For all these Democratic leaders, moral capitalism was an aspiration for a system that would balance protection for the rights of Americans to accumulate property and start businesses with an abiding concern for the welfare of men and women of little or modest means who increasingly worked for somebody else.
That vision did combine two distinct ways to critique the existing economic order and campaign for a better one. One tendency hurls a harsh critique at concentrated power, whether in high finance, manufacturing, the federal government or the perceived alliance between private wealth and private capital. It envisioned a society of small proprietors, or at least of a government that strictly regulates big businesses and compels them to redistribute part of their wealth.
The second kind of moral capitalism fixes on the oppression of Americans on the job, whether by poor working conditions, low wages, insecure employment or a ban on union organizing. Its defenders seek to unite wage earners and their sympathizers, and look more kindly on those employers, no matter how large, who respect the rights of their employees, and pay them well.
In theory, the two tendencies are not contradictory.