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Michael Novak, Catholic thinker – obituary

Michael Novak in his office at the American Enterprise Institute, 2003
Michael Novak in his office at the American Enterprise Institute, 2003 Credit:  Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Michael Novak, the Catholic theologian and philosopher who has died aged 83, was one of the most influential thinkers of the Cold War, whose writings in defence of capitalism were praised by Margaret Thatcher and held up as an inspiration by dissident groups in the Soviet Union.

His economic works brought him acclaim and criticism, but he was also a man of letters, whose 50 or so books encompassed philosophy, sport, sociology, theology, poetry and American history.

Novak’s best-known book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982), defended capitalism not just for lifting millions out of poverty, but as an expression of Western civilisation’s most important foundations.

“This much-despised system,” he argued, honoured free will, allowed citizens to make use of their reason and creativity, encouraged voluntary cooperation, and depended on a respect for law. It was also inextricably linked...

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