Sunday, November 22, 2009

Helping the Poor -- Socialism or Capitalism

Before the election I thought a lot about the idea of helping the poor. The question I am pondering, "is socialism wrong?" The Bible teaches that we must care for the poor. This is not something that can be ignored for a Christian or for any caring member of society. But what is the best way to accomplish this? I have been a Christian, conservative, Republican all my life so, as I entertain these ideas, I am trying to keep an open mind.

The liberal platforms seem to be leaning toward democratic socialism. Socialism is an economic system based on state ownership or at least control of wealth and the means of producing wealth. Democratic Socialism seeks a socialistic society while maintaining a political democracy. In Socialism government is used to diminish social classes by equalizing wealth in society. The expectation is that as wealth is distributed more evenly there will be fewer poor.

The conservative platform tends to prefer Capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned. In Capitalism government provides freedoms for businesses. The expectation is that as the businesses prosper there will be more jobs and more "capital" available to help out the poor.

From these brief overviews it seems to me that the main issue between Socialism and Capitalism is ownership. Who owns the wealth that will be used to help the poor? Does the state own it or do individuals own it?

From my American perspective it seems that our nation has been founded on the ideal of private property. The Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Historically, the phrase "pursuit of happiness" is considered to include the idea of private property. Jefferson pulled much from John Locke's idea that we have a right to life, liberty, and property. Unfortunately we are far from having full ownership of our property. Try not paying your property tax and see who "owns" your property.

In my own view I do not think government ownership of wealth is the way to go. If the state owns the land and the business, who really owns it? The philosophic idea is that we all would be the owners but in reality it works out that whoever is in power actually owns it. If those in power do good, OK, but if those in power do evil, we all suffer.

A big problem is that it tends to work out this way in Capitalism as well. Those in power, those with the most money, are able to have the most influence in our society. If those with the most money do good, great! If those with the most money do evil, again, we all suffer.

In the beginning when God created Adam and his family he gave them charge of the garden to rule over it, but I do not see that He transferred ownership to them. When Noah came off the ark after the flood I see God setting up the first civil system (read government), instituting sanctions to be enforced by men against other men for committing murder. I also see a reiteration of the Genesis mandate to populate, cultivate and rule over the earth, but ownership is not conveyed. With Abraham and his descendants is the where I see God giving ownership of land to people. He gave land to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. This ownership was by family and was not to be transferred outside of each family. This ownership was predicated on devotion to the God of creation. If the families served other gods ownership was taken away and given to others.

For the Christian, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." ( We are merely stewards of His possessions. The question is now, does Socialism or Capitalism provide a better way for us to serve the true Owner of the earth? In the political and economical system that we have to work in, which system provides us more freedom to serve the purpose of God? How does God want us to help the poor?

I feel like I am raising more questions then I am answering. I am glad this is a blog and not a school paper.

For my part I feel that Capitalism provides a better platform for men to stand up and do good with the property that God allows them to acquire. I think the Bible teaches that the Purpose of government is to protect good and punish evil. this is supported by the next phrase in our Declaration of Independence: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." I do not think government should be granted "ownership" of what truly belongs to God. We have far less control of what government will do then we do of our own actions. It is because of the sinful nature of men that God has instituted government to step in with the sword when men go beyond their rights. In Capitalism, men need to use their wealth to help the poor. Basically, we need men to act rightly with self control. Then, and only then, we can have freedom and smaller government control of our society.

1 comment:

Bill said...

I found this to be a very thoughtful post. I started reading it, as I happened upon by accident, even though I am on the opposite end of the political and religious spectrum (liberal Catholic/Green Party). I just wanted you to know I enjoyed reading your post. You are asking good questions. What more can we do?