Can you be a Christian and a capitalist? A question asked on Twitter this week and the answers were as I expected, some not only saying no, but suggesting that the teachings of Jesus are consistent with communism. I will be dealing with the socialist side of things in the second of these two blogs, but first the subject of capitalism.
People often think of politics as being one dimensional, a line between left and right and everything is on that line. This is nonsense, the left/right divide is concerned with one thing and one thing alone, that is the attitude of the government to the control of industry commerce and agriculture: On the far-left we have the government not only controlling but owning all business, and as far to the right as you can get no government control at all, businesses are allowed to do what they want. People do not come in to this, anywhere along this line people can be free to do as they like or strictly controlled by the government. What is needed is something that takes the government attitude to the people as well. one way of doing that is a blunt instrument called the political compass. The second axis goes from authoritarian, total control of the people, to libertarianism, letting people do what they want,with no government control.
The political compass is a very blunt tool. The Green Party, for example is shown as the most Libertarian in the chart above yet has the smallest proportion of its membership able to have a say on policy than the other parties shown.
yes or no to capitalism?
Can a Christian say yes to Capitalism? Of course they can. God is not against you getting rich. Even the strong rant against the rich found in James 5:1–6 is not against getting rich or being rich but against those who are rich and have kept others poor.
But although there is nothing wrong with having riches there is a responsibility of the individual what is done with them and to the state to see that this responsibility is met. It is in the Bible laws about gleaning. In the agricultural economy of Ancient Israel fields were not to be harvested to the edges or corners and crops that are dropped and to be left on the field. The poor and foreigners in the land were then allowed to glean, harvest what was left. The effect is that the rich could get rich, the poor stayed poor, but the poor did not starve.
trickle down economics
Neoliberalism is the current favourite financial theory which has a pull so strong that even some on the left have fallen for it.It is also a failed economic idea leading up to the wordwide recession of 2008. Despite that economies are trying to continue with versions of a failed source rather than look for something better. It can be indentified by these phrases:
- Eliminating price controls,
- Deregulating capital markets,
- Lowering trade barriers,
- reducing, especially through privatisation and/or austerity, state influence in the economy, responsibility whilst giving only
- Trickle down economics,
- Opposing contrary ideals as “Cultural Marxism”,
- Maximising profits.
The Bible condemned trickle down economics thousands of years before it existed. The law on gleaning meant that profits could not be maximised from the land, there was a law that meany that the poor and foreigners must be allowed for. Trickle down failed. Even if those at the top of the company allow the money to go down it will disappear at some level of management on the way down. Also the idea that those who run the companies need as much money as possible as an incentive to work while those at the bottom need to be paid as little as possible as an incentive to work. Workers are scared of taking time off for sickness because they may lose their job,so they go in when pinged for Covid-19,or even when given a positive test and symptomatic. Trickle down needs legislation for it to work, yet legislation of business is what neoliberalism hates.
Desperate people do desperate things. As the gap between the haves and the have nots increases, as welfare budgets are cut whilst tax breaks are given to the rich, people are being drawn into poverty. Neoliberals and the new right claim tobe on the side of law and order yet their own policies are the cause of the desperation that causes crime. They cite personal responsibility whilst giving only lip-service to the welfare of all the people in the country.
There is conservatism that works. There is capitalism that works, but it is not neoliberalism. The Tory party, the ancestors to the Conservative Party, were the reforming party of their age, the party of landowners and aristocracy were able to take a benevolent outlook on the poor. Conditions in factories and mines improved under the Tories more than under the Whigs, ancestors of the Liberals and Liberal Democrats who were supported by the mill owners. The political ideals have changed since then, the reforming Tories have become the Conservative party supported by big business, the reforming Tory ideals have been almost totally submerged.
My call to those who believe in trickle down economics is this. Remove the dams that prevent the flow, it will not impoverish you and with a happier workforce productivity will increase.