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Christianity

& Capitalism

July 12, 2008


Christianity & Capitalism

A Quick Review

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Christianity & Capitalism
A Model for Examining
Capitalism
• No economic system is prescribed by
the Bible.
• A multi-disciplinary examination
through the lenses of Scripture,
history, and economics.
• Capitalism as an institution.
• Does capitalism promote Shalom?
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Christianity & Capitalism

What is Capitalism?
• Definition: An economic system where 1)
people own their labor; 2) property rights
are protected by rule of law; 3) investments
are determined privately; 4) and the market
sets prices, wages, production, and
distribution.
• Key Components: “The
Invisible Hand” and
“Creative Destruction.”

• Free to Choose: Free,


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mutually beneficial
Christianity & Capitalism

The History of Capitalism


• Replaced feudalism and mercantilism,
triggered the Industrial Revolution in
Europe.
• Christian concepts led to the rise of
Capitalism:
– Humanity’s role in creation
– Private property
– Reason
– The Reformation
– “The faith of Abraham”
– Optimism for the future tempered by original
(Sources: Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches, pp. 201-205. Jay Richards, Money, Greed, and God,
pp. sin
145-151. Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold, pp. 191-247.) 5
Christianity & Capitalism

Centralized Economies

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Christianity & Capitalism

The Visible Hand


• Feudalism and mercantilism were
eclipsed by capitalism.
• The debate of the past two centuries
has centered around economic
decentralization (capitalism) vs.
centralization (communism and
socialism).

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Christianity & Capitalism

Communism
• State ownership of all means of
production and central planning to
allocate resources and set
wages/prices.
• By mid-20th century, it
looked to be ascendant.
• Communism must always
entrust massive political
power into the hands of a
few sinful men. 8
Christianity & Capitalism
Deaths by Communist
Regimes
China 65 million
Soviet Union 20 million
North Korea 2 million
Cambodia 2 million
Africa 1.7 million
Afghanistan 1.5 million
Vietnam 1 million
Eastern Europe 1 million
Latin America 150,000
(Source: The Black Book of Communism, Harvard Univ.
Press, 1999.) 9
Christianity & Capitalism

Socialism
• The state ensures greater economic
equality through some mix of gov’t
regulation and ownership of industry,
income redistribution.
• “Market socialism” accepts the price
system, but like communism it entrusts
significant power in the hands of political
leaders.

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Christianity & Capitalism

A Viable Alternative?
• Socialism is growing in
popularity during the current
financial crisis.
– Only 53% of U.S. adults believe
capitalism is best; 20% say
socialism, and 27% unsure.
– Adults under-30: 37%
capitalism, 33% socialism, 30%
undecided. (Source: Poll by Rasmussen Reports, April 9, 2009; available at
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/
politics/general_politics/just_53_say_capitalism_better_than_socialism.)

• America’s early experiment with


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