By Tom Flannery
“Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.”
That well-known adage may end up being America’s epitaph, if we continue along the road we’re on from a capitalist to a socialist system. It is a road to nowhere.
The socialist experiment was actually undertaken by the Pilgrims when they first settled in Jamestown, and it proved utterly disastrous (as socialism has throughout all of human history). They had signed a collectivist contract before leaving Europe in 1620, in which they rejected such free market concepts as individual responsibility for one’s own success and private property rights.
Things went so horrendously at Plymouth Bay that William Bradford searched the Scriptures to find where they had gone astray. In so doing, he soon came to the realization that they were operating in contradiction of the Bible’s economic principles. A change was quickly made, from a socialist system to one based on capitalism, and the settlement flourished.
The roots of capitalism can in many ways be traced to the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s discovery of the priesthood of the believer had profound implications theologically, but in virtually every other area of life as well.
In Benson Bobrick’s history of the Bible in English, Wide as the Waters, he points out that the Bible — specifically, its availability in the common language — inspired free, open discussions about “the authority of Church and state” which in turn “fostered concepts of constitutional government in England…[and] were the indispensable prerequisites for the American colonial revolt. Without the vernacular Bible…there could not have been democracy as we know it.”
The political system that our founders enacted and the laws they laid down were rooted in these same biblical (and capitalist) convictions. They include:
Separation of powers. This was based upon the biblical teaching that man is a fallen creature in need of redemption. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us the human heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” So the founders understood the basic sin nature that beats in all our hearts. Therefore, they also realized that checks and balances were needed within the political system they created to protect the citizenry from scoundrels and tyrants. In his book The Secret Knowledge, David Mamet correctly characterizes the Constitution as being “a document based not upon the philosophic assumption that people are basically good, but on the tragic confession of the opposite view.” Indeed, the idea for three branches of government — executive, legislative, judicial — came from Isaiah 33:22.
Fair taxation. In 1st Samuel 8, God warned the ancient Israelities who were demanding a king to rule over them like all other nations rather than a system overseen by judges (as God had ordained) it would ultimately lead to tyranny, and He gave several examples of how horrendous it would be. Among the tyrannical measures that He cited was the fact that a king would end up confiscating a full 10 percent of the peoples’ earnings. Now, I would submit to you that if the level of U.S. taxation (the total level, be it federal, state, so on) were lowered today to just 10 percent, by tonight people throughout this country would be dancing in the streets.
Giving to the poor by individuals and churches or private organizations, but not through government. Scripture does not support, nor did Jesus ever advocate, the redistribution of wealth by government (socialism). In the Sermon On the Mount, he advocated personal charity — not confiscatory collection by government. Yes, we are to pay taxes (“render unto Caesar”), but it is never to be punitive (see 1st Sam. 8) or for the purpose of redistribution. Jesus said, “The poor you have with you always.” Nearly 50 years ago, America launched a War On Poverty and spent trillions of redistributed dollars trying to eradicate it. Today the poverty rate remains unchanged, but we do have a $15 trillion debt threatening our future. We have sown to the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
Encouraging saving and investing. This goes back to the teachings of Jesus, specifically the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25, in which the master commended his two servants for investing wisely, but condemned the third servant as lazy and wicked for burying his talent in the ground and having nothing to show for himself.
Personal responsibility. This is based upon the simple Bible truth that anyone who does not provide for his own family is “worse than an infidel” (I Timothy 5:8).
The Protestant work ethic. As God outlined in Exodus 20, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” The Apostle Paul adds that “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10).
Capitalism is not a perfect sytem, because there are no perfect systems in this fallen world. And there will be abuses, because man is involved and he is a fallen creature. But it’s still the best system we have.
Now, we are in danger of scrapping it. That would not only be to our detriment, but ultimately our demise.
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