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The Poor and Free Markets

You may not remember the Phil Donahue Show. I myself didn’t really pay attention to it. Besides having other things to do, I found Donahue’s political correctness too irritating when I did stumble across it. Last year, I saw an intriguing video clip of the show.  Donahue was hosting the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who advocated the benefits of free markets; Donahue took a more socialist, redistributionist, centralized-government approach to economics. (You can see a short exchange here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A).

Friedman said that the historical evidence is in, and it is quite clear: over the last 200 years, free markets, not government programs, have created wealth that has brought general worldwide benefit to the poor, lifting multitudes out of grinding poverty. He says that there is no system that holds a candle to the free market in terms of helping the poor around the world.

Just look at the Gapminder website (www.gapminder.org). Without exception (unless, say, interrupted by civil war or dictatorship), countries where (a) free markets exist and (b) governments reinforce the rule of law (e.g., to protect private property, honor contracts), personal income increases.  At Gapminder, just click on any country and see how personal income has increased where these two conditions prevail. The increase of wealth is not a zero-sum game—that if people get richer, others will necessarily become poorer.

Shortly after seeing the Friedman video clip, I came across a book by the Acton Institute’s Jay Wesley Richards—Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (HarperOne). The book offers an excellent, engaging, and accessible philosophy of economics. It also debunks many popular myths about free market economics:  that Jesus would support government redistribution of wealth, that capitalism encourages unfair competition, that capitalism is based on greed, that capitalism means the rich get rich at the expense of the poor, that good intentions are all that matter when it comes to helping the poor, and so on.  Richards defends free market economics as a chief—and empirically-proven—means of helping the poor break out of grinding poverty worldwide.  All benefit from free markets. So even if Bill Gates has far more material assets than I do, this doesn’t mean that I am therefore poorly off or should feel justifiably entitled to some of his wealth. Everyone is better off materially in a free market system, not simply the wealthy. This is not to say that government has no role to provide safety nets (not hammocks!) for the truly needy. Yet the government does not create wealth, but its policies can create equal opportunities for wealth creation.

If we consider whether governments or free markets best help the poor out of poverty, the economist Thomas Sowell tells us straight:

The lot of the poor improves through the ability to create wealth. If we compare the track record of socialism and capitalism, the latter wins hands-down in terms of improving the lot of the poor. Redistribution of trillions of dollars through welfare programs in the US and moneys sent abroad to non-Western nations has only bred dependence, corruption, and irresponsibility without ameliorating the problem of poverty.[1]

Some might ask: isn’t the free market driven by greed? Well, there are certainly free market capitalists who are greedy—just as many people who eat food who are gluttons! Greed is not the core of capitalism, and we could add that there are plenty of socialist-minded people who are greedy for political power. And many who are poor themselves may be greedy in their spirit.  In Richards’ book, he distinguishes between selfishness (which is bad) and self-interest (which can be quite appropriate). A “greed-is-good” capitalism (selfishness) is clearly opposed to a biblical ethic, but a principled self-interest is not. Caring for oneself and for one’s family is an expression of proper self-interest (Eph. 5:29; 1 Tim. 5:8). A baker sells bread so that he can support his family from the profits, yet he provides goods so that his customers can feed themselves and their families. Both parties are appropriately self-interested, and this exchange of goods creates a win-win situation—not a win-lose or lose-lose situation. Free enterprise and profit through wealth creation are not themselves the problem.  The false dichotomy between “concerned socialism” and “greedy capitalism” typically fails to recognize the proper place of principled self-interest.

Again, greed is not good, and the selfish orientation towards accumulation—tearing down old barns to build new ones for the sake of self-indulgence (Lk. 12:16-21)—is idolatrous, alienating, and soul-destroying. For the free market to work properly, it must be undergirded by crucial moral commitments: hard work, trust, industry, honesty, equality before the law, equal opportunity to improve one’s lot.

