In his biographies of the Roman emperors, Suetonius describes a conversation between Vespasian and his son Titus, who disapproved of his father taxing the urine that tanners and other industries collected from public restrooms: “When Titus found fault with him for contriving a tax upon public conveniences, [Vespasian] held a piece of money from the first payment to his son’s nose, asking whether its odor was offensive to him. When Titus said ‘No,’ he replied, ‘Yet it comes from urine.’”
This sentiment has been summarized in the proverb, “Money doesn’t stink.” Currency, in other words, is morally neutral. Its buying power is the same no matter how good or evil its users or creators. As such the market cannot create on its own virtues or morals or any good other than profit.
This wisdom is often forgotten by those, like Karl Marx and today’s well-heeled socialists, who criticize free market capitalism for the social disorders that in fact mostly derive from the free choices of individuals, and an intrusive, technocratic federal government that has displaced and marginalized civil society––especially families and churches––and weakened the virtues they once taught and reinforced.