Is Capitalism Committing Suicide?

Every form of government tends to perish by an excess of its basic principles.

Will Durant

Isn’t this what’s happening in our current economic situation?  The principles of capitalism, taken to an extreme (Wall Street AND Main Street greed) are becoming the means by which true capitalism is perishing. Excess has been the cause of our current economic meltdown.

This has provided the impetus for actions based on socialistic principles (the bailout) and opens the door for continued socialistic behavior (redistribution of wealth, socialized medicine, etc.).   Can true socialism be far behind?

Personally, I don’t believe the problem lies with the principles of capitalism, only the excesses of them.  It just proves that no man-ordered system of government is any better than the morality and character of its people.  Which reminds me of another Durant quote:

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

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10 thoughts on “Is Capitalism Committing Suicide?

  1. I think that our nation operates on a blend of capitalism and socialism Cameron. Finding the balance is more of an art than a science. On one end we hear of how many entitlements like welfare are abused and then we read in the papers of exorbitant executive salaries.

    One of my main concerns for the future is the uneven playing field that has been created with regard to trading with other nations.. we import products with out restrictions from countries that severely restrict the importing of our products.

    And let’s face it.. American companies no longer have our best interests at heart.. the global market has given them rationale to import workers and export jobs.. outsourcing is sadly crippling our IT work force (as well as many others) in America.

    No simple answers.. wish there were some 😦

  2. I would say that finding the balance is simple – because there is only one option. Capitalism allows private groups to have “socialistic societies” if they so wish. Socialism does not allow people to have “capitalist societies”. Save Capitalism

  3. KB, what concerns me is that there seems to be a trend toward imbalance on the side of socialism. I think the key to the abuse on both sides is greed, and until we can change hearts, political efforts are temporary at best.

    Hpx, thanks for your visit and comment. You are right that there is a clear distinction between the two.

  4. Ever heard of folks that had to declare bankruptcy because they couldn’t pay for expensive medical care bills? This is a phenomenon that other countries don’t have because their health care is socialized.

    I am not saying that we need to go full bore socialism.. I just think that if our hearts as Christians are truly changed we might not be complaining about taking care of the least of these amongst us.. and demonizing Obama for wanting to take care of the poor instead of the rich.

    I am not saying that I have it all figured out.. I do not want to pay more taxes.. but my heart breaks for those who struggle so much.. like the folks that I often ministered to at church.. and couldn’t help because of a lack of resources.

    Here is a question for you Cameron:

    Do the teachings of Jesus lean more to socialism or to capitalism?

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.. don’t have it all figured out but enjoy the dialog.

  5. Very interesting discussion. Wouldn’t what is described in Acts actually be a combination of true compassionism (not to be confused with communism) and capitalism, and not socialism? Socialism is the government taking care of the people. I do not think that Jesus taught that. (That was supposed to be the case in the OT when Israel was a Theocracy.) In Acts, though, we are told that no one (in the church) thought of their wealth as their own and gave it to each other as there was need. It was the people taking care of each other. They did not, however, combine all of their resources and then dole them out equally. In the sense that they took care of each other and did not consider what they owned to be their own – true compassionism. In the sense that they were not compelled by the government or the church to sell their possessions, but had the option of keeping them – capitalism.

    I hope that makes sense to someone other than me.!?!.

  6. KB, your comments and dialogue are always welcome. I enjoy it as well. I don’t have it all figured out, but here’s my thoughts (this could get long).

    First, some basic thoughts (the short version!):
    1) I don’t want to demonize Senator Obama for desiring to help the poor. I do have concerns about his overall philosophy of doing it. I think his “off-the-cuff” response to “Joe” was from the heart. He didn’t have time to frame a “politically correct” answer, and we may have gotten to hear his authentic self speaking. The fact that he chose a socialist catch-phrase raises (at least in my mind) legitimate questions about his underlying worldview.

    2) I’m not sure I would say Jesus’ teachings lean one way or the other, but I would say that capitalism leans more toward Jesus teaching (and Biblical principles in general) than socialism does.

