Christianity, Capitalism & the Faltering Economy

On the front page of the Advocate’s “People & Faith” section, which is a Saturday regular, there’s an article entitled “Christianity and capitalism.” It’s by Chante Dionne Warren – a “special to the Advocate” whatever that is. And it shows the mush for thought about economics which pervades the culture. That I’m reading a book called “Eat the Rich” by P.J. O’Rourke who seems to positively luxuriate in his ignorance with great humor is perhaps mere coincidence.

Supposedly this survey of 1,010 people over three days in April clarifies the public’s beliefs on anything. Well, balderdash. First of all, the old random sample – did it include non-Christians? Or were people asked first if they were Christians and of what sort, and the rest excluded, you know, the Jews, Hindus, non-believers. The article doesn’t say. It should. And it says:

44% of those polled believe Christianity and the free market system are at odds with one another, while 36 percent do not.” And the first thing I think, then, is that if most “Christians” who actually follow Bible precepts are Republicans, you know, the fundamentalists, then isn’t the Republican party against capitalism? Now that’s weird.

But I love the lead sentence: “Does Christianity’s teachings on love and charity conflict with a capitalistic, free market system where profit-making tactics and greed can reign? Some area ministers and theology professors say it could, echoing results of a recent national poll.”

First off, “capitalism” is what all societies practice – they aggregate capital and put it to use, and the law of reality is that someone must make the decisions on whom controls this aggregating capital and to which uses it shall be put. Theocrats, like Socialists, always think they know best, of course.

Second – all things: people, animals, businesses, herds, groups – have “profit-making” as their goal. Indeed, whatever energy or input, however defined or words used – is “capital” – and that is aggregated, to the degree that it can be – and “profit” must come out the other side – or the living thing fails. Even eating is profit-making. We eat X amount of food, which is our “coal” or “oil” to get X+1 of energy, to do something else, including get more X. If we got X-1, we’d be sick, we’d lose weight, we’d die.

Whether a company or entity is state owned, crony of the president owned, city owned, privately owned, stock company owned, union owned – it still must make a profit. I don’t care what you call it. “Non-profits” for instance, supposedly don’t make a “profit” – yah, sure. They are more correctly called “non-taxed” – but they are certainly “for profit.” An organization, such as the one the good local minister Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade, executive director of the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, runs, must make a profit – it must bring in X and create X+1 in order to do its mission:

“Our faith calls us to live within a community and be concerned about others who might not have the opportunities and access to education, financial literacy or employment.”

What does this mean, “live within a community”? Where else could one live, but within a community? No man is an island. We live together whether I have Robin’s faith or not and she (I’m guessing from the hyphenated name,) must live in the community with me. For here we are. And if she wants to be concerned about others, well, good for her. Whom does not have access to education I don’t know, in this state it’s compulsory and so all kids get “educated” even if the schools are terrible, because they’re busy “living in the community” and not making a profit – in essence, we spend billions on education and lo, the students come out poorly trained and financial illiterates. And I dare say the time to help is in the schools by wholesale remaking of the curriculum and removal of the Federal Government from the process, and a little more attention to “profit-making tactics” of turning out students who know something other than they must “live together in a community concerned about others” or something.

If kids were taught that they have an obligation to work and better themselves, and not a right, we’d might be more profitable with our education dollars and actually turn our employable graduates. From the amount of remedial education required in community colleges and the admitted financial illiteracy I’d say the schools aren’t working whatsoever.

Still, the Interfaith group here quoted has to make a profit. They have bills to pay, they have a product, and marketing brochures, and sales materials, and employees and rent, and thus they must bring in, obtain, earn or somehow procure X amount of resources. Let’s say it’s $100,000 – then they have their costs – let’s say $100,000. OK, so they break even – but that means they have absolutely no way to expand their “concern” to anyone else. And if they bring in $100,000 and spend $110,000 – well, where’s the other $10,000 going to come from? It must immediately embark on a “profit-making” scheme – even if begging supporters to donate more money – which is really selling “concern” which is “bought” by those living in the community, and the $10,000 made. Sounds almost like the illiterate teaching the illiterate to me, if they don’t grasp this simple truth.

