First of all, I don't like the term "capitalist" all that much, especially when it just hangs there all alone. I'm into "free markets" and so if I'm going to have the 'capitalist' label put on me, at least qualify it by saying, "free market capitalist" (historically "capitalism" was a system which protected the elites who controlled the "capital"…the qualifying term "free market" makes enough of a distinction for me to live with).
As a "free market capitalist" I get asked from time to time how a born again Christian such as myself can defend an economic system based in greed. My answer is really simple: I don't support a system based in greed. Free market capitalism certainly allows for greed, but so does every other economic system under the sun. All people struggle with greed and there are plenty of people out there who flat out embrace their greediness! They wake up every morning thinking about how best to keep what they have and how to get even more. Regardless of the system they live under, greed is an active component of the human experience. Greedy people take advantage of what they can in capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, anarchy and they will do the same thing in any other system we might come up with in the future.
People are greedy no matter what.
While free market capitalism is not based in greed, it is very much based in the pursuit of self-interest. And yes, there is a significant distinction between being motivated by greed and being motivated by self-interest. Unless you understand the dissimilarity, you'll never have a firm grasp on Biblical economics.
Have you ever been watching "TMZ", "Entertainment Tonight" (or for you more seasoned saints, "The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous") as they tour the mansion an ultra-rich celebrity or athlete and think to yourself, "no one needs all that…"? I think we've all had similar thoughts after seeing them with their solid gold toilets and air conditioned dog houses or whatever other opulent extravagance was highlighted on the show. But if you really think about it, do I have the right to determine what another person needs?
How would you like it if I decided to form a committee to determine what kind of income your family needs? Or to determine how big your business needs to be? Or to decide the type of vehicle your family really needs? Think about that. Who under God but YOU should determine all of that? I hope the answer is obvious...nobody. A system which allows for people to determine their own needs and then allows them to work in the interest of meeting those needs is the only system that can maximize the likelihood that all the needs in a society are going to be met. It puts the responsibility of "need meeting" on the individual personally effected by the potential lack, and that's a highly motivating "need meeting" incentive!
This is why economies based upon the dynamic of free markets will always prosper and those based on something other than free markets will always languish. Always. Always. Always. This is true every single time it is ever tried, without exception. People who are free to pursue their self interest are, far more times than not, going to make common sense decisions which benefit their needs and will be willing to provide goods/services/entertainment that will meet the needs of some other self-interested individual in order to attain it. Did you catch that? In order to get what I want and need I have to at some point provide what someone else wants and needs...I can't just take, take, take. Not even the richest billionaire in the country can get way with just "taking", they must provide services which benefit others as well or they will eventually go broke. Those who don't meet the needs of others, those truly "greedy", end up not having their own needs met. They are punished for not providing goods/services which meet the needs of others. Even if they do nothing else but put a billion dollars in the bank they are providing a service to others (because that billion dollars allows the bank to issue loans on that investment to those needing loans).
In a free market based economy those who are able to provide maximum benefit to a society gain maximum wealth. Those who provide modest benefit gain modest wealth. Those who provide little benefit gain little wealth. Those who provide no benefit gain no wealth. Please explain to me how that sort of system is worse than one that rewards those who provide nothing of value to anyone else? THAT would be a system which rewards "greed", the free market based system does the exact opposite of that! A free market disincentives greed and incentives inviduals to provide benefits to others!
But what about those who can't provide much benefit or services for others because of disabilities? The free market has a solution for them as well…CHARITY! And in a free market based system the abundance of wealth will always create an abundance of opportunities for ALL, even the darn near invalid, far more than any other system would! Does a severely disabled person have it better in America or in China? China has a far more restrictive economy and a far more powerful centralized government so wouldn't one be able to reason a disabled person would have it better in China? Well, that person would be very wrong. The disabled have it far better in a free market based economy than in any other system, hands down.
Endless volumes have been written about the benefits of free markets and the reasons why they work, I'm certainly covering no new ground here. All of that is great, but is a free market system Biblical? The answer is a resounding YES. Nowhere in the Bible is government run socialism prescribed or described in exemplary terms. Perhaps no one passage in all of the Bible is as clear about Godly economics than what is found in the parable Jesus told in Luke 19, and I'll leave you with that and we will continue to unpack Biblical Economics next time…
Luke 19:11-26 ESV
"As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, 'Engage in business until I come.' But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made five minas.' And he said to him, 'And you are to be over five cities.' Then another came, saying, 'Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.' He said to him, 'I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?' And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.' And they said to him, 'Lord, he has ten minas!' 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.'"