Property Rights are the key difference between Socialism and Capitalism. Ask many on the street to define these terms and they will stumble for a comprehensive explanation. They may –perhaps- mumble something about capitalism being about greed and socialism being about generosity. The facts are quite the opposite. Here is a working definition.
Capitalism: The free exchange of privately owned goods and services
Socialism: An economic system focused on state control and state-ownership of industry and property.
Notice the difference? Do individuals own their businesses and property or does the government? Do we want “free exchange” or “control” of our lives by some larger innocuous entity? The key concept of comparing and contrasting these two is a question: Is the state more important than the individual or is the individual more important than the state? Was Spock correct in Star Trek when he said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?” Does the Borg’s collectivism justify assimilation of the individual?
The Biblical worldview has a clear and unapologetic answer to this question. C.S. Lewis said it best.
Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. . . . And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilization, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of the state or civilization, compared with his, is only a moment.
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 74-75
An economics teacher was contrasting to his class why capitalism produced incentive and socialism did not. They didn’t buy it. So he waited for the first test. Everyone got back a “C+” Many students had studied hard and got “A’s”, while others had blown off the test and failed. The teacher said that he wanted to treat everyone equally –just as they had suggested. He averaged the efforts of the class and gave everyone a “C+”! Well, guess what? Next test, the A’s students who had been robbed for their efforts, didn’t study as hard… The F students continued their bad study habits since they were quite happy with the rewards of their efforts on the last test. At the end of the day, everyone’s averaged grade was a “D.” The class was catching on. They saw that treating everyone equally leads to a downward spiral. It robs the hard workers of the gift of labor. The fruit of their hard work.
So what is Godonomics? It’s the beauty of God’s wisdom applied to economics. The power of His wisdom in a personal, family, or even national economy. It is the blueprint and framework where everyone can experience liberty, prosperity, and generosity.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com
Few women practiced Godonomics better than Lydia. Her story from the book of acts is an example of a leader, an entrepreneur, a successful business builder, and mother. She produces a high end product (a seller of purple material) to a high end clientele in the strategic sales town of Philippi nestled on border of Europe and Asia. She produced, profited, and invested in her economy. She was a lavish giver as well. Her financial backing, life change, and strategic thinking helped begin a church known for it’s lavish generosity (Philippians 4).
Phillipi was home of some of the largest gold and silver deposits in the world. It was a city filled with business owners and professionals. Dr Luke who wrote the book of Luke and Acts lived there.
Lydia’s secret to life and career included regular prayer, strong listening, and passionate persuading.
11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis,12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.b
But these women made prayer a priority. They made their spiritual lives a priority. They put themselves in environments to prioritize the priority of prayer and spiritual growth. They created customs to pray even in the midst of a busy professional life.
Lydia’s success in life and business can also be attributed to her strong listening skills. Listening is the glue of a family, a marriage, or any successful company. Free market capitalism requires the seller to really listen to the needs of the customer and offer a product they want at the right price and quality. Lydia did that.
14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.
Lydia heard them. She was a listener, a searcher, an explorer of truth. In fact the phrase used to describe her “One who worshiped God” or “God-fearer” is a technical term in those days. A God-fearer was not a “christian” but a person who was aware of God, studying who God was, but hadn’t put all the pieces together. Lydia grew up in a city with a synagogue called Thyatira where she learned about God, his law, and his will, but was unaware and unsure of the whole Jesus thing. Yet despite her concerns and lack of knowledge, she continued to pursue an informal education weekly at the riverside.
She was also a professional, a “seller of purple”. This was a high end business. Most couldn’t afford purple, so Lydia had a high end clientele. A successful business by all observations. And yet her success, her business, and her busy career didn’t stop her from either prioritizing her faith or keeping an open heart.
In fact, it shows that God “opened her heart” to heed the things spoken by Paul.
The final skill Lydia has in life and business was her ability to persuade.
15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.
If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the mother in Lydia from these words. She decided to trust Christ as forgiver and leader. And her husband did the same, and her whole household. Not sure how many kids she had, but all of her household is infected by this new message of hope. The whole family was so impacted, they got baptized.
