Posts Tagged socialism
Over at the Acton Institute PowerBlog, I piggy-back on a recent Michael Bull post to offer a reminder that we needn’t give all the credit to the market when we reap the benefits of market exchange, free trade and globalization.
For Christians in particular, we should view capitalism as a launching pad for spiritual and social transformation, not a mere means to materialistic ends:
Capitalism is, after all, a mere framework for human engagement. Although the constraints it imposes (“thou shalt not steal”) and the features it elevates (ownership, stewardship, risk, and sacrifice) may fit well within a broader Christian context, it says more about what we can and can’t do than what we might or might not imagine or accomplish…
… For the Christian, then, capitalism provides a simple baseline from which we can launch, holding the potential to lead us toward a broader, deeper network through which we can more freely and fully obey the callings of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we proclaim good news to the poor. In allowing for this free-flow of individual callings, we are given opportunities and choices that many other systems would assume on our behalf.
As Bull writes, we as Christians are called to reach beyond the bare minimum—a truth I’ve emphasized routinely here on the blog:
The final step of Covenant is that you, the risk taker, become a shelter, a house, for the helpless. The final step is generosity. Capitalism only works in a moral society. This is why we can correspond the shape of good economics to the shape of the Gospel. Jesus gave His life to give abundant life to us all. He believed in the promise made to Him by the Father, the promise of resurrection—a new body. Poverty was not something to be embraced eternally. Christian socialists forget that Jesus now owns everything. All the great saints were rich people who risked their wealth for even greater wealth, a wealth that included a legacy of other people—a household. The “glory that was set before Him” was also the glory of the Church, a new body that includes every believer. Jesus Himself is our covering. We are only saved because of His atonement, His “covering.” He, the king of kings, the great Land Lord, is our shelter. Read the rest of this entry »
This year’s State of the Union address was particularly painful for anyone who understands that human knowledge has its limits.
Fantastical utopian scheming was aplenty, and thus, I was continuously reminded of Hayek’s marvelous bit from The Fatal Conceit: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
And oh. my. goodness. Our dear, dear President has quite the imagination, no?
In my latest post at AEI’s Values of Capitalism, I pick my top 10 favorite pride trips from the speech, analyzing omniscient Obama’s “blueprinted” approach to prosperity with Hayekian skepticism.
[Obama:] “I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that –- openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work. It’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.”
Of course we do! All we need to do is, like, double our workers in the most popular industries. (Don’t mind the “how,” because “we know how to fix it.”) Is Little Jimmy content to live in Mommy’s basement until he’s 38 years old? There’s an app for that.
But what if those industries aren’t going to have twice as many openings in, say, 5 years? What if a new industry is birthed right when Obama’s grand old plan finally gets passed (or right now)? Yeah, yeah, yeah … we’ll just pump up the jams on the next crop of growing industries and it’ll all work itself out. The federal government isn’t just smart; it’s quick.
And another goodie:
[Obama:] “Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves millions of middle-class families thousands of dollars, and give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.”
How does the President know that twice as much work will exist in the next five years (or that it exists now)? Or are we talking about “shovel-ready” work-study jobs? Like “free” room service for the dorms? More research assistants for the Chair of Transgender Post-Colonial Literature? Or perhaps you’d prefer to help Librarian Betty pick her nose when her hands are full? Double up!
Read the rest here.
Many opponents of socialism often concede that it would be wonderful if only it actually “worked.” This week at Ethika Politika, I argue that such claims require an extremely strange version of “wonderful.”
Socialism may indeed propose utopian ends, but such a utopia is one that humans could never — and should never — identify with.
The argument centers on the notion that humans tend to desire freedom and that we will ultimately be discontent without it. If we rid ourselves completely of such liberty and cede ultimate control to others, how can this really be a “utopia” in any human sense?
To embrace socialism is to reject “economic knowledge” (as Art Carden recently explained), but it is also to reject something much deeper.
Here’s an excerpt:
To escape this fundamental craving [for freedom], one assumes that a different sort of rebellion needs to take place—one aimed at the control of others rather than the control of one’s self. This is why any fantasies about “realistically sustainable” socialism are problematic: They rely on a view of humanity that is unrealistic, and in turn, they promote unreal humans. Based on such premises, true utopia—the kind we might actually enjoy—is something that cannot exist, even in theory. We can call this “idealism,” but I’m not sure it leads to ideal outcomes. We are who we are, and that is not a bad thing.
