Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Biblical Economics

The world's in turmoil and capitalism and free markets seem to be getting most of the blame. What position on these economic matters should a Christian take? Let me sketch out an outline of Biblical Economics that may help you make up your mind.

Private Property
The foundation of freedom under God and economic prosperity is private property. When Moses led the formerly enslaved out of bondage into a land flowing with milk and honey, freedom and opportunity lay in each man having inviolable land rights in perpetuity. When a person has what they have, unassailable by fellow citizens or governmental power, that person has the basis to work and make a future for himself and his family, and at least the basis for freedom from tyranny.

Entrepreneurial Freedom
God gives people the ability to create wealth. Folk anywhere who have the freedom to take risks and prosper from their efforts, make such efforts to their own benefit and that of those around them. The entrepreneurs gain wealth, those around them gain goods and services they desire. Capitalism (even in it's muted form practiced in the West) has been the only reliable engine of economic development and rising standards of living the world has ever known. Why not, it was God's idea for the economy of a fallen world.

Equality in Justice
Government is responsible under God to maintain justice between people. Me and mine should be protected from violations coming from you and yours. Justice must be blind, with the economically weak standing on equal ground before the bench with the economically strong. That in NO WAY means that justice can be, or should be, equated with economic equality. The poor will always be among us, the law should never allow them to be trampled under by rest of us. Certainly, making everyone poor in the name of equality is the very worst injustice.

Care for the Poor
Since the unfortunate, the feeble, the young, and the disabled will always be among us, sustenance should always be made available to them. However, no provision whatsoever should be made for the able but idle: they should be left to their condition in the hopes that their belly might teach them the lesson of life--no work, no food. The unfortunate, the feeble, the young, and the disabled are no burden to society despite their need. The idle are parasites and fools.

Workers' Wages
A worker's labor is as much an entrepreneurial risk as the investment of intellectual and tangible property. Workers, therefore, deserve to benefit from the profits of any entrepreneurial endeavor as much as do the entrepreneurs themselves. There would be no need for the disaster that is unions, nor the myriad socialistic and inefficient governmental impositions on business if workers were allowed to "freely" share in the profits of the organizations they work for. Perhaps worst of all has been the shill game (SS, healthcare) which in effect refuses to pay workers their wages for today, today.

The Wealth Gap
When economic activity sifts people into the haves and have nots over time, differences in economic prosperity and power can become entrenched and widen. The richer gain more of the means of production and power, the poorer lose more and the result is a loss of freedom and opportunity. A mechanism to reshuffle the economic deck in about every other generation (about every 50 years) would be helpful to long-term, overall economic activity and opportunity.

Relative weakness between the parties in a transaction, the existence of urgency, and sheer greed should not be allowed to so color interest rates that they become so burdensome that they lock intransigently the borrower into a perpetual state of debt, or threaten (just by their extent) the on-going ability of the borrower to continue economically. Whereas it is economically beneficial to have a ready pool of capital within any nation that can be borrowed by those with a need or with an idea to exploit, it is anything but economically useful to have the burden imposed in order to do so be so weighty as to crush further economic activity from the borrowers.

Monetary Manipulation
Dependable scales are necessary to continuing market activity. If measures are constantly shifting, someone is getting the shaft and the resultant uncertainty will depress economic activity. When the value of money is constantly shifting, either arbitrarily or through manipulation, it is as if a pound is a pound one minute but not the next, or for one customer but not the next. Policies that allow central banks and government printing presses to manipulate currency values seem to me destined to artificially benefit some economies at the expense of others. Ultimately, the result will be depressed economic activity that otherwise could be greater and political instability.

These are temporal considerations that affect this age of sinful man. None of them will transition into eternity, but today, for this age, they form the basis of understanding what a biblically informed approach to economics would look like. I think it interesting that no politician is even remotely promoting such an approach to economic policy, nor is any political party. For all the posturing that comes from such quarters, it is obvious that politicians pay no attention whatsoever to what the Bible might suggest concerning practical considerations of governance. But maybe the Cubans are starting to.