Michael Novak Crafted a Moral Defense of Democratic Capitalism

Philosopher served as ambassador under Reagan and impressed Thatcher

His philosophical heroes included Reinhold Niebuhr, Gabriel Marcel and Albert Camus.
.. Recruited to teach at Stanford University in the mid-1960s, he joined protests against the Vietnam War, though he wavered over the years on whether U.S. involvement was justified. “I came out of it feeling that I had not been as steady in my thinking as I would have liked,” he wrote.
.. So he took up a chance to write speeches for Sargent Shriver as the politician stumped for Democrats across the U.S. in 1970.
.. Yet he believed the party was neglecting a large part of its base, including Irish, Italian and Slavic Catholic immigrants.Such voters, he wrote, “did not want their kids taking acid. They did not want their daughters sleeping around, or having abortions.”

.. His 1972 book “The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics” described people who would become Reagan Democrats, as Mr. Novak himself became.

.. socialism was “the residue of Judeo-Christian faith, without religion. It is a belief in the goodness of the human race and paradise on earth.” Capitalism, he added, was “a system built on belief in human selfishness; given checks and balances, it is nearly always a smashing, scandalous success.”

.. In his book “The Joy of Sports,” he dismissed the idea that sports were a waste of an intellectual’s time. “The basic reality of all human life is play, games, sport; these are the realities from which the basic metaphors for all that is important in the rest of life are drawn,” he wrote.