So then it comes down to whom controls the profits – ay, “greed” is somehow “in” capitalism – while, of course “greed” is not in, dare we say it – sure – “socialism.” What does it mean when a Christian doesn’t think capitalism is compatible with his religion? Does he mean then that he’s for the government (whom are power seeking individuals, not a “thing” which thinks by itself,) to run the profit-making and the rest? If all things require “capital” and all things are inherently “profit-making” does this not presuppose that then it comes down to control over the capital and the profits? Sure it does. So what kind of question then is asked?

Ah, “greed” – somehow this is the bad thing. What it is is ill-defined. And one man’s greed is another man’s earnings. And all people are “greedy” in this way: All people want to do the least amount of work for the most amount of gain. Thus the low hanging fruit are picked first. And then the higher fruit must be reached – and that requires skill, and perhaps equipment, and thus capital investment, and thus when the fruit is brought down it must be sold – to earn the capital for the next go round. For if the fruit is merely given away, then the picker will not eat – for he can’t eat his “concern” for those “living in the community” – no, he must either only eat the fruits he picks, or sell some to get money – profit even, and seek the most money for his labor as he can get – and then use that to pay his own way, so that others don’t have to be concerned for him whatsoever.

But it’s not that “greed is good,” as Mr. Gecko said (and why not just name a guy after a lizard, to show his meanness, I suppose,) – it’s that “greed” is “profit-making” because one wants more than what one puts in – even in friendship, one wants more than what one puts in. And it’s impossible to not do so. Even churches seeking funds for a new sanctuary are “profit-making” and “profit seeking” and “greedy” and very “capitalistic” indeed, as they seek the capital to build. In fact, I’m sure the pastor thinks it all the better when he receives a $10,000 donation than when he receives but a $1,000. To seek more is “greed” no? To get more than what one has? To get more than one might think is “fair” – for sure the pastor thinks $1,000 is “fair” so he must be quite beside himself at the “profit” he earned by his tactic of being persuasive in selling salvation. And he is “greedy” for all to be saved, for sure. And the man who gives the bigger gift does indeed think he’s profiting from his donation, in a surer hope for salvation. Though the man who gives a $1,000 might think salvation can be purchased for a much lower price.

So the very premise of the poll is mush, and driven through with economic illiteracy. And we wonder then why this is the next news of the day:

Signs that the economic recovery, never robust, is now in serious jeopardy have been multiplying lately. And it doesn’t look like anyone in Washington has a plan that’ll do anything about it.

As for the notion of cutting spending, most experts think doing so now would do much more harm than good. As David Leonhardt of the New York Times puts it today: “The one thing not to do is to turn to deficit reduction too quickly after a crisis, as Europe is painfully learning.”

Still, right now, beneath the P.R. and the politics, Washington seems to have thrown up its hands. And that’s not something that Americans still suffering from the downturn can afford.”

And all I can think is, thank heavens they’ve stopped trying to help. Now if they’d get out of the way, we’d all be better off, living in our communities, being concerned for what we want, and being employed. But all the government concern for us through the stimulus cannot help since all it did was take money from one guy’s hands and put it in another, and it was the same amount, less the federal overhead charge for collecting the taxes and borrowing the rest – which is what’s preventing businesses doing anything.

It’s the old story of the sports stadium – the people are poor because they have no jobs, so we tax them or saddle them with debt to be paid later – and build a sports stadium for a few to use because it creates jobs, and everyone pays for what a few use – and by so taxing them, we now need to tax and borrow more to give help to those whom saw their taxes go to a new stadium the don’t use instead of doing with their own money what they want to do, like oh, eat – all because someone else is concerned for them.

And articles and polls like the ones I speak of here are not helping a bit.


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