Lydia was a leader. Lydia cast a vision. She was able to passionately persuade not only her household to hear this message of forgiveness of Christ, but then she begins to persuade Paul and his team to stay with her. She wants to serve them. Wants them to stay with her. Luke, the writer of Acts, says, “She persuaded us.” She talked us into this. “We couldn’t say no…” I even like the “hint of mother guilt you hear in her speech to them…” She says, “IF you judged us faithful, you’ll come to my house…” If you really think this “took” and really think we “got it” and really think “this is important” you’ll stay with me.
Leaders can persuade, guilt, and “beg” us into things that we wouldn’t otherwise do. Lydia was Persuasive and Passionate she wanted to serve others. She wanted to help others. In fact, a few days later Paul will be beaten and whipped for sharing with others the same message he shared with her… And in the midst of his pain and hurt, we find Lydia again.
40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com
THE DEMISE OF DETROIT
My wife grew up under the great political promises of prosperity from Michigan leaders. We spent our wedding night in Detroit almost twenty years ago before flying out on our honeymoon. The city was much larger, more prosperous, less bankrupt, and less “bull-dozed” in those days. Michigan has been a case study in the ability of government interventionism to act like a parasite on the host of a great collection of individuals. While many wise people “saw danger coming and warned of a different path,” the “fools kept going” and now many “are suffering for it.” (Proverbs 22:3). When many liberals convert to conservatism, they can summarize their journey with one word, “Detroit!” As I describe in my book Godonomics, I took my son to the Henry Ford museum years ago to let him see a time when Detroit was the center of free enterprise, innovation, and job creation. That day, Lego was putting on a display involving a giant lego Grinch. We laughed as I explained to him that the Grinches that stole Christmas from Detroit were the corrupt and inefficient politicians that stole liberty, productivity, and generosity from the great people of Michigan. The image was stark but true as the Grinch hovered over Henry Ford.
Reminds me of my favorite Dr Suess poem about the city of Hatch Hatch. They had a town bee that wasn’t working hard enough, you see. So they hire a bee watcher to watch the town bee. The bee of Hatch hatch doesn’t work much harder, well, at least not Match; so they assume the bee watcher isn’t watching well enough. They hire a bee watcher, watcher. So, as the pages turn, a bee watcher watcher, watches the bee watcher who watches the bee. At the end of the day, you have lots of bee watchers, oversight, and regulation, but the bee never does work much harder. This is the tale of the demise of Detroit: Lots of regulation, bureaucracy, and inefficient programs and laws promising to bring jobs to the state. Never did the bee watcher watchers dare to question their original assumptions and remove their good intentioned gluttonous oversight. Free enterprise and limited government can be traced back to the building blocks of capitalism that God gave to Moses including private property, the rule of law, incentive, hard work, and a healthy skepticism toward centralized government and control. Since Detroit is declaring bankruptcy, I was inspired to write a poem about the demise of Detroit inspired by Dr Suess.
In a place called Detroit, where the politicians were sleazy,
There lived powerful leaders who took life quite easy
They feasted and feasted like pondiverous pigs
When it came to decisions, they could zag and zig
They had eaten themselves out of houses and home
Run up their credit cards buying fliverous floam
They were overspending EACH YEAR by millions, I mean billions
They told us not to worry, ” at least it wasn’t zillions”
They told the concerned citizens of the prosperous town
And they’d come up with a plan to turn things around.
We’ll start eating less by cutting our feasting back
But we’re sooo concerned about what you’ll then lack
So, we’ll “cut” by eating more, but less more than we’d hoped
A citizen shouted out, “Your thinking’s been doped”
“Pigs don’t get leaner by eating more,
They can’t get cleaner, by rolling mud in their pores
There’s one simple solution to the problem of how
You MUST eat much less, and you MUST do it now”
A pig stood to respond, with his snout taking a whiff
If we stop eating now, we’ll all fall off a cliff…
This fearful term put the town in a mood
Until the pig made a suggestion, “Why don’t you give us your food”
“If the citizens gave us more, of their food, I just bet,
We’d quickly be out of the multi billion debt”
So they wrote some new laws taxing businesses to death They sucked the private sector till it took its last breath
“They didn’t spend less, in fact, they spent more
They withheld all the details because” they were such a bore”
The pigs kept eating and thought it was funny
That they’d saved the town from trouble, by taking their money
The town sighed a big sigh, until reality hit
And bankruptcy came, and caused such a fit,
The leaders had a new solution they started to spout
We’ll ask other States to bail us all out,
Detroit’s problem was spending, so why didn’t they cut
Thinking borrowing beats budgeting is a kick in the butt
The borrower is enslaved to the lender, that’s true,
Capitalism is not just a good idea, It’s God’s idea too.
