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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Friday, May 29, 2009

Radicalism and the Free Market Reconsidered

The following was written specifically for Facebook, but rather than attempting to edit it for this blog, I thought I would just publish it as is. Comments, as always, are welcome.

One of the things I've found interesting since joining Facebook and reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances is the different political directions that people I've known have gone. But at the risk of sounding demeaning, I don't usually find them all that shocking. Those who were raised in Conservative churches and families and then went the direction of the Democratic party don't surprise me. I guess when you know someone, you know them.

I'm sure there are a lot of reasons that stand behind such a shift. Some people go away to college at state universities, the professors of which are usually of a Socialist or Communist inclination, and, being young, and impressionable, and hearing political theory delineated in an intellectual fashion, often for the first time in their lives, they find themselves quickly swayed the way of the Left.

Then there are those who, quite frankly, view certain celebrities as demiurges, and who can disagree with such a manifestation of the Divine? There is no doubt that Barack Obama wouldn't have won the election without Oprah Winfrey, though what qualifies her as a reliable political counselor I have yet to figure out.

There are certainly alot of other reasons for the conversion of many from the Right to the Left (weren't the sheep on the right, and the goats on the left? But I digress.). But whatever the reason for the following of this path , their path is the result of poorly thought out positioning, rather than a careful search into political theory and history.

Now I would like to think that those individuals who have made this shift would still be reading at this point, and would be willing to receive criticism with an open mind (isn't it the Left that is always calling out for open mindedness?). Since I have made many criticisms of the Obama administration already, I would expect that some of these individuals have blocked my comments and therefore won't notice I have written this. Yet hope springs eternal. Whether or not I am preaching merely to the choir remains to be seen.

One criticism of Conservatism that I often hear raised is that which has to do with so-called "Capitalist greed". The assumption is that Capitalism inevitably exists as an institutionalism of greed. Since greed tears societies and communities apart, and since Capitalism can't exist without greed, ergo, Capitalism must go.

I do think that the Right (if I may use it in a broad way) is partially responsible for this misunderstanding of Capitalism. Sometimes this mistake is an honest one, based on what they themselves have been taught Capitalism means. Yet I think it can be reasonably argued that Capitalism doesn't necessarily cause or exist dependently upon greed.

Perhaps it would be better if we used the term "Free Market Economy". The term "Capitalism" has been often used as synonymous with "Free Market Economy", but this hasn't always been the case. Along with sometimes being a loaded term which carries implications of sanctified greed at the expense of others, "Capitalism" has sometimes been used to refer to an approach often taken in the U. S., in which civil government privileges the wealthy. It can be argued, and has been argued, that these approaches are different from what has been intended by "Free Market Economy".

Without getting into a lengthy discussion of the Socialist option, I think it needs to be said that there is clear opposition to it in Scripture. If nothing else, one has to understand that Socialism violates two of the Ten Commandments: You Shall Not Steal, and You Shall Not Covet. Both imply private individual ownership over which the State has no authority. I am forbidden to take that which God has given me no right to take from another individual, and I am sinning to want to take it from them, even if this is for a supposedly good cause.

But rather than me saying more, here are a couple of sources from others worth checking out.

First, there is this article:

http://www.fff.org/freedom/0193b.asp

In it, the author discusses the historical difference between Capitalism and the Free Market.

Secondly, there is this video:

http://www.booktv.org/watch.aspx?ProgramId=PC-10489

The lecturer, Jay Richards, discusses myths commonly associated with Capitalism. In the lecture, he manages to mention Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Ayn Rand, Adam Smith, Hillaire Belloc, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Rod Dreher. It's not one to miss.

These certainly aren't enough, I wouldn't expect, to cause a Leftist running down the saw dust trail in repentance from any economic fallacies they may hold. But I hope they will cause the reader to see that there is a different approach to economics and the civil government than what they have considered.

I have so often seen people be thoughtlessly reactionary to their Conservative roots, that while I have my own criticisms of the Right, I have a hard time taking those reactionaries very seriously. So this is what you might think of as a brief invitation away from a reactionary approach. If we are going to be responsible citizens in the place God has put us, then one must be led by careful thought, not by a spirit of populist fervor, whether that fervor be on the Left or the Right.

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