Even if the poor can be helped in a free market system, this is not the end of the matter. The gospel calls us to trust in our heavenly Father rather than finding security in earthly treasures; to invest in kingdom priorities that will not pass away; to care for needy especially within the Christian community, but also for those outside; to reject greed, opulence, indulgence; to care for natural resources; to recognize the power of the gospel to bring redemptive uplift to society. Capitalism must not be amoralized or secularized lest it become a crass economic system detached from human well-being.[2]

The problem is not money or free markets. The problem is the love of money, which is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). There are many dangers associated with wealth—indeed, more dangers with wealth than with poverty. Indeed, abject poverty is a condition in which people will more likely see their need for God. But we are called to help the poor in a responsible way. If a person doesn’t work, Paul said, he shouldn’t eat. Also, in 1 Timothy 6, Paul’s admonition to the wealthy believers is not that they become poor—which is the worst way to help the poor, as Dallas Willard observes.[3] The poor are not to be imitated but helped. Rather, he tells them not set their hope on unstable wealth, but on God; further, they are to be generous with their resources to those in need. This is not forced government redistribution—just as it was not in the Jerusalem church. Giving as everyone had need was a voluntary act (Ac. 2:44). Peter reminded Ananias about his property: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4).

Over 20 years ago, my wife Jacqueline and a friend of hers who had two doctorates from MIT began a ministry in microenterprise development to help the poor in non-Western nations. (It is now called PEER Servants: www.peerservants.org). It is modeled on the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and its concept of loans for the poor to begin their own small businesses. One can purchase goats or a sewing machine, pay back the loan that would go to the next loan recipient, and the original recipient typically moves toward economic self-sufficiency. The Grameen’s founder, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his groundbreaking work.  Recognizing that Western-funded foreign aid (aside from disaster relief) has itself been a disaster, PEER Servants has influenced many thousands of people through its business loan program.  In the case of the Grameen Bank and PEER Servants, wealth creation came not through government programs but through non-government organizations seeking to assist the poor by supplying loans, working with local communities and private organizations to provide accountability and oversight for the distribution and repayment of loans. PEER Servants itself has worked with national churches or missions organizations and, along with helping people economically, many lives have also been transformed by the gospel.

The free market is not the problem. It is the abuse of the free market—the love of money—that is the problem. But the track record speaks for itself. The poor have been greatly helped by the free market. If we are concerned about the poor, we should consider how the poor have benefited from principled free enterprise over the past two hundred years—and how overreaching government actually harms the poor.



[1] Thomas Sowell, The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective (New York: William Morrow, 1983).

[2] Craig M. Gay, Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today’s Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004); see also Gay’s With Liberty and Justice for Whom? The Recent Evangelical Debate Over Captitalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991).

[3] See Dallas Willard, “Is Poverty Spiritual?” in The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lifes (New York: HarperOne, 1990)

39 Responses to “The Poor and Free Markets”

  1. I think you are confusing the ideas of a welfare state with socialism. In socialist ideology, everyone has to work what is reasonable according to their ability. Also, I think you are confusing Stalinism/Maoism with socialism. If you take a brief survey of historical socialist/communist ideas, quite a few of them hold to the ideal of a decentralized government and are naturally anti-authoritarian. Another thought; I do believe the top 10 countries with the highest GDP per capita and highest rate of citizens’ happiness with the government all have social medicine and other, what some would deem ‘socialistic’, workings.

  2. Well written, Paul. Lots of great information in here.

    It could very well be me and the influence this election cycle has had on me, but it “feels” like you are saying that Capitalism is more Christian than Socialism.

    And it very well could be. I would love to read a history of the development of capitalism from a Church History perspective.

    But taking your last paragraph out of context I could reword it with Socialism in mind:
    Government is not the problem. It is the abuse in government—the love of power—that is the problem.

    I could be wrong, but I just do not see a particular economy or government clearly expressed in the bible as being more “moral” than others. That isn’t to say that others are not better than each other. Or that we could not derive an ideal way to do government using scripture.

    But continuing with my “feelings” above, on an emotional level I am disturbed by these posts.

