Free enterprise has produced overwhelming benefits for the world.
Over the weekend before Independence Day, my wife and I traveled to Boston, MA to visit friends and see the city for the first time. After taking in the historical Freedom Trail, we crossed the city to visit what many consider the gold-standard of higher education in America—Harvard.
One of the stops we made while on campus was the book store. Scanning the shelves, a friend and I unsurprisingly noticed a large number of left-leaning books featured, but one book in particular hooked our attention. Displayed proudly among the offerings was the recently released “Communism for Kids” with its opening line: “Communism names the society that gets rid of all the evils people suffer today in our society under capitalism.” As any good free enterprise supporter would do, my friend and I dealt with the book in a manner we thought best…
If it seems that more Americans positively view Communism, Socialism, mixed economy and other similar ideas, it’s because more Americans do, especially within the Millennial generation. A 2016 Gallup survey pins the percentage of Americans with a positive image of socialism at 35 percent, unchanged since 2010. Shockingly, however, a majority of Americans under 30 view socialism in a positive light, and 69 percent of those under 30 would vote for a socialist presidential candidate.
I’ll give you a second to pick yourself up off the ground.
The advent of Bernie Sanders gave hint to this alarming fact. And for whatever reason – liberalized education, unclear understanding of economic systems, fewer negative examples of communism or socialism in the news, little historical knowledge – younger Americans are less loyal to free enterprise and more open-minded toward collectivist economic structures.
The Marriage of Capitalism and Christianity
In the early 20th century, Max Weber coined the phrase “Protestant Work Ethic” to help explain the explosion of modern capitalism and why Christians excelled under free enterprise. Weber’s phrase gave name to the collection of ideas developed by the giants of the Reformation. The ideas were that all work is good, of benefit to society and blessed by God – even the most dull and ordinary tasks. From there, many Christians came to view the virtues of hard work, diligence and frugality as a sign of a blessed, and therefore, redeemed life. This meant Christians were motivated to work harder and longer than anyone else, and saw increased material benefits because of their hard work. Christianity didn’t invent capitalism, but the two are consistent and have been bonded since the Reformation.
- Though it says nothing directly of capitalism, the Bible says much of the principles undergirding free enterprise. God made humans to be stewards of the earth and to use it wisely for the benefit of humankind. Capitalism stewards resources better.
- God’s eighth commandment to the Israelites was “thou shalt not steal.” Intrinsic within this command is the idea that, while God ultimately owns everything (Psalm 24:1), people also have property that “belongs” to them (private property, if you will). If no one owned anything, there would be no need for this command. The fundamental principle of capitalism is private property.
- God is a creator and receives reflective glory from human creativity. Kevin DeYoung explains that “[t]he engine of capitalism is the God-given drive, ability, and responsibility to create, to innovate, to conquer and subdue. When humans make something out of nothing, or when we make the same something more efficiently, we show forth the image of God in us.” Capitalism provides an environment most conducive to flourishing human creativity.
- Capitalism has many other features which the Bible discusses and supports. The Bible doesn’t directly mandate a specific economic structure, but evidence shows that capitalism best lines up with God’s ethics. That’s not to say that capitalism doesn’t have flaws that can be exploited by fallen individuals – it certainly does as all economic systems do. Manipulation, corporate welfare and corruption all must be mitigated. Overall though, capitalism is the best known economic system in the world for the good of humanity.
Why Christians Should Advocate for Capitalism
Palmetto Family is of the mindset that private enterprise, not government, is the engine of economic progress. Free enterprise, entrepreneurship and hard work should be taught and celebrated. We believe it so much that it’s one of our core values. Not because free enterprise allows us to get rich or to step on others to reach new material wealth, but because it lifts up the most people. Beyond the biblical support for capitalism, example after example exists proving the shortcomings of socialism, communism and every other economic system, and the overwhelming benefits of capitalism.
Perhaps one benefit stands above the rest – free enterprise has led to the exponential decrease of extreme poverty. In 2015, for the first time in history, the percentage of humans living in extreme poverty dropped below 10 percent. Neither communism or socialism were to credit; rather, free enterprise created the environment to make more wealth a reality.
In today’s society, defending capitalism comes with risks, especially if the subjects are healthcare or social programs. And for some reason, the fallacy that free enterprise suppresses and leaves behind the weak has taken hold, particularly within the Millennial generation. It’s time for free enterprise supporters to double-down on their efforts to re-educate Americans on the overwhelming benefits of capitalism. As socialism and the others become more accepted, the defense of free enterprise becomes a more worthy and urgent cause.
So next time you hear some Harvard-pseudo-intellectual or sophomoric Millennial telling you about the glories of socialism or communism, don’t hand them “Communism for Kids.” Instead, kindly explain to them how free enterprise unlocks the most opportunity and success for the most people.
And feel free to use Ronald Reagan’s words to make your case:
“I have seen the rise of fascism and communism. Both philosophies glorify the arbitrary power of the state…But both theories fail. Both deny those God-given liberties that are the inalienable right of each person on this planet, indeed, they deny the existence of God.”
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