I am very happy to be writing again. Due to my retirement, I have more time to read and think while playing golf, on the elliptical, or sitting in the steam room. It is great. I get up every morning between 5:30 AM and 6:00 AM and use that time productively. This morning’s musing involved Democratic-Socialism. Why am I so against it? I like Democracy, and I like strong social programs, so what is my problem? I have read a bit about Marx, and I have also read multiple perspectives on Capitalism, but what is it that so terrifies me about Democratic-Socialism?
As I was thinking about this, I remembered something I had read. I think Marx originally said it but could not find the reference this morning. As I was searching I found quotes I had read before which have reminded me about why I am concerned. In a speech in 1917 Lenin stated, “It is the duty of the revolution to put an end to compromise and put an end to compromise means taking the path of socialist revolution.” In 1901 Lenin wrote, “To belittle socialist ideology, in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. . . Hence, our task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie and bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy.” I have other thoughts about this, but for now I realize just why I am so concerned. Capitalism, bourgeois ideology, is under attack. That is not to say that Capitalism is perfect, it is not. I do think that some of the Marxist critique of Capitalism is correct, therefore come of the negative press is justified. But unlike Socialism, Capitalism is redeemable.
The materialism, and religion is the opiate of the people philosophy, is indeed contrarian to the systematic philosophy of my faith. Barnes notes this antagonism, “Marx and Engels saw their struggle as an existential one and elevated their beliefs to doctrinal status. If one were to amend the Manifesto and replace the word State with the word God, it would constitute an acceptable example of systematic theology. Since they did not believe in God, their allegiance was instead to the cause of Global Communism, a state of social and economic harmony that would wrest by degree all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state.” AKA, Leviathan, the spirit behind an oppressive state.
This should concern us all. However, I do not think for a moment Elizabeth Warren, Kamela Harris, and Cory Booker are card carrying Communists who want to over throw the economy of the United States. Bernie, is a different story, as the youtube videos display him praising Communism. But I did mention that some of this is justified. In 1913 Lenin wrote, “Capital, created by the labor of the worker, crushes the worker, ruining small proprietors and creating an army of the unemployed.” The corporate cronyism of today is leading to the demise of small business which I think is a concern. Thus, the need to redeem Capitalism.
Max Weber, in his classic, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930), describes what he saw in his 1904 trip to the United States. He wanted to answer the question of why American Capitalism was so different than other expressions throughout the world at the time. Barnes’ opinion is that Weber, “believed that modern Capitalism was rooted in something much deeper than just socio-economic conditions; he believed that it sprang from a particular ethos that sought to align religious belief with economic activity, resulting in a kind of devotional zeal that powered the engine of wealth-creation in the United States.” The Puritan cycle was clear. Serve God by doing the best job that you can, living frugally, and seeking God first, then “all these things will be added unto you. John Wesley captured this is Sermon 50 when he said “earn as much as you can, save as much as you can, and give as much as you can.”
To the Puritans, and Protestants for that matter, calling was important. First there was a general call to salvation. Then there was a call to a particular vocation. This concept was developed by John Calvin, and his contemporary Martin Luther. The basic concept is that if a person is doing their work as unto the Lord, “this was no less an act of worship” than being in the pulpit. In our current modern age, the idea of calling has become inconsequential. I don’t see this as the main element causing the downfall of Capitalism.
What did initiate the cracks in our economic system. I think it is a two-sided coin. One that is the result of choices business people have made, and the other one that Leviathan has initiated. In the wonderful series of discussion, The Truth Project, about modern culture, Dr. Del Tackett describes how a Christian should look at work. He notes there are seven Biblical principles that govern work and the economy. These principles were foundational to our social behavior but have lost their preeminence in both our personal interactions as well as business ones too. In my way of thinking these define what a steward is in our business sense.
1. All things belong to God (Psalm 24:1)
2. God appointed man to be the creative steward of His goods with ownership rights (Genesis 1:28)
3. Theft of another’s goods is wrong (Exodus 20:15), and coveting another’s goods is wrong (Exodus 20:17)
4. Skills and abilities to work come from God (Exodus 35:30-33)
5. Work is profitable, good, to be pursued; laziness is not (Proverbs 10:4)
6. Love God and not your goods (Matthew 6:19-24)
7. Be compassionate and generous with your goods to those in need (Ephesians 4:28; 1 John 3:17)
Our economy grew at a time when our society adhered to these principles. Don’t get me wrong there are many business people that practice these things today, an Example is Chick-Fil-A, but if we do not practice these stewardship principles then all we will do is try to accumulate all we can while exploiting our employees. I am a firm believer that if business practiced Biblical stewardship, which includes proper use of resources and paying people a good wage, then Capitalism would not be in the predicament it is today. However, since these economic principles are based on God’s word, then obviously, Leviathan wants to attack them. These seven principles have led to the United States becoming the greatest economy in the world. And if we allow greed and self-indulgence to overcome our better angels, then Capitalism will fall.
Regardless of whether one is a Christian or not, the seven principles above will have a positive impact on the common good of society. If we as business leaders practice them, Leviathan will not be able to overthrow the systems that are in place. God help us if we don’t take the necessary steps to stop Leviathan.
And that is my thought for the day!