  3. I think the problem is neither socialism or capitalism, but the problem is when we try to make the Bible say that it prefers one over the other. The Bible does not give us economic systems. God does not need to an economic system, he own the cattle on a thousand hills. You could go either way socialism or capitalism and with God there would still be enough wealth to go around. What matters is the golden rule, do unto others as we have others do unto us. Are we loving our neighbor as we love ourselves? The standard of measurement for loving others is how much we love ourselves and how well we treat ourselves.

  4. Proponents of free market capitalism need to distinguish the difference between greed and self-interest. Paul Copan did it great job highlighting this distinction.

    Unfortunately, there are some proponents out there who actually say things like “greed is good” and appear to be proud of that. It only reinforces false myths and portrayals of capitalism that are too often propagated in mainstream media and in Hollywood movies.

    Paul, I am curious if you think in the New Heavens and New Earth whether we will have capitalism? Do you think Isaiah 60 speaks to that? Some have argued that the very mention of ships of Tarshish in that passage suggests that there will be merchants and trading.

  5. sam, do you think resources will be unlimited in the New Heavens and New Earth?

  6. I think we can learn that from the promises that government would or should be the main force rescuing folks in such things the Sandy debacle, despite the promises that they obviously can’t deliver. When we will learn, Christian or not, that it is not the ideology or the political rhetoric that counts in the long run?

    Certainly we can’t prevent or for see everything, but we can learn to not only be aware of all the things that can happen, since we have all been warned biblically (no matter what our ideology), and be prepared for the worst, even while trusting in the Lord. That’s evident in His example of the ants.

  7. The Bible provides firm support for a free enterprise system. The book of Proverbs cannot be read without missing this implicit and often explicit endorsement of a free enterprise philosophy.

    And it is no coincidence that the most religious freedom found in any nation,( freedom from persecution, freedom from oppression and freedom to allow the Gospel to be disseminated freely) is found nearly exclusively in a free enterprise, constitutional republic form of government.

    Whereas the more a government moves toward socialism, communism, Marxism, fascism and then tyrannism, the more hostile and oppressive the government is toward Christianity in general and Bible believing conservative fundamentalism in particular.

    The individual, the family (relatives) and then the church (in that order) are the means by which the poor and needy in society are to be helped. NOT THE GOVERNMENT “ROBIN HOOD PHILOSOPHY” OF ROBBING FROM THE RICH TO GIVE TO THE POOR!.

    The constitutional republic is based on this simple philosophy a 5-year old can understand: “The government is established to protect your property, person and freedom.” Nothing more.

    Here is the proper philosophy of providing for the poor:

    1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

    1 Timothy 5:16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

    2 Thessalonians 3:8,10 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you…10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

  8. @goldcitydance for #5.
    When talking New Creation, the question should not be about resources, but rather the bigger questions should be what will our communion with the Creator of all things look like.

  9. @Jeff Ayers for #7
    Jeff, it looks like you are reading capitalism back into the Bible. In proverbs, you cannot read it without missing explicitly about helping the poor, taking care of the needy, stranger and alien. Proverbs is also pretty explicit about being generous and against self-interest.
    We don’t let the fallen world define our views for us, instead we should let all of scripture do it. I am not against learning from history, but we need to influence history and not the other way around.
    While you have quoted some verses about poor, you have not quoted all verses about the poor. The greatest sermon ever preached starts off with “blessed are the poor”. Jesus asked us to LEARN what it means to “i desire mercy and not sacrifice”.

  10. One caveat: I don’t view “govt redistribution” as a negative concept. We do the same with the church…give offerings and it is redistributed. It’s more efficient. When there’s a community need, we redistribute our tax revenues to, say, repair a road. Likewise we redistribute revenue yo meet the needs of the poor on the community. I view this as valuable…a recognition by all if the need for a social safety net that all of us might need some day. It’ can be much more efficient this way.

  11. Jesus knew what what was in the hearts of men (people), so that is why he could say that “you will always have the poor with you.”

    None of us really do all that much, on a regular basis to help the poor. We pinch it out.

    Wasteful, fraud fraught governments are no answer, either.

