Just as free market economics stems from a Christian world view, so socialism is fundamentally at war with Christianity. Recently, socialism has become a fad for some Christian college professors. It is not surprising that this would be so since socialism has always flourished amongst the intellectuals and been rejected by the working man. Great union leaders like Gompers and Meaney had no time for the nonsense of socialism as an ideology. Their practical attempts to elevate the conditions of workers through trade unions were opposed by socialists at almost every turn. Healthy unions are the sign of a free society, but to be healthy they must be composed of workers and not be “intellectuals” pretending to be workers.A free market system allows for unions and for the rights of owners. It finds a balance between the two in a Christian commonwealth. Ronald Reagan was right when he proclaimed the goal of “maximum freedom consistent with law and order.” In this sense, Christians are neither socialists (government control of economy) nor libertarians (total freedom) since both notions are utopian. Both assume that the Kingdom of Heaven is now.Free market economics recognizes four Christian ideas. First, it accepts the Biblical commands not to steal and not to covet. These commands acknowledge the right to private property and the common human sin of each one of us to want what we do not have. Free market economics allows private property, but does not force us to covet. Socialism by contrast assumes all men will covet and takes away their property. It keeps individuals from stealing by forcing the group to steal!Second free market economics recognizes the human fall. This side of paradise no human being or agency, not even the Church, can be trusted with all power. Free market economics defuses the power of the purse as widely as possible to prevent abuse of citizens. When other Christian goods are recognized, like the right to free assembly (unions, corporations), men are allowed to express their best sides while minimizes their worst. Economic freedom is not the whole story or the most important good for a Christian, but it frequently provides the material tools (freedom from want) to achieve other more important goods.Third, free market economics is not based on greed, but on the keen insight that man is (as Tolkien put it) a sub-creator. The free market does not assume (as too much of socialism does) that your wealth is my loss. Economics is not “a zero sum game.” (It does not just divide the pie into ever smaller slices. It allows people to make new pies and even cake!) Instead, men and women can create wealth through their creative capacities under God. This recognizes the image of God in each human being.Finally, the free market does not set wealth as an idol around which all of society must be organized. Socialismsees money making as so important that it must place it in the power of the state. It proclaims to want to end the greed of the rich while being obsessed with them. Free market economics assumes that many other things motivate men (love of God, family, and country for example). The state need not control economics totally, because economics while important is not everything. Men with sound ideas about economics (not full of greed, moderate in desires) can be very bad men in other areas. Hitler and Stalin were both men of moderate desires in terms of money, but both were horrid men.Socialism has never worked where it has been tried. Even small religious communities that try it, like the kibbutz of Israel, tend to die out by the third generation. Socialist nations are often abusive in terms of power even when they start off with so-called noble intentions. Socialist states have killed more people than any other system in human history. States like Sweden that are more peaceful find they soon face an aging population where the brightest and best have fled to other places. They end up dependent on benevolent free market states (like the US) for their protection. If it were not for the US such socialist havens (which have backed away from socialism in recent years) could not exist even in the forms they do. They are not able to maintain their economically foolish system and a good defense.In short, in the test of the real world free markets allow for maximum liberty under law. They do not force sin on us. Certainly there is nothing good about greed or materialism. Such sins are possible in free market states, though one can see them also in socialist states. The greedy fat cat is still evil even if he is called “comrade.” The starving widow feels no better because the Tanzanian government has brought on economic disaster in the name of her ownership of the means of production. Starving widows is wrong, but no change in economic systems will eliminate this problem, which is part of the problem of the human heart.In fact, most socialist states have more starving widows than most free market ones.A Christian in a free market should be a producer who consumes what is appropriate to virtue. He need not be reduced to a mere consumer, though some wicked men might wish to do this to him. This desire to reduce men to material beings is not part of free markets or of human freedom. It is the old error of being full of greed (covetousness) which in the end spoils liberty. The man who is most free is the man with moderate needs appropriate to his God given calling who lives in a free market system. He is free to produce and profit for his own good and for the Kingdom from that production. Sin makes him a slave again. Of course, socialism merely makes him a slave without any choice to avoid the danger that he will fall into sin!Free market economics can allow for some government interference for the good of the population and for “law and order.” People are not free to produce and market items harmful to children directly to children, for example. Often critics of the free market assume that there must be “total freedom” or everything else is just socialism in half-measure. This is incorrect. If the means of production by and large remain in private hands as does most wealth, then the economy is free. Total freedom will not exist this side of Paradise. If men were angels, then they could be given the power of socialists. However, if men were all angels then they would not need that power since freedom would never be reduced to greed.
Essay / Culture