God is a Capitalist

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What is Christian Capitalism?

If you're skeptical that Christianity and capitalism go together, it's because you have been duped into holding to the Marxist view of capitalism. Don't feel bad, though. Probably nine out of ten people have the same ideas. Marxists have been far more successful at spreading their ideas than have capitalists. But having Marx define capitalism is like asking an atheist to define Christianity.

Don't look to evangelical theologians for help. Decades ago the scholar Mark Noll chastised the “scandal” of the evangelical mind. He meant that evangelicals refused to engage the scholarly world. That has changed for a few scientific fields, but most theologians work hard to remain ignorant of economics and economic history, the most important fields of the social sciences. As a result, they remain fooled by liberal, unbelieving theologians who embraced socialism over a century ago and promoted Marx’s dishonest depiction of capitalism.

To understand real capitalism, as encompassed in the principles of ancient Israel and the principles of the theologians of Salamanca, see these posts: What is free market capitalism, Free market capitalism requires respect for commerce, Free markets celebrate individualism.

You can find the true, Christian history of capitalism in my book, God is a Capitalist: Markets from Moses to Marx, available at Amazon. Other posts below contest popular socialism and its erroneous views of capitalism as well as analyze contemporary events and politics in light of Biblical capitalist principles.

Theologians often teach that capitalism and socialism are man made systems invented during the Enlightenment. It’s true that people invented socialism, which goes back at least to Plato's Republic. Like modern socialists, Plato was obsessed with achieving equality of wealth, falsely believing that it would dowse the fires of envy and restore people to an original state of innocence.

Western Europe rediscovered Plato's socialism in the Renaissance of Greek and Roman culture, which inspired the founder of modern socialism, Henri de Saint-Simon, in the early 19th century. Saint-Simon resuscitated the principles of Plato's Republicpretending he had used science to discovered them. He and his followers created modern socialism decades before Marx, who contributed very little to the ideology.

Humans didn’t invent capitalism. God created the first quasi-capitalist nation in Israel. Before the leadership rebelled against God and demanded a king, the constitution of Israel provided for no human executive or legislature. There were no taxes, police force or standing army. The only institutions of government were the courts and 613 God-given laws. Most of the laws applied to tabernacle ceremonies and other religious laws. Others referred to morality, such as the poor and Sabbath laws. The courts responded only to the civil laws, such as “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not commit murder.”

The government of Israel as designed by God was very similar to that of modern libertarianism. But with the demand for a king, the freedom and prosperity enjoyed under the government of the judges disappeared. For more on the capitalism of Israel see these posts below: Is God a libertarian: How the Bible established a country without an executive branch and Is God a libertarian? Ancient Israel was a nation without a congress.  
For more about God's constitution for Israel, see these posts: Is God a Libertarian? I and Is God a Libertarian? II.

Theologians associated with the University of Salamanca, Spain, in the 16th century distilled the principles of what would become known as capitalism from the Bible and natural law. Those Godly theologians were the first to summarize the human rights to life, liberty and property. Recognizing that the commandment forbidding theft demonstrated that God had sanctified private property, they reasoned that property requires the owner have control of it and control requires free markets. Private property also requires limited government and taxation sufficient only for the state to perform its God-given role of punishing evil doers.

The Dutch Republic first implemented the economic principles of the Salamancan theologians and became the first modern capitalist nation, as Adam Smith recognized in his classic book, The Wealth of Nations. The Dutch quickly became the wealthiest and most powerful nation in Europe. Standards of living first began to rise in the Dutch Republic and caused what economic historians call the “hockey stick of per capita GDP.” They call it a hockey stick because if someone graphed historical per capita GDP (the most accurate measure of standards of living), the line from prehistory until the Dutch would be flat, like the shaft of a hockey stick. But at the advent of the Dutch Republic, the line bends sharply upwards to form the blade.

The Dutch spread the Salamancan principles to England, the US and eventually most of Western Europe and standards of living in nations that applied them exploded upward and continue to grow. The West is now 30 times wealthier than it was before the Dutch Republic. The rest of the world didn’t follow the Dutch and remained stuck in the shaft portion of the graph for centuries. After WWII, first Japan then Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong freed their markets and their standards of living rose rapidly. In the past generation, China and India followed them and lifted over 500 million people from starvation poverty.

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