  12. @sam for #8
    Okay then. In our communion with God in the New Creation, do you think we will bringing tithes and offerings to God (Isaiah 60)? If yes, where do you think we obtain these offerings in the first place?

  13. @goldcitydance for #11
    I was hoping that my answer was implied when i called God, Creator of all things :)
    Is there a point you are trying to make that i might be missing?

  14. @sam

    Yes, He is indeed the Creator of all things but He gave us stewardship of His creation (Genesis 1:26-28). And He is pleased with that.

    So is it fair to assume, from your subtle hint, that you think there will be unlimited resources in the New Creation? That God will just give us unlimited food, energy, clothing, etc, all we need to do is ask? If so, what is the role of “work” in the New Creation?

  15. @GoldCityDance
    The short answer is that we will be doing as much work as Adam and Eve did before the fall.

    The nature of work changed after sin came into this world. In the new creation life will be different and so will what “work” we do and why we do it, will be different. Lots of other things will change too. For example we will be no more eating to avoid starving to death. It is better to understand New Creation as whole and it’s purpose instead of trying to focus only on the aspect of work, if not we will be in danger of reading our own concepts like capitalism back into the Bible.

  16. Some excellent, thought-provoking comments and questions here!

    I agree that the Bible does not advocate an economic or even political system as ideal. That said, there are systems that may be more beneficial to human flourishing than others. For example, democracy is not in the Bible, but I would argue that this is a system that, despite its problems, has brought greater good to human beings overall than political alternatives. I would say the same for a free market system, which empirically has helped lift the poor out of grinding poverty. Government does not lift people out of poverty; this comes through wealth creation independent of government. So this isn’t reading capitalism back into the Bible but acknowledging the reality of what capitalism (like democracy) has done for many human beings.

    In terms of a historical overview, look at Rodney Stark’s *The Victory of Reason*, which argues that capitalism, human rights, and other gains in the West are the result of the application of biblical principles of the image of God, personal responsibility, reason, etc.

    What of countries with socialized medicine, say, in places like Canada and the UK? These are commonly are fraught with problems such as bureaucracy, delays in basic treatment, and greater abuse of “free lunch” medical treatments. As a result, many are looking to free market models for solutions. (See , for example, http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/hard-lesson-about-socialized-medicine). Even such countries, however, have had free markets and the reinforcement of the rule of law–the two conditions I highlighted. Socialized medicine may exist alongside these two conditions, but it is these two conditions that actually help the poor in the most fundamental way, as history has shown….

  17. ….As far as resources in the new heavens and new earth, yes, there will be much available in a new resourceful earth. In Jay Richards’ book, he talks about the amazing resources of our own earth–for example, the use of sand to make fiber optic cables. Who would have thought?! In the new heavens and new earth, there will be ongoing work to be done as God’s priest-kings. N.T. Wright talks about this in his book *After You Believe*. In terms of trade and free market (“ships of Tarshish” in Isaiah 60), I think that this talks about the restoration of God’s people (i.e., the Gentiles being incorporated into the people of God), but it does focus on tasks to be done, cultivating the earth (as Adam was assigned to do), and to make use of the good earth God has given us.

  18. When the title of this post came thru my RSS I thought I bet this is written by Paul Copan (rather than Michael)!

    Can I recommend Defending the Free Market by Robert Sirica also of the Acton Institute.

    Can I also challenge your about the Bible not advocating economic or political systems. While Christians can certainly live within any system, it seems that laws can be just or unjust. Presumably just laws line up with the Bible and as such some systems will be more biblical than others. Allowing people to exchange (legitimate) goods freely, allowing people to keep money they earn, having the right to use one’s own property (while not being injurious), not taking the property of others without legitimate cause, all seem consistent with biblical principles. Yet they are not common to all economic and political systems.

  19. Bethyada, thanks for your comment. I’ve never actually talked with Michael about his views on such things, but I guess you’re clued in pretty well to the sorts of things Michael does write about. I appreciate the recommendation of Sirica’s book and will look into it.

