When you ask people if they believe in freedom and liberty, everyone will say yes. Moreover, when you ask people if they believe that the presence of justice and mercy are marks of a good society, you will get a positive response. However, when you press them to explain what they mean by this, you will be surprised by the variety of answers. The purpose of this paper is to explore the meaning of liberty, justice, and mercy, especially as they relate to economics. In the course of this exploration it will be shown that embracing free enterprise and economic liberty promotes human dignity and provides the institutional structure in which justice and mercy will most likely flourish. By contrast, trusting government coercion alone to promote the good society is most likely to lead to despotism and tyranny, which undercut human responsibility and destroy society’s original object.
Paul A. Cleveland serves as Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. He is also a Professor of Economics and Finance at Birmingham-Southern College and serves as an adjunct scholar for the Alabama Policy Institute.