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Michael Novak should be best known as the man who attempted a merger of Austrian economics and social thought with Catholic doctrine on the common good. He also wrote a book The Joy of Sports.

James Mitchener also did a good book on sport.

Pete, I appreciate your point but to say that "whether or not one of Britain's star players would be healthy enough to play ... got more air time and page space in the news than the meeting between Blair and Bush, or the daily bombings in Iraq" is a rather large exaggeration. The furore over Wayne Rooney's metatarsal has died down and has been overtaken by stories of scandal in the UK government - such as foreign criminals being released, the Deputy PM's sex life, cash for peerages, and a recent spate of knife attacks. Having said that, let's hope Rooney is fit for the largest and most watched sports event (including the Olympics) in the world!

Actually it is Michener and the book is Sports in America. One of the Amazon reviews provides a summary of the contents.

This is a review of Free Persons and the Common Good which Novak published in 1989.



One of the most exciting insights of modern liberal scholarship concerns the mutual dependence of morals and markets. This is emphasised by Herbert Giersch in The Ethics of Economic Freedom (CIS Occasional Papers No. 24) and by Hayek in The Fatal Conceit. Novak is also working on this theme and his latest book has been hailed as signalling 'a new era in classical liberal scholarship' because it merges the Aristotelian and Thomist idea of the common good with individualism and the theory of 'unplanned order' from the Austrian school of economics. It also draws attention to the way that the constitution and other factors in the American experience provided fertile soil to promote both civic virtues and material progress.

Novak, in his capacity as builder of bridges, calls for an integration of the worthwhile elements of the Catholic, conservative and liberal traditions, inspired by the modest, non-utopian urge to make the world a little better whenever we have the chance to do so. This programme calls for market liberals and conservatives to join forces in the campaign for limited government, deregulation and free trade, while in the moral and cultural arena they would combine to resist the tendencies to moral relativism that are rampant in the arts and the soft social sciences.

His account of the common good derives inspiration from the work of von Mises and Hayek in the Austrian tradition, and its blend of individualism and institutionalism is totally convincing. Of course the notion that there is anything identifiable as the common (collectivist) good is correctly regarded as a nonsense in liberal circles but the kind of 'common good' that Novak identifies is not of the collectivist variety. It is a framework of institutions and traditions which maximises the opportunities for all individuals to enjoy liberty, peace and prosperity. In other words, the common good is promoted by the extended order of morals and markets, provided that the markets and the more consciously designed principles of the legal and political order are in good shape.

There has been an unfortunate division of labour with regard to the challenge and the responsibility. Liberals of the classical and left-leaning kind have tended to take on the tasks of change while conservatives have shouldered the responsibility for maintenance. And the hope of progress, which provided so much inspiration for liberals of all kinds, has been corrupted by theories of inevitability which undermine personal responsibility and by utopian fantasies that have prompted appalling episodes of fanaticism. Conservatism for its part has been debilitated by elements of obscurantism which Hayek identified in his classical piece 'Why I am not a conservative'.

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