Thursday, October 31, 2013

Economic Systems

I think that too many American Christians think that free market capitalism is the Christian approach to economics. They reason that since America is (supposedly) a Christian Nation or was founded on Christian principles, the economic system that we have here in America must be Christian.

I am sure that free market capitalism appeals to Americans because they are individualistic, egalitarian, and they believe in self-determination and an achievement ethic. They believe that they have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and have provided for themselves by their own hard work. They believe that anybody can do the same. It is the triumph of the entrepeneurial spirit - taking risks, working hard, getting there first, etc.

It strikes me that the communist system is actually based on Christian principles. I grew up during the cold war and the godless communists always called each other "comrade." The Christians recognized that they were all brothers and sisters. The earliest church (Jerusalem) practiced a kind of voluntary communism in which people sold their excess possessions to provide care for the Christian brothers and sisters in their need.

(Acts 4:32–35)  Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 
33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 
34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 

35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 

The failure of the Soviet Union and other European communist states was that they combined the communist system that relied on caring for each other with an atheism and evolutionary theory that removed the ethic necessary to make it work. If there is no God (and thus no universal moral foundation) and if the developmental principle at work in the universe is survival of the fittest - then why should I help my neighbor? I should eat my neighbor before he eats me!

The Chinese communism has been somewhat more successful because the people of that region already had a deeply engrained Confucian ethic with a sense of collectivism. Even so, as the government educated everyone there in atheism and evolutionary thought, the communist collectives systematically failed. The government is technically the communist party, but the engine of the economy is capitalism. 

Here in the USA, free market capitalism aligns more with secular ideas of evolutionary theory - again the survival of the fittest. Here it is a dog eat dog world and only the strong survive. This is not exactly a Christian perspective!


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