Back in 2015 Investor’s Business Daily reported that the U.N.’s executive secretary of Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, admitted that the real reason for environmental activism — the furor over global climate change — was not to save the world, but to destroy capitalism.
This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.
There is a growing clamor for replacing our current capitalism with socialism. Last year the Gallup organization reported that more than 40% of Americans believe that socialism would be a good thing for the country. That is partly because the definition of socialism has changed. More and more associate “socialism” with “social justice” or “social equality.” Among young Democrats, 57% support socialism. Part of that, I suspect, is due to the fact that 40% view the American economy as currently controlled by the government rather than the free market, as opposed to the 34% who said it was free-market controlled.
I’m concerned. Bernie has been doing awfully well at the polls. He’s quite popular among the millennials. But I’m not concerned about Bernie’s showing. I’m concerned about the attitudes behind it. And I’m concerned about another demographic that loves him. They’re from my generation of hippies. They lived through the 60’s and 70’s with their Cold War era and saw the rottenness that was the Soviet Union and communist China. They understood the horrors of socialism and somehow they’ve forgotten. They’ve even thrived under the “evils” of capitalism, living comfortable lives because of capitalism, but now they’d like to strip it away. Their parents taught them patriotism and gave them a work ethic, but they think America would be better served by undercutting the whole thing. They still consider themselves patriots, but they do it while denying the basis of the American experiment.
Millennials seem (largely) to say, “Work for it? No way! Let someone else pay our way.” They are generations-removed from the blight of the Soviet Union. They aren’t aware of the demise of socialism in Russia and China who still hold to to a form of socialism while denying the power of it. These countries are surviving by using capitalism to prop them up. Millennials don’t know that. But the older generations should. I’m concerned because so many I’ve seen lately seem to have forgotten.
First, let me be clear. Capitalism is not biblical. But, then, no economic system is. And, let me clarify further. Capitalism is not perfect. Not being spawned by God, it is a human endeavor and will, therefore, be subject to abuse. So, capitalism is neither “God’s choice” nor is it perfect.
So, what is capitalism? The dictionary defines it as “an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.” This version puts it squarely in the hands of private individuals and out of the hands of government. We don’t have that version. We have a kind of hybrid where mostly market forces control prices and production is in the hands of private individuals … but the government will interfere where it deems it necessary. So price controls, rent control, tariffs, Truth-in-advertising laws, and the like are government intervening in the perceived abuse of individuals of capitalistic approaches. The basic concept of capitalism is “market forces,” the idea of supply and demand. If supply goes up and demand goes down, prices drop. If supply goes down and demand goes up, prices rise. So when oil, for instance, got really expensive because the demand was high and the supply short, natural market forces kicked in to push people to drive less, decreasing the demand and lowering prices. That’s the idea. But capitalism in the hands of angry sinners can turn nasty. The “Greed is good” kind of capitalism replaces “Work hard and get ahead” with “Me first.” It replaces “Anyone who is willing to work for it can succeed” with “Looking out for #1.”
This table outlines some of the key distinctives between capitalism and socialism.
|Ownership of Assets||Means of production owned by private individuals||Means of production owned by government or cooperatives|
|Income Equality||Income determined by free market forces||Income equally distributed according to need|
|Consumer Prices||Prices determined by supply and demand||Prices set by the government|
|Efficiency and Innovation||Free market competition encourages efficiency and innovation||Government-owned businesses have less incentive for efficiency and innovation|
|Healthcare||Healthcare provided by private sector||Healthcare provided free or subsidized by the government|
|Taxation||Limited taxes based on individual income||High taxes necessary to pay for public services|
But, of course, that’s all opinion, philosophy, a matter of preference. What does the Bible say?
|If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (2 Thess 3:10)||You need to earn your way.||No one should go hungry.|
|Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil — this is the gift of God. (Ecc 5:19)||Work is a good thing.||Work is optional; everyone should contribute as they may.|
|Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thess 4:11-12)||You should receive what you earn and learn to be independent.||We should all depend on us all.|
|The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Prov 13:4)||The sluggard won’t earn much; the diligent will earn more.||A sluggard and the diligent should get the same.|
I think it’s clear that capitalism is not God’s divine order for the proper economic system. Some argue that it is God’s mandate; I wouldn’t make that argument. I would say that capitalism takes into account the biblical concept of the sinfulness of Man more than socialism does, and capitalism has more points of agreement with biblical principles on the topic than socialism does. Clearly capitalism is not a perfect system; humans are sinful. But there is no support in Scripture for a government-controlled system that eliminates the motivation to work, the requirement to work, and the rewards of work, or that makes “social justice” a government mandate rather than a personal point of obedience. But here’s the bottom line. No system — not democracy or monarchy, capitalism or socialism, any human endeavor at all — can survive and thrive without a moral foundation. Both capitalism and socialism relieved of moral constraints will strangle those who indulge them. And I’m concerned about the folks, younger and especially older, that think socialism is an improvement. I’m concerned that the current trend is pushing my grandchildren’s America away from God and into socialism.