"A person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation. Those who act consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim."
-- L. Neil Smith
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Capitalism, Wealth and Salvation
Capitalism, it seems, is a very misunderstood term. Apparently misunderstood even by the person who is credited with creating the word. Karl Marx, the founder of modern socialism, observed the economic system around him and the problems which arose from it. He incorrectly diagnosed the problem as being directly related to the ownership of "capital."
Capital, is really nothing more than private property. It is that which you own, the disposition of which you have the absolute right to determine so long as that action does not violate the equal negative rights of others. I own an old pick-up. That, among my few other worldly possessions, is my capital. My property right to that truck is either absolute or it is violated. I have the right to use it, save it, destroy it, trade it, or give it away. It is mine. Capital, understood in this sense, is neither bad nor good. It is inanimate and therefor cannot be the cause of the problems Marx attributed to it. What Marx saw was the limited variety of economic systems which had been around in various forms and degrees throughout modern history. These systems were, as they've always been, based on the ability of the wealthy to violate the rights of the poor by buying privilege from governments or by the wealthy simply being the government. Such was the case with feudalism, where the nobles made it illegal for commoners to own alodial titles to land. Marx targeted the thing, capital, rather than the human sin, as the problem much like people today will say that guns kill people. It wasn't property, but the ability to fraudulently legitimize violations of the rights of others that was the problem.
So what is capitalism, really? Capitalism isn't an economic system. It is the recognition of each individuals absolute private property rights and the disposition of that property without violation by others. It is the market in it's natural state without the use of any system of coercion imposed upon it - without the legitimized fraud, threat of murder, theft, or slavery. Capitalism has never been given a fair shake. It's been allowed in small doses throughout history, but no government has ever allowed the market to work absolutely free of at least some form of taxation, tariffs, quotas, guilds, professional licensure, price controls, regulation, and of course control over "legal tender."
We must remember that wealth is not inherently bad, it is the method by which we attain it and what we choose to do with it that makes the difference. Many people misquote the Bible by saying that money is the root of all evil, but the quote is really that the love of money is the root of all evil. Many Christians also interpret Christ's analogy of a wealthy man entering the Kingdom of Heaven being as probable as a camel passing through the eye of a needle to mean that the wealth is the problem, not the sin. Allow me to relate this to my personal experience. For most of my adult life I worked as a flightline service technician in corporate aviation. I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the kind of people that wealthy people call wealthy people. These are people who own jets worth tens of millions of dollars and can still afford the operating costs on top of that. It occurred to me that over the years not a single one of them that I could remember came by his wealth without the use of some form of government coercion. Large corporations depend on the government to limit liability, to control competition through tariffs, quotas, licensing, and regulation and to steal through taxation, eminent domain and manipulation of monetary policy. Many of these customers were Christians who owned billions worth of material wealth but would only sacrifice a relatively small portion to help others. Most would practice fake benevolence by advocating government programs instead where theft, the state, and the members of government replace voluntary sacrifice, God and Christian compassion. God does everything for a reason and the command to attend to those less fortunate is no exception. We are not called to do these things just so the poor can have food in their bellies, clothes and shelter. We are so called to give glory to God through our personal sacrifice in that the unsaved might see Christ in us. When Christians selfishly pass that responsibility on to government, those who have the fruit of their labor taken by force feel contempt for the poor rather than compassion. The poor see those more fortunate as greedy individuals who wouldn't lift a finger for them if the government did not force them to and rather than being grateful for God's mercy, they begin to see the ill gotten gain as an entitlement that those who earned it do not deserve. The government, which uses fraud, coercive force, murder, theft and slavery becomes their god. Christians who do not want to give up their comfortable lives, who abdicate their responsibility to the illegitimate means of the state bear the burden of those souls who never saw Christ as a result.