    I do agree that there are fundamental principles that the Bible promotes that can be found within capitalism (as you have listed them) and, true, these are certainly not all found within other economic and political systems. I want to avoid anachronism and reading a system back into the biblical text that developed in the Middle Ages from Catholic monks (as Rodney Stark argues) but came to fuller flowering in the modern era. This is why I compare the free market to democracy. Many of the principles found in both actually, again historically/empirically, flow from the biblical worldview and these are gains for humankind. I am hesitant to say that the Bible actually promotes these systems but rather it promotes underlying principles and attitudes regarding greed, generosity, contentment, hard work, frugality, repudiation of luxury and waste, and the like. Thanks again for your comments!

  20. @sam in #9 says: “In proverbs, you cannot read it without missing explicitly about helping the poor, taking care of the needy, stranger and alien. Proverbs is also pretty explicit about being generous and against self-interest.” This brings to mind several questions. First, from where does the wealth you (and Proverbs) refer to come? Certainly not the government as Proverbs is directed at the individual and not government. Also, government cannot create wealth but rather extracts wealth from the citizenry. Gold, silver, precious stones are just common dirt unless a market creates a demand for it. Only then does it turn to having value. No, I aver that the welath referred to in Proverbs and in, among many other places, is individual wealth created by people growing crops, raising livestock, and providing services to their fellow man. It is this wealth, created by the individual to make their own life more comfortable that those individuals, not a government, should use to bring glory to God the Father.

  21. mbaker in #6 brings to mind something I heard a long time ago from a friend (who is not a believer) who had helped his daughter out during the Katrina debacle. He said that he saw far more churches and Christian organizations at work than he had ever seen in his life. What’s more, they were far better organized and were doing more than the Red Cross or the government did in feeding folks, getting medical aid and basic needs met. I’ve heard this from many other sources and I think that it serves to point out the incompetence of the government to provide aid in times of great need. Our government would be far better standing back and letting those groups take the lead. The government would be far better suited to providing logistical help when requested by those groups. I can also see the government having a role in brushing aside mindless rules and regulations that would inhibit the private charities from doing there service.

  22. “So this isn’t reading capitalism back into the Bible but acknowledging the reality of what capitalism (like democracy) has done for many human beings.”

    I think it was just that.

    What perspective? Who are those “many human beings”? And how many are they in comparison to the rest of the population on planet earth? Would that “reality” be possible if it was a free market for all? Doesn’t some people have to be driven by the urge to develop (get out of poverty, move up in class etc) in order to provide the fuel for maintaining the people sitting on the power (money)? That is the motor of capitalism, and I cannot see how that would be a Christian principle worth praising.

    Do onto others etc, that would work. That would make a difference, but its time has not yet come. Wasn’t even mentioned here.

    Capitalism in heaven? LOL Yeah, I am sure God will make the same mistake again, setting the scene for the “desire to get to the top”. The satanic desire that is packaged so nicely in the economical philosophy called capitalism.

    Wow, I am stunned to read this. I thought Parchment and Pen was a little bit above that level. Disappointed quite frankly.

    Agree with the argument that capitalism is the system that works the best, for some. But that is like saying “I’d rather eat myself than see my children starve”. It’s just another stupid statement, to quote my favorite P&P blogger.

    I think you (Paul Copan) are talking about the positive things about capitalism, leaving the negative without a comment. I would dare you to declare that capitalism is, just like socialism, a system created by the human mind. Thus fallible, and sinful and not something worth praising too much one over another. I am not talking about communism or any of the extreme ism’s removing people’s basic right of free will to the basics (follow Jesus, speak their mind for example).

  23. @Sam for #9:
    The greatest sermon ever preached begins with “Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT,” which is not quite the same thing as the ‘poor’ IN POCKETBOOK…..just sayin’

  24. @Hman for #22:

    I was the one who raised the question of whether there will be capitalism in heaven. It wasn’t Paul Copan. It was just a straightforward inquiry out of curiosity.

    One of the reasons I like P&P is because of the freedom of intellectual inquiry, no matter how “out-of-the-box” the thinking may be, it is generally welcomed. It was in this spirit I asked that question.

