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Monday, August 15, 2011

Christianity and Capitalism

Every so often it is my distinct misfortune to read or hear someone wax eloquent about the evils of capitalism and imply, suggest, or say outright that Jesus was a socialist, or that He would have favored socialism, or that the early Christians practiced some form of socialism, or that capitalism somehow violates Christian teaching.

It's aggravating as the dickens. Aggravating because it reveals, at the least, appalling ignorance of history, economics, and the Scriptures; or worse, familiarity with one or more of those subjects combined with a serious deficiency in analytical thinking; or, worst of all, outright mendacity and lying. Combine this with the usual syrupy, dripping condescension that accompanies the commentary and you have a perfect recipe for annoying anyone who's devoted, say, 60 seconds of serious thought to the subject.

For what, exactly, is capitalism? It is often said that it is an economic system, but this really isn't the case. Capitalism, beloved, is nothing more--and nothing less--than the economics resulting from people--the mass of people, not merely elites--having both documented property rights and liberty. To the extent you deny the people liberty, or the right to administer their property and the fruits of their labor as they see fit, you depart from capitalism and pitch your tent in the Land of the Planned Economy, aka Socialism. Some prefer to deny those rights in toto; they are communists or socialists (Or fascists, for that matter. Surely you weren't unaware that fascism is but a variety of socialism?) Some prefer to deny them in part; they are liberals. Some prefer to deny them on an ad hoc basis as benefits them personally; they are political hacks, thieves, and liars.

Those who seek to guard and secure Man's God-given rights are commonly called "conservatives" these days.

It floors me that anyone even modestly familiar with Holy Writ would suggest that it does not recognize either the right to liberty or the right to property. How, if a man has not a right to life, do the Scriptures say, "Thou shalt do no murder"? And if a man has a right to life, how can anyone say that it is legitimate for another man to deny him the free use thereof, that is to say, to deny him his liberty? How can anyone be said to have a right to something if he has no right to control the disposition thereof? And if there is no right to property, how is it that the Scriptures say, "Thou shalt not steal," and "Let him who stole, steal no more?" How can any man steal what does not belong to anyone? The commands implicitly recognize the right to property.

And if the Scriptures recognize the rights to liberty and property, beloved, they recognize capitalism, for that is all that results when men have both!

These are amongst the rights the Founders of our country had in mind when they referred to certain unalienable rights granted from the Creator. Rights given by the Creator of mankind and which may therefore not be legitimately denied by men to men. It is largely the denial of such rights that constitutes injustice. Against this, the Scriptures warn us, and tell us that guarding against it is the proper role of the state. Hence, the Founders assertion that it is to secure such rights that governments are instituted among Men.

So much is obvious, as I said, to anyone willing to give the matter a few seconds of serious, analytical thought. I therefore do not hesitate to say that those who do not understand this have, at the least, simply not bothered to engage the material seriously. But there is more.

Consider, beloved, the track records of capitalism and the varieties of socialism. Capitalism has a track record of promoting liberty and economic growth and prosperity for masses of people. To this minute, it is the only economic--for lack of a better word, "system"--with a demonstrable track record of lifting millions of people out of poverty. (As an aside, the evils sometimes ascribed to capitalism are actually the evils resulting from greed, which usually results in the abuse or denial of property rights or liberty, and hence do not result from "capitalism" at all.) Socialism, on the other hand, especially when you consider that fascism and communism are but varieties thereof, has a track record of impoverishing and murdering hundreds of millions of people.

One is left shocked, stunned, in disbelief, at the notion that anyone could seriously suggest that a "system" that demonstrably lifts people out of slavery and destitution is somehow less charitable--and therefore less in accord with Christian beliefs--than a system that routinely enslaves, impoverishes, and murders people. But that is the position that people who take seriously the idea that Christianity is, or somehow should be, a socialist faith, are left with.

Ignorance can be cured. Here are some suggestions:

The Holy Bible
Money, Greed, and God
The Victory of Reason
The Theory of Moral Sentiments
The Wealth of Nations
The Mystery of Capital

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