Indeed, “idealism” is often just another word for glorified falsehood, and in the case of socialism, that is certainly the case. Such falsehood might be admirable if reality were really that grim, but it isn’t. There is a beauty in humanity that must be tapped, channeled and ultimately embraced. This beauty is inherently linked with truth, which is why to be an “idealist” of the socialist order is to worship a lie — and an ugly one at that.
As I argue, the “ideal” of socialism does not elevate humanity; it degrades Read the rest of this entry »
The video in question can be seen here, and involves Colbert joking about how Jesus is really a liberal democrat. The underlying sentiment: Conservatives and libertarians are “anti-poor people.”
The Colbert Show is obviously a comedy show (and is indeed reliably funny), but I felt compelled to respond to the video because (1) such an activity is fun in and of itself, and (2) plenty of Christian liberals take its underlying messages seriously.
As a sample, here’s an excerpt of my response to one of Colbert’s jokes about the frightening possibility of a “socialist deity redistributing my loves and fishes”:
Jesus saw the loaves and fishes like any good capitalist would: as an opportunity for creativity and production. It is precisely because Jesus did not rely on a materialistic, mechanistic system of redistribution (*cough* socialism! *cough*) that he was able to accomplish so much good for the poor (not to mention this wretched sinner). Let’s not forget; if ever there was someone who knew how to overcome scarcity, it was Jesus’ Dad.
The first time I heard Reverend Jeremiah Wright yell, “God damn America!” I was eating breakfast with complete strangers. My college choir was touring the Midwest and each night we would stay with local volunteer families. There I was, sipping coffee with my host family, when the now-infamous clip of Rev. Wright’s sermon began to play on the morning news.
A bit of awkwardness set in, but it was eventually relieved by the mother, who let out a modest laugh and simply said, “Well…that was interesting.”
It was the spring before the 2008 election, and that replay of Rev. Wright’s sermon was certainly not the last. But throughout the entire media hubbub that followed, I couldn’t help but think back to that mother’s reaction.
What did most Americans really think of all this? What was it about Rev. Wright’s sermon that so thoroughly enraged them? Did it have to do with his core religious beliefs, or was it merely his insult to America? Did they outright dismiss Rev. Wright as a fringe radical, or did they understand that his belief system held prominence in some circles?
For those whose education in black liberation theology ended with media sound bites, theologian Anthony Bradley’s new book, Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America, will sufficiently fill in the gaps.
For Bradley, however, the Obama-Wright controversy serves only as a window into the realm of black liberation theology. Without it, most Americans, including most blacks, would be unaware that such theology even exists. Therefore, Bradley’s book is not about politics, nor is it even about Rev. Wright. Instead, it focuses wholly on the actual theology — its history, its anthropology, and its overall implications. More specifically, Bradley seeks to both outline its core problems and suggest a proper alternative that is, in his belief, consistent with both the black experience and the Word of God.
So what is black liberation theology?
Here’s a definition quoted in the book from the National Committee of Black Church Men (1969):
Black theology is a theology of black liberation. It seeks to plumb the black condition in the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. Black theology is a theology of “blackness.” It is the affirmation of black humanity that emancipates black people from white racism, thus providing Read the rest of this entry »
Anthony Bradley, anthropology, black liberation theology, books, culture, experience, God, hermeneutics, imago Dei, James Cone, Jeremiah Wright, Jesus, Karl Marx, Obama, social justice, socialism, victim
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the term “culture war” was used to describe a variety of public moral conflicts. AEI’s Arthur Brooks sees a new fight taking place in today’s culture, but this time it’s not about guns, abortions, or gays.
This time it’s a battle over free enterprise.
Brooks, who is president of the American Enterprise Institute, successfully captures this struggle in his new book, The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government will Shape America’s Future.
Brooks was kind enough to talk about The Battle with Remnant Culture in this one-on-one interview. I am confident his answers will sufficiently whet your appetite, but I also encourage you to read my highly favorable review if you’re interested in purchasing a copy.
Q: Your primary argument is that we are currently in the midst of a culture war between free enterprise and big government. Why do you see this as a cultural struggle?