    You did respond to my question and I thank you for that. I just have to say I’d just appreciate a bit less sarcasm and more reasoned arguments for your position.

  25. @Jim Zeirke for #20
    Wealth comes from God. Scattered through proverbs are sayings about Kings. How do you narrow down proverbs just to individuals?

    I am interested in knowing what made you bring up government? You seem to making some connections which do not seem clear to me.

  26. @leslie for #23
    You know a lot of people remind me of that and then i have to remind them that in Luke 6:20, he says only “Blessed are the poor”. I find that most people seem to reach out to the “IN SPIRIT” as some kind of defense. Even in Matthew when reading the sermon he says things like do not store up treasures on earth but in heaven. In the end i will agree with you about the poor in spirit, but then for every rich person who is poor in spirit, i can show a million poor in the pocketbook who are poor in the spirit. I think we deceive ourselves when we think we know what it means to be poor in spirit without living a way of life where we have worry about our next meal.

  27. @GoldCityDance: Gotcha. It was sarcastic, and that is not nice. Apologize for that. Your question stood out when skimming through the comments. It came across as a bit left field, or out of the box, but that doesn’t mean I need to be nasty.

    I do not know what heaven will be like, but find it difficult to believe we will keep earthly, man made systems that are designed to create wealth and status for the individual. I would assume that most of what we are used to here will be gone. Our systems, routines, processes, fashion, laws, politics will be replaced by something new. They will simply not qualify for the life we will have, after being transformed into what we were once intended to be. That is pure, clean and worthy of being with God. I may be totally wrong here.

    To be with God, that means we cannot have any traces left of putting our self before anyone else, and definitely not God. Like Abraham, he would even sacrifice his own son. Selflessness, in human form above my comprehension.

    If we are that selfless, we will no longer demand. Without demand, the fuel is lost in the market. I can’t see the need for currency, because our intention will be to give, not gather. Capitalism has no place there the way I see it.

    Look, I am not capable of reasoning very well. Perhaps my frustration trying to make a point comes out as sarcasm sometimes. Something to work on. Thank you for pointing that out. I stand corrected. :)

  28. Hman, thanks for chiming in. Glad you received GoldCityDance’s response in a good spirit.

    A few comments: regarding “how many people” are helped by the free market, take a look at the Gapminder website I pointed out. (I get the impression you didn’t take a hard look.) And you can get more details by reading Jay Richards’ book, which deals with many of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the free market. Some comments still failed to distinguish between self-interest (we shouldn’t condemn basic care for ourselves and our families) and selfishness (disregarding the needs of others, say).

    Are there people who are rich but impoverished in soul? Of course there are. This misses the point: presumably we are trying to help the poor *materially* or *economically* (I have not been addressing the spiritual dimension directly); and if so, a simple look at history shows the direct correlation between free markets/the rule of law being enforced and the average income of people rising/people coming out of poverty (again, see Gapminder.org). This actual connection is beyond dispute. The criticism that people who get wealthy can become greedy is off-topic. (The poor can be greedy too!) Again, I’m trying to address the topic of helping the materially poor. And check out Milton’s video clip–greed isn’t restricted to money but often extends to political power and idolatrous trust in government.

    As for what work in the new heavens/earth will look like, see N.T. Wright’s book *After You Believe*. Christ came to restore our status as co-rulers of the earth with God and as priests to God (“you have made them a kingdom and priests…and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:10). The physical creation will be restored; the believing, disembodied deceased [the New Jerusalem] will not remain in heaven but, when Christ returns, will descend to a new earth (Rev. 21:1-3) and receive incorruptible resurrection bodies. We restored humans will engage in work as…

  29. …We restored humans will engage in work as Adam did in Eden as a result of Christ, the second Adam and the human archetype, who has brought heaven and earth together to create the ultimate sanctuary where God dwells in the midst of his people.

  30. You should read this book http://www.amazon.com/Things-They-Dont-About-Capitalism/dp/1608193381 .

    According to the author both the US and Britain made their biggest gains and growth under protectionist policies in the 18th/19th centuries. We have never had growth like it since free market principles were brought in.

