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PostChristianity's Case for Capitalism (Richard Hancock, USA, 08/02/18 4:35 am)
The latest issue of Stanford Magazine had a list of books written by Stanford graduates. On this list, I found God and Business, Christianity's Case for Capitalism, by Robert Richards, published by Xulon press published in 2002.
Robert Richards earned an MBA from Stanford and enjoyed a long career in business, with Weyerhaeuser, with the National Bank of Alaska and with the Commerce Bancorporation of Seattle. He taught Economics at the Pacific Lutheran University, the University of Alaska and the University of Washington. He also studied theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Mr. Richards describes the huge role that Western capitalism has played in raising the world's standard of living. He lists these benefits as follows:
1. Consumers get what they demand.
2. Workers are paid relatively high wages.
3. Job opportunities arise, permitting the poor to become unpoor.
4. Profits accrue to investors in return for risking capital.
5. Abundant public goods and services are produced from taxes on profits and wages.
6. The poor, the arts, and others not directly in the market system or disenfranchised from the social system receive voluntary contributions from workers' wages and from companies' profits.
7. This entire process grows and improves through the reinvestment of profits.
Mr. Richards is not a supporter of Socialism. He says that it features income distribution without regard for income generation and enhances political control. It is a static system in contrast to Capitalism, which is an economic system so structured that the pursuit of one's personal calling accrues to the common good.
In linking Christianity to Capitalism, Richards states that all the apostles were workers. Christ was a carpenter. The apostles were fishermen. St. Paul was a tent-maker. In Christ's time, a few leaders controlled the economy and the vast majority were desperately poor. He cites many passages of scripture that support business, as long as the businessman recognizes that a person must love God with all of his heart and mind and love his neighbor as himself. One of the world's wealthiest men, Sam Walton, said that he had always been doing the best possible thing for humanity by finding ways to sell higher quality goods at lower prices. He felt that his career had been a ministry of helping people, especially the poor, through the efficiency of his operation.
Mr. Richards does warn leaders of major corporations about receiving inordinately high compensation levels which exceed what is necessary to motivate and appropriately reward performance. He says that the scriptures assert that prosperity is good but condemn maximizing personal wealth.
He says that many Christian clergy have little knowledge of economics and they level criticism at businessmen. In an ideal world, clergy would become economically literate and establish a mission to recruit businessmen to attend and participate in church. Regular attendance at church would in turn remind businessmen of their Christian obligations.
In closing, he quotes Paul's message to believers in Thessalonica: "We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." Such is the Christian basis of capitalism.
This book had a special meaning for me. Born in 1926, I was raised on a ranch from New Mexico and we endured many disadvantages of living without the blessing of modern capitalism. We had no refrigeration, air conditioning, or TV. My brothers and I spent much of our time cutting wood to supply our wood cook stove and our three fireplaces. We milked cows for milk and slaughtered our animals for meat. My mother washed clothes using a washboard and boiling them in an iron pot over an outside fire. She always said that the greatest modern invention was a washing machine. Wages were one dollar per day for work from dawn to dark. We were served by dirt roads which became impassible when weather was bad. We now enjoy all the modern conveniences afforded by capitalism.
JE comments: This is a fascinating question: Does Christianity inherently favor any economic system? Many apologists for socialism/communism cite the communal organization of Christ and the Apostles, as well as that of the earliest Christian communities. On the other hand, the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) seems to endorse proto-Capitalist investment and profit-taking.
Blessed are the Poor, etc. Martin Luther said, "Wealth is the smallest thing on earth, the least gift that God has bestowed on mankind," yet we associate his Reformation with the Protestant work ethic. (Calvin probably had a bigger role than Luther in linking hard work with divine grace.)
So the jury is out. And why stop at Socialism vs Capitalism? There was a time when feudalism was considered the "natural" Christian order. WAISer David Duggan thinks about these things. I hope he'll join the conversation.
Protestantism, Capitalism, and Max Weber
(Henry Levin, USA
08/02/18 3:08 PM)
I am surprised that in his essay on Christianity and Capitalism, Richard Hancock didn't cite Max Weber's The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the fourth most important classic in Sociology.
JE comments: Of course we're curious about 1 through 3; click below. Max Weber also gets the top spot with Economy and Society. His Protestant Work Ethic came out in 1905, the same annus mirabilis that saw the publication of Einstein's Theory of Relativity.