The struggle between free enterprise and big government is not about which system is more efficient at producing goods or services. It’s about who we are as a people — about our beliefs and values. It shows what we think about things like fairness, initiative, self-reliance, and accountability. These aren’t economic terms. They’re “character” terms, expressions of culture. Free enterprise is the system that best accommodates these values and beliefs, and this makes the struggle against big government a cultural one. The fact that free enterprise also is the most efficient means of creating wealth and economic growth is a secondary consideration. Though not a bad one, at that.
Q: Explain the concept of the “70-30 Nation.”
As I point out in The Battle, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of free enterprise. No matter how pollsters frame the question, about 70 percent of us prefer free enterprise over big government. The other 30 percent are more inclined toward the statism and redistributionism of Europe’s social democracies. The “hard core” of the 30 percent is made up of the usual suspects — from the worlds of academia, the media, and entertainment industries. And most worryingly of all, it is comprised of a growing number of young people.
Q: If the 30 percent coalition currently holds the “moral high ground” on economic issues, why do they remain at a mere 30 percent of the population?
Well, as we saw in the 2008 elections, the 30 percent has the ability to expand into a majority, on occasion. It was the financial markets crisis that gave them the opportunity to do just that. They developed a “narrative” about what caused the crisis, who was to blame for the crisis, and how government would Read the rest of this entry »
Arthur Brooks, books, charity, earned success, election, enterprise, entrepreneurship, fairness, government, Gross National Hapiness, growth, handout, happiness, initiative, materialism, Michael Horton, Money, morality, Muhammad Yunus, prosperity, Red Campaign, self-interest, self-reliance, socialism, The Battle, wealth, Who Really Cares
Discussions of earthly systems almost always come down to disagreements over the use of capital — how it is distributed, created, or managed. Therefore, if we are concerned with the heavenly implications of our earthly systems, we must come to terms with how God views our earthly wealth.
Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke include a story where Jesus addresses this topic directly. In the story, Jesus asks a wealthy man to give all that he has to the poor. Since plenty of people use the story as an excuse to demonize wealth and the creation of it, I wanted to clarify my thoughts on the matter.
The wealthy man begins the conversation by asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, to which Jesus answers with this:
You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’
When the rich man explains that he has done these things since childhood, Jesus responds with this challenge:
One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will havetreasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
Upon hearing this, the rich man becomes very sad and turns away, effectively rejecting the call of Christ. After the man leaves, Jesus explains the situation to His disciples with this now-popular refrain:
How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
It is here where most people end the story. The moral, they tell us, is that wealth is bad and sacrifice is good — for if it is so difficult for the rich to get into heaven, certainly Jesus would advocate Read the rest of this entry »
capitalism, challenge, comfort zone, disciples, faith, foolishness, God, Gospel, Jesus, Kingdom of Earth, Kingdom of Heaven, Luke, Matthew, Money, obedience, poverty, prosperity, pursuit, Radical Individualism, rich, sacrifice, salvation, self-interest, socialism, stewardship, wealth, wisdom, worldliness
The question itself is enough to stir up plenty of ire among socialists, particularly because nobody likes to feel judged. But while I don’t believe we can or should make judgments about an individual’s personal salvation (see Matthew 7), I do think it’s healthy to ask whether certain belief systems are consistent with others.
Richards begins by emphasizing that brazen trust in the State does not necessarily negate one’s trust in the Christian God:
“I think one could trust God and affirm, say, the Nicene Creed (the touchstone of Christian orthodoxy), while also believing that the state ought to own the means of production and determine all the basic terms of the market, such as price and production. There have been many such people. It’s not my place to question either their sincerity or their status in the eyes of God.”
However, Richards then adds a caveat, arguing that being a good Christian — i.e. pursuing Christ beyond basic salvation — includes “working out the wider implications of one’s worldview.”
So when we work out the wider implications of socialism (as Richards suggests), what do we find?
“[S]ocialism, despite its compassionate rhetoric, inevitably involves gross violations of the right to private property—otherwise known as theft. That right is presupposed in at least two of the Ten Commandments (you shall not steal and you shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions).
Socialism estranges individuals from the right to the fruits of their labor. It allows a centralization of power utterly contrary to truth that all human beings are fallen. It harms the poor by decimating the information and incentives needed to abundantly Read the rest of this entry »
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