An article on the Blaze reported that “Prominent GOP leaders have praised Ayn Rand’s philosophy and beliefs. But Rand made it clear that you can’t follow her and Christ. The GOP budget, authored by Rand acolyte Paul Ryan, is the perfect example.”
How can an atheist like Ann Rand and Jesus have anything in common? Well, they can. In fact, the Bible teaches that God’s truth can be discovered through both “general revelation” (the truth that can be observed and studied from the world around us) and “special revelation” (the truth revealed by God through the Scriptures.) The Bible also teaches that God has placed a moral code into the hearts of all mankind. (Romans 2).
This means that there can be overlap between an atheist and a Christian. C.S. Lewis says it this way in Mere Christianity:
If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic-there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.
Among other things, there can be overlap between an atheist and a Christ follower in discovering truth. Jesus would disagree with Ayn Rand that there is any morality outside of God. He might tell her that she hasn’t traced her absolutes back far enough to an objective reality. He might agree with her that organized religion produces pride, fear, and arrogance. Jesus once said to the religious community, “You are like white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. When you make a convert, you make them twice the son of hell as you are.” Strong words! Jesus speaking against religion. Jesus was constantly contrasting his message of grace which produces humility and gratefulness to God with religion which produces fear and arrogance.
There is lots of room for overlap between the Bible and Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Ayn discovered much of the moral law or “common grace” (as the Puritan’s called it) that God hard-wired into the universe. There are at least three bedrock Biblical principles that overlap with Ayn Rand: Freedom, Property Rights, and Incentive.
When God brought His people out of Egypt and taught them to live as a free people, He gave them ten building blocks for a society. Among those Ten Commandments, God said, “Do not envy or steal someone else’s house or donkey…”God was establishing private ownership. Each person would have ownership over their own personal belongings, their own cattle, and their own land. The concept of property rights appeared throughout the Scripture, including 2 Thessalonians which speaks of each person working for his own bread, not eating someone else’s bread. Many are surprised that the Scriptures speak of incentive: “If you do not work, you shall not eat,” “Give her the fruit of her labor,” and “Do not muzzle an ox while it is threshing.” Christians should throw out the socialism model.
Collectivism may sound utopian, but the results are historically devastating. The biblical principles of Property Rights, Incentive, and Freedom, are foundational to the success of any society. They are also the bedrock of the free market system. These concepts were outlined by God and given to Moses as a blueprint for a free society. As the Hebrew slaves headed out to begin a new nation, God gave them the framework for freedom. It began with property rights. Property Rights are referred to in twenty percent of the Ten Commandments. We are warned not to “envying someone else’s house or horse” because someone else owns it, and therefore, we don’t have the right to take it or even envy it.Another commandment addresses the legal side of this issue: “Do not steal someone else’s donkey or field.” Why shouldn’t we take something that’s not ours? We shouldn’t steal it because someone else has property rights to that asset. Property rights are the foundation for freedom in any society. For the Hebrews this meant that no longer would the king or Pharaoh own the land. No longer would the strongest and most powerful militia determine who-owns-what by the nature of survival of the “wickedest.”Property rights are the key difference between socialism and capitalism. Many people on the street are unable to define these terms; they will stumble for a comprehensive definition for socialism and captalism. They may, perhaps, mumble something about capitalism being about greed and socialism being about generosity. But when exercised in society, the results reveal the exact opposite. Here is a working definition.
Capitalism: The free exchange of privately owned goods and servicese
Socialism: An economic system focused on state control and state-ownership of industry and property
Jesus did not and would not support a system of collectivism. He taught constantly about the role of property rights, liberty, and incentive through the New Testament. Though he and Ayn Rand would disagree on much, they would find common ground on the morality of free market capitalism over the alternatives. Here is a message I gave a few years ago laying out a case from Jesus on Free Market Capitalism. Click here for MP3. Jesus is no Republican or Democrat. God is not on one side or the other, but He did lay out principles that allow us to see if our programs and systems are on “His side.”
More more information, check out www.godonomics.com. Here is a link to a video where I explain the moral and Biblical basis for capitalism.
For more information on free market capitalism, check out www.godonomics.com