The Bible seems to make a case for both Capitalism and Communism at different times. Beginning with the Levitical laws, we see both in action.
According to Levitical law, a man could buy his neighbor’s land, and even buy the labor of his neighbor. However, in the year of jubilee, which happened every 50 years, all the land had to revert back to the family line from which it was purchased. In this way, family lines were protected through the generations. So, while a prosperous man was allow to take advantage of the less prosperous, a capitalist idea, he was also bound to give equal protection to his neighbor’s property, a communist idea.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we hear statements that God wants the prosperity of Christians, that the laborer is worthy of his reward, that God blessed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendents abundantly, so that they were much richer than their neighbors.
At the same time, Jesus directed his followers to help the less fortunate, to share with the brother in need. We read that the early Christian church practiced true communism. Each one that had more shared with those who had less. So, what does Christianity have to say about capitalism and communism? Which is better? Why does neither one seem to bring any prosperity to the world?
Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven. He tells us that God knows what we need before we even ask for it. “Seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” He doesn’t tell us not to work. He tells us not to worry about earthly things, to focus on heavenly things. Then he will provide everything else we need for body and life.
Capitalism is not bad in itself. We should be able to make a profit from what we do. And the better and harder we work and the better the product we produce, we deserve to be better compensated. This is the incentive that drives all innovation and motivates people to achieve a better life. But, capitalism choked by red tape, inordinate numbers of licenses and fees, and a heavy tax on productivity has lost any sense of fair play and ability to earn an honest living. Such capitalism invites the desire to cheat in order to get ahead. It invites profiteering and price inflation to overcome the drain of bureaucracy. In invites the legislating of special classes with special privileges. As such, it fails to become capitalism in the pure sense. Therefore, when the economy fails under this system, it is not fair to blame free enterprise, since it no longer exists.
On the converse, communism has not shown itself to be viable in creating a prosperous state. But, once again, where is there true communism? When the early Christians gave to those in need, they did it out of love and concern, not out of compulsion. Even in the American communes of the 60’s, the harmony of the communities rapidly broke down because of the failure of anyone to feel obligated to give more than the next person. As everyone felt that someone else could do it, eventually no one did anything. It became a war over responsibility.
At the macro level, communism also has not worked because of greed and corruption. In essence, there is never true equality. The power always rests with a select few, who think and act for the collective. The masses are kept in virtual servitude for the good of the “state”, which is, in practice, the political elite.
In evolution, the question often asked is how an animal half-way through evolving from once species to another manages to survive the transition, during which state the animal has the natural advantages of neither species. For instance, when a mouse evolved into a bat, how could it function with only two feet and with wings useless for running or flight? We must look at the Chinese situation now and see it trending toward a market economy. At this point, it is neither capitalist nor communist entirely. Hence, its capitalist wings are clipped by party cronyism while its communist sharing policies are undermined by free market greed.
In America, we are trending in the other direction. As we become more a model in the mold of China, we have stifled Capitalism while inheriting all the bad habits of the 60’s communes. Those who wish to achieve a profit based on productivity can no longer do so, while those who feel entitled to share their neighbor’s wealth are decidedly unmotivated to lift a finger to share in the work.
John Adams was quick to point out that it takes a Christian nation to make either system work. I can allow for the fact that non-Christians may be honest enough to understand that cooperation and fairness are needed. But, history has shown that it takes little effort to bring out the greed in people. Unless there is a strong spiritual force infusing the nation with brotherly love, we soon break down into greed and survival of the fittest.
These days, communism and capitalism are merely names meant to invoke an ideal. No government is anywhere near either ideal, nor can it ever become so. There is only one inevitable result from either one — collapse. From the earliest Chinese and Mongolian empires to the great empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, and up to the modern empires of England, France, Spain, and America, the cycle has always been the same. The cycle will always be the same. Every ideal will have to fight for its survival virtually from inception. Eventually, all things tend toward chaos.
Whether we live in a capitalist or communist country, our duty before God is to live in such a way as to bring order, to back the government when we can, to fight to correct the government when it is morally deficient. At no time are we to attempt its overthrow. That we must leave in the hands of God. Eventually, all evil and corruption collapses under its own weight. Then, we pick up the pieces and move on. In the end, we will have a true communion of saints, eternally equal, eternally rich beyond all understanding, the perfection of both ideals. Until then, we do the best with what we have.
- “Chrapitalism” Vs. “The People’s Republic Of Heaven” (thelittleredblog.typepad.com)
- Crony Capitalism is Normal, Liberal Capitalism is Weird (marketfailure.wordpress.com)
- Being Called A Communist: Is That Actually Bad? (nobodyzsukey.wordpress.com)
- Summarizing Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (thestaggeringferret.wordpress.com)