April 12, 2024

Answering The Good Questions: The Free Market’s Christian Roots

Answering The Good Questions: The Free Market’s Christian Roots
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A while back, while speaking at a conference, three questions were raised. The first one was on if animals use language or not. The second question was stimulated from a point I made in one of my talks, “The Right Worldview Prepares Students For College and the Real World”. My claim was that the free market system is grounded upon the biblical worldview. I also contrasted it with the collectivistic system, which is not based upon the biblical worldview.

Today’s Collectivistic Moralism

In today’s society, collectivism sounds hip, cool and woke. It sounds so right. It sounds so just. It sounds so equal. However, the collectivistic framework is not new, it goes back to at least the ancient Greeks. One infamous attempt to implement it, before Marx hit the stage, was at Plymouth Plantation. The fascinating account was shared by Governor William Bradford. He writes of it as a total failure and then says the following about the system:

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.

The point that stands out to me is his claim that the collectivistic framework is not a God thing! Also, he says that when we do it, we are trying to be wiser than God! Why would he say this?

He then explains how they did an 180 and privatized the system, and how they succeeded.

Years later, Marx popularized collectivism to a whole new level, and it has become a beautiful black widow, attractive, but oh so dangerous.

Why do I say it is dangerous? Well, his idea had devastating consequences, never before or since seen, such death and destruction from an idea is such a short period of time (well, abortion and Islam may have him beat in the numbers, however). In the 20th century alone, the idea of Marxism was a death sentence of millions and millions of people, some say around 100 people others have claimed up to 200 million!

But Marxism has another core flaw. It is immoral. First, when it invades a land, the proponents steal other people’s property for “the common good.” So if you owned a farmstead, it is no longer yours, it is confiscated, or stolen, for the “common good.” No wonder, Marx grounded his philosophy upon a materialistic worldview, compelled collectivism and polished it with Utopian assumptions.

But the immorality does not stop there, their long term maintenance of this equality is also immoral. That is taxation under a Marxist system. Taxation, in itself, is not immoral, however there are different types of taxes. One type truly collects for the public good, things that are non-excludable and non-rivalrous. It helps pay for such things as national defenses and the court system.

However, in Marxism, the “taxation” is no longer just for the public good, but also for the “private good”. Money is taken from one person and given to another for “private good” items. Think of “free cell phones” or “free medical care”. We also must not forget the money that flows from taxes into the pockets of the taxation entity!

But what if God fearing people run the show?

Now, one could say that Marxism, being predicated upon the atheistic worldview, does not give it an objective moral compass. In other words, if Christians would implement it under a Christian government, maybe it would work. While this sounds pious, Bradford’s experience should temper this thought, practically. His experience with collectivism was not with atheists, rather it was tried with “godly and sober men”. Yes, even then, it still did not work. He said it “breed much confusion and discontent and retarded much employment”.

Plus, unless this system was implemented totally under a free will situation (like in Acts), it would be immoral. It would be like saying you are going to start a Christian strip club, Christian swingers group, Christian thieving gang or a Christian murderers club. All are oxymorons.

The Free Market System and The Biblical Worldview

So is there a system born out of a biblical or Christian worldview and based upon those ethos? And does that work? Yes, the Free Market system. And yes, it works.

It seems to have been birthed in some monasteries, then grew and blossomed post-reformation. Just like the scientific enterprise, the free market system is rooted in the Christian worldview. In Michael Novak’s article “How Christianity Created Capitalism”, he states the following:

“Max Weber located the origin of capitalism in modern Protestant cities, but today’s historians find capitalism much earlier than that in rural areas, where monasteries, especially those of the Cistercians, began to rationalize economic life.”  He goes on to say this “It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the preconditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation, and new undertakings.”

One can’t help but see biblical assumptions oozing out of this worldview too. A friend of mine, Jay Richards, gave an excellent talk on how to end poverty, “How to End Poverty in Ten Tough Steps”. He not only shows that it is best done through free trade, but also gives the basic criteria to make it work. One can’t but help see that the majority of those steps seem to come straight from the biblical worldview. The few that don’t are still quite compatible with the Christian worldview.

In fact, Jay also wrote an excellent book “Money, Greed and God” where he talks about economics and the Bible. This ain’t no dry econ book, rather Jay writes in his typical upbeat, easy to read manner. Plus, it’s packed full of great information and answers to possible objections!

In Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute Jay W. Richards and bestselling author of Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late and Infiltrated: How to Stop the Insiders and Activists Who Are Exploiting the Financial Crisis to Control Our Lives and Our Fortunes, defends capitalism within the context of the Christian faith, revealing how entrepreneurial enterprise, based on hard work, honesty, and trust, actually fosters creativity and growth. In doing so, Money, Greed, and God exposes eight myths about capitalism, and demonstrates that a good Christian can be a good capitalist. Digital, Hard, Paper.

One of the most interesting writers I’ve come across is academic, Rodney Stark. In his fascinating book, “The Victory of Reason“, he lays out why Christianity lead to freedom, science, capitalism and western success.

In The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark advances a revolutionary, controversial, and long overdue idea: that Christianity and its related institutions are, in fact, directly responsible for the most significant intellectual, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium.

In Stark’s view, what has propelled the West is not the tension between secular and nonsecular society, nor the pitting of science and the humanities against religious belief. Christian theology, Stark asserts, is the very font of reason: While the world’s other great belief systems emphasized mystery, obedience, or introspection, Christianity alone embraced logic and reason as the path toward enlightenment, freedom, and progress. That is what made all the difference. Digital, Hard, Paper.

Also, if you want to read more about this topic online, feel free to check out these two articles: “Christianity’s Free-Market Tradition” and “The Late Scholastic Origin of Free Market Economics

The apostle Peter taught us to have answers for our faith, which is what I try to do here. I would love for you to follow iApologia to get the latest updates to your inbox. Plus, I will send you my Free Quick Guide why that gives 8 reasons science points to God.

Please tell us your thoughts below!

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One thought on “Answering The Good Questions: The Free Market’s Christian Roots

  1. The free exchange economy is based on Christian ethics for several reasons. 1) It is free, voluntary, and not coercive. When two persons make a free and voluntary exchange, each acts as their own agent. 2) For a free exchange to occur, both parties must have determined they will each benefit from the transaction. In other words, each person has to has to please the other guy. You will need to serve the other guy, give him what he wants. Christianity teaches to be considerate of the other guy, love and serve your neighbors. Free market capitalism uses our own self-interest as the mechanism for that. Each of us prospers, in a free economy, by service to the other guy, our neighbors.

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