    China are now experiencing the same under protectionist policies as did Japan and many others. Protecting your own (1 Ti 5:8) could equally apply to a government and it’s people. We have been far too quick to allow our industry and talent to be outsourced overseas to our own detriment. In Britain we have certainly sold the “family silver” and have much less to offer the world than previously.

    I am not anti-capitalist or anti-socialist, both have pros-cons, but the biggest con is that they all involve sinful people therefore NONE of them work. It’s not about which system we have on earth, they are all doomed to failure in the end and Jesus will show us how a system should really work when He rules.

    It’s all about knowing Jesus, the rest is noise. Is it not a known fact that more poor people find God than rich, yet we all chase riches…

  31. @Hman for #27:

    I wasn’t really looking for an apology but I do appreciate you for offering it. You have my respect for the gesture, something that is rare on the internet.

    Thank you for elaborating on why human systems will be abolished in the New Creation. I have one question:

    “because our intention will be to give, not gather.”

    What if my intention for gathering is to give?

  32. On Ha-Joon Chang’s book (*23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism*) with his point about US and British protectionism is something of a non-sequitur. The deeper question is: “Did this protectionism actually *cause* economic growth?” (The answer is “no”!)

    On Chang’s misrepresentations, see the following posts for starters:

    http://pileusblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/what-ha-joon-chang-doesnt-tell-you-about-free-market-economics/

    AND

    http://pileusblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/ha-joon-chang-wrong-on-free-trade-markets-and-development/.

  33. @Dave Gough for #30:

    “I am not anti-capitalist or anti-socialist, both have pros-cons, but the biggest con is that they all involve sinful people therefore NONE of them work. It’s not about which system we have on earth, they are all doomed to failure in the end…”

    I 100% agree with you that the biggest con is that all economic systems in this world are tainted by sin.

    That said, I don’t think because of the taint of sin Christians should just take a pseudo-nihilistic approach to this issue. This applies for all aspects of life as well. All political systems, philosophical systems, the scientific method – they are all tainted by sin.
    So does that mean Christians should not spend the time to evaluate which system or thought is more reflective of biblical principles? Or better for elevating human condition in this world? Is it useless for us to do so?

  34. @GoldCityDance: #31

    On Earth: My intention for gathering is to give = I am Robin Hood = I am the biggest socialist in the world = I cannot be a capitalist ;)

    In Heaven: My intention for gathering is to give, there may not be anyone to give to, because we will all have everything we need, in abundance, and eternally?

    Honestly, I have ALL respect in the world for people who make money. ALL the respect for those who give money to people who need, regardless of it is out of surplus or even better sharing of our daily bread.

    It is all good as long as it is not a showoff. Discussed a case at the lunch table at work yesterday. Guy raises money for Cancer foundation. He claims that he has raised $2,000,000 last year. Come, buy tickets, help those poor unfortunate people. Cool! After he has paid the costs, venues, artists and finally written out a fat check to himself there is only a couple of grand left. That kind of leaves a little bit of an aftertaste doesn’t it….

    Oh, didn’t apologize to earn respect, but tha…. ah, stop it. :)

  35. @Paul Copan, #28

    First of all, thank you for your reply!

    You are a wise man. You were correct in your assumption, I did not take a hard look. Gapminder is awesome, of course being of Swedish origin. Got to love the Swedes! :) Nota bene: Swedes earns less, but live longer than Americans, what ever that means…

    I actually share what I suspect is a mutual view that out of two evil, the free market is better for people (as in creating more wealth). Political parties promoting free market always get my vote.

    I agree with you that it is difficult to distinguish between self-interest and selfishness. However, I believe we are talking about different things here. What I call selfish includes looking to maximise the wealth of family, village, country and even continent. You say self-interest is biblically kosher. I say I’m not sure. I think about Matthew 19:21-22. That instruction was two-fold, Jesus told him to release himself from wealth, but ALSO to directly give it to the poor.

