We continue our critique of the Christian Action document Biblical principles for Using Your Vote on http://www.savotersguide.com. The author’s fourth principle is ‘For Free Market (Against Socialism)’.
Is this principle Biblical?
It is very difficult to make this kind of judgment in a definitive way, because we have to use scripture to assess economic systems that did not exist yet, and these systems are themselves complicated.
Working negatively, there is much about socialism that is thoroughly unbiblical. It is based on a view of mankind that does not take sin into account, and it naively assumes that ‘everything will turn out alright in the end’ once it’s removed the misanalysed cause of all evil. Marx certainly had no idea how perfection would emerge from the ashes (once all the oppressors of the masses have been killed), nor how perfect society would be organised. It is a foolish, incendiary system that can indeed encourage cheap promises, laziness and what amounts to theft.
On the other hand, there is much in scripture that idealises support for the poor, and sharing of all things in common (as in Acts, although the events concerning Ananias and Sapphira demonstrate that private property is assumed and acceptable). Scripture (in agreement with socialism) also recognises that the rich and powerful are often in that position because they exploit the poor. In fact, in Israel, perhaps partly to avoid this, debts were cancelled and bonded land was returned to it ancestral owners every fiftieth year. So, care for the needy and justice for the oppressed is close to God’s heart, as well as to the heart of socialism.
Likewise, there is much about free market capitalism that accords with scripture, such as that it encourages hard work and enterprise. However, the unregulated free market also makes naïve and unbiblical assumptions about human nature. It assumes that people will play by the Queensbury rules, whereas in reality, greed and gluttony and envy rule, people with money are able to use their influence to protect themselves, and the rich do exploit the poor, often in the most horrific ways. One only needs to investigate the conduct of Coca-Cola in the Third World to see that. In fact, there is some evidence that the current problems with pirates off the coast of Somalia is as a result of the West using their ungoverned seas for illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste (see http://www.alternet.org/audits/136288/we%27re_being_lied_to_about_pirates/)
Is it essential?
If we have to choose one of the two options given, then the free market with its incentives to succeed seems most likely to provide for the vast population that our economies must support. Socialism is ill-conceived and wicked, and it routinely fails with devastating results.
However, if there is to be such a thing as a Christian free market, is would need to be a place where justice is done. This would presumably require a more realistic picture of the evil that is provoked by the love of money, including restraint of greed and fair treatment for those who are otherwise easy to exploit.
Given that this is not likely to be a free market any longer, a truly Christian market would almost certainly be a third option, a combination of reward and integrity, with concern for the welfare of others, generosity and even self-sacrifice.
Therefore it is not essential that a Christian votes in favour of a free market. It might be the better of two bad options, but it is not a Christian system.
Has the author been fair?
Once again, not entirely. It’s bad enough that the scriptures that support the author’s case all unfairly characterise socialism as theft, and that the free market has been given a thorough whitewashing. But more than this, he claims that the ID are opposed to the free market when the quote he supplies says the opposite, and likewise the IFP claims to support less government intervention and more privatisation, but also gets a ‘no’. Unless he has more evidence that he hasn’t shared, this is strange.