    2) Those who hold to socialistic thinking tend to also have a naturalistic worldview. Haven’t thought through all of the connection there, but that is my perception.

    3) American capitalism is not the cause of our woes, it is human greed (mine as well as Wall Street’s). The problem with capitalism is not the principles of it, but the abuse of them that stem from man’s sinful nature. This goes back to my OP about Capitalism failing by it’s own hand.

    Now, a fuller explanation (the long version):
    I agree with your statement that hearts need to be changed. That is, for me, the key to any man-produced governmental system. No government (socialist or capitalist) is going to be any more successful than the character or righteousness of its people. The primary problem with both is the sinfulness of human hearts.

    One thing I would point out about socialism is that it (like legalism) doesn’t change hearts. It is not voluntary, it is coerced. From that perspective, it is more in line with the teaching of the Pharisees than of Jesus.

    I’m seeing socialism more and more like legalism. They both produce immediate, short-term, outward results through coerced obedience, but in the long run they create either a sense of self-righteousness or rebellion toward forced righteousness. In other words, both systems produce good deeds by outward conforming, but fail to make the heart different.

    Capitalism (like liberty) has its dangers as well. Human nature being what it is (the greed of the CEO is the same sin as the greed of a pastor), the weakness of capitalism is in the very principles that make it work. Just as our Christian liberty has the danger of licentiousness (Galatians 5:13), capitalism has the potential for unrestrained greed.

    So, if both have their weakness, why capitalism? Because it comes closer to the spirit of Christ’s teachings. It allows (rather than forces) man the opportunity to do right for the right reason. Like socialism, it doesn’t produce heart-change, but it IS more conducive to it.

    This is all very rushed, and I wish I could have thought through it more thoroughly. At least you might get the crux of my thinking. In the near future I hope to do a post exploring the balance between legalism and license (from Galatians). If I am successful in expressing my thoughts on it clearly, I think you’ll understand my thinking better (and might actually like my conclusion!).

  7. Dave,
    Though the passage in Acts is often used as a Scriptural basis for socialism, I think you have hit on some of the key distinctions between the two. Your point about capitalism providing the vehicle for true compassion is one of the strengths I see in the system.

    The key phrase is, they “had the option.” A transformed heart given that option will do good deeds toward those in need.

    btw . . . your thoughts make sense to me. Don’t know if that makes both of us right or both crazy! 🙂

  8. Thanks for the thoughtful reply Cameron. I appreciate the time you took to post it and better understand where you are coming from.

    So, if I am reading correctly you feel that the issue is greed gone wild in capitalism. I tend to agree. So, given that we can’t change the hearts of greedy corporate executives and their enabling boards, is there a role for government:

    + in establishing fair trade policies,
    + insuring that employers treat their workers fairly,
    + giving unemployment assistance to laid-off workers,
    + requiring banks that they bailout to act a certain way?

    Just wondering because some feel that the government should leave Corporate America alone and let them act any greedy way that they choose.

  9. KB,

    I could respond more to my liking if I had a better grasp of the implications of each in relation to the economy as a whole. Nonetheless, I’ll answer as best I can (hopefully avoiding any inconsistency).

    I do believe there is a role of government in oversight. A key word in the first two points is “fair.” The government obviously has a role in making sure there are protections for the weak and that those who break those rules are punished. This has not happened in recent days. There were no rules, and instead of punishment the guilty were rewarded.

    I’m not a big fan of the bailout to start with, but once it was made, I have no problem with the government restricting its use. It seems a little hypocritical to me for those “capitalist” who voted for it to suddenly have a conscience about capitalistic implementation of a “socialistic” bailout.

    Overall, I don’t trust politicians with our money any more than I do the CEOs. The corruption of Corporate America is little or no worse than the corruption of the Government (both parties), so why should I want them having more money to spend? Maybe I’m getting more cynical in my old age . . . 😉

  10. Of this we are in absolute agreement:

    “Overall, I don’t trust politicians with our money any more than I do the CEOs.”

    Thanks again for the dialog Cameron.. very enlightening.. must be why I enjoy coming here 🙂

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