    I am in no position to debate macroeconomics, global economics and that sort of stuff. I cannot get into a discussion about theology or hermeneutics. The reason I objected was that it sounded off when I read what you wrote. I just wanted to provoke some more thoughts to come out from you people. No offense!

    Agree 100% about greed, and 100% about that poor can be greedy too. My objection was, again, in relation to where we divide ourselves from “the rest”. If it is I and the rest, my family and the rest, my town, city, country etc. I would be inclined to believe you if you say free market creates more wealth for people in that economy. However, it is a very broad and general statement. For me the global perspective is more interesting. Perhaps someone would say that is not a biblical view. I do not endorse the thought of a world government, UNLESS it is ruled by our Saviour Lord Jesus. All my hope is in Him.

  36. Hman the Swede:

    Hej and God morgon! Thanks for your reply.

    I certainly affirm that all my hope is in Christ as well, and we can rejoice together that his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.

    I’m glad you see the genuine economic benefits that have come from the free market.

    In terms of selfishness vs. self-centeredness, Paul writes in Eph. 5 that “no man ever hated his body, but he nourishes it and cares for it.” That is proper self-interest, not selfishness. All selfishness is an expression of self-interest, but not all expressions of self-interest are selfish. When we protect our eyes from foreign objects or try to avert danger, this is proper God-given self-interest at work. Christ himself appeals to proper self-interest: if you want to find your life rather than lose it, then lose it for Christ’s sake. When we obey God (who desires the best for us), then our best desires and highest aspirations are met through trust in and obedience to Christ. In Matt. 19, which you mentioned, Jesus appeals to the man’s self-interest (which was implanted by God, who has set eternity in our hearts): “If you want to inherit eternal life, sell all you have….”

    In terms of helping the poor, a good principle is (as exemplified by the organization PEER Servants) this: if you want to help the poor, start a business (or help the poor start their own business). An excellent place to look at practical principles for helping (or not helping) the poor can be found in Marvin Olasky’s *The Tragedy of American Compassion* (Crossway); check out Jay Richards’ book *Money, Greed, and God*.

    Hope this helps.

  37. WTR says
    “In socialist ideology, everyone has to work what is reasonable according to their ability.”

    That’s the flaw with socialism – motiviation. Either

    1) People have to act disinterestedly for the good of all, which is contrary to sinful human nature or
    2) The state has to force them, which can lead to totalitarianism.

    I believe capaitalism simply works better because it “fits” our sinful mo. We will work for own good, but rarely for someone elses.

  38. Interesting article. Of course, you (and most posters) have have conflated different things: the free market does not equal capitalism, nor does socialism equal a planned economy.

    Capitalism is an economic model that allows those with money to give that money to people who have plans to make stuff, who in return try to make enough money to return the original funds, with profit, to the original givers. Socialism is an economic model where those with money are compelled to provide money, usually via taxes, to do the same, with any accrued benefits going to the state (in terms of income) or the individual (in terms of access to goods or services for less or no money).

    The free market is basically where anyone can sell anything (as limited by the rule of law). A planned economy is where the state actively interferes in the *daily* market, setting quotas, etc. You can have a planned economy and a free market–the Romans did it for centuries, as in fact did most human governments for most of history–as well as a free market and socialism.

    To be honest, the current model of capitalism is more a kind of a volunteer socialism–many of the major players on the stock exchange are institutional, rather than individual.

  39. I would agree if we had capitalism in the united states but we don’t and we haven’t for over thirty years. We have cronyism and it’s cousin plutocracy. They have made this a dysfunctional country. Capitalism is defined as a market system where entry into the market can be achieved by almost anyone. Where everyone has access to information about the market and where regulation keeps the larger players from destroying or buying the smaller ones. I would also add that capitalism is system where competition reduces prices and improves quality none of these things are happening in the US economy right now. Corporations set prices while they continually reduce quality to increase profits and they have effectively marshaled the power of the courts and the government to keep competitors out or at least be allowed to buy them out. For Friedman to claim that the capitalism is the answer without noting the fact that it no longer exists in the United States shows just how much of the cool aide he drank.

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