. Undoubtedly, our crisis involves a lack of temperance found in the inordinate desire for goods. However, the cause of the present crisis is not the mere intemperance that leads to the simple greed or ambition that have always plagued man throughout history.
Rather, frenetic intemperance is an explosive expansion of human desires beyond traditional and moral bounds. Its frenetic nature leads those of this undercurrent to resent the very idea of restraint and scorn the spiritual, religious, moral and cultural values that normally serve to order and temper economic activity.
The Vanishing Human Element
2. The result is a frenetic, almost irrational element that enters into economy and leads to frenzied economic activities, fabulous fortunes, spectacular failures and speculative bubbles. Economic activities, which should advance the material welfare of man, end up working against his interests. In the midst of this frenzied action, that human element, so essential to economy, is tragically lost. As a result, modern economy has become cold and impersonal, fast and frantic, mechanical and inflexible.
When Money Rules
3. The result is a society where money rules. Men put aside social, cultural and moral values and adopt a different set of values that attaches undue importance to quantity over quality, utility over beauty, and matter over spirit. Free of traditional restraints, those under this rule favor the frantic dealings, speculation and exaggerated risks that have sent our economy into crisis.
Like a Car without Brakes
4. Frenetic intemperance acts like a car that goes at remarkable speeds, yet lacks adequate brakes; it must frequently crash in order to stop. It may bring amazing energy and resources into markets. However, if modern economy has brought us great prosperity, it is not because of frenetic intemperance but in spite of it.
Thus, our focus is on this vice of frenetic intemperance. We trace its course throughout history. We outline the economic processes that facilitate its advance. The book Return to Order explores its impact on our culture and way of life. We see how frenetic intemperance has influenced our use of technology, our materialistic outlook and our individualistic quest for happiness.
Tackling the Biggest Problem
By concentrating on frenetic intemperance, we avoid the error of those who would “solve” the nation’s economic problems by legislation or rigid planning that would end up suffocating commerce. Such solutions do not go to the root of the problem: The only response to frenetic intemperance is the restoration of temperance.
Putting America back on course presupposes a return to virtue and order.
These topics are widely discussed in the book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go.