Updated: Jun 14, 2021
The greatest virtue of classical capitalism is that it accounts for the lack of virtue in fallen man. From conception, we are angry, rebellious creatures whose hearts have a predisposition to invoke cruelty and injustice; I only need to study myself to see this. On its own, this problem is bad enough, but it gets worse when we are confronted with the phenomenon of scarcity. Presently, infinite amounts of food, shelter, clothing, or anything else material in nature is a fantasy—there is only so much to go around. And when our natural desire to live manifests in conjunction with scarce resources and rebellious hearts, our willingness to harm others in the name of our own survival is exponentially increased. As history has proven, many men are prepared to dive very deep into the abyss of sin in order to live on this Earth a little longer. But I think the economic system of capitalism, although certainly not perfect, offers a very effective solution in contrast to this dreaded reality. While the mathematics and logic of a free market system are relatively simple to prove, I think the argument for capitalism is most persuasive when focused on the attributes of God’s apex creation.
1. THE ONTOLOGICAL NATURE OF CAPITALISM
It is undisputed biological fact that we all are created unique. Our Almighty God has carefully designed each one of us with specific characteristics that distinguish one from another. An uncountable set of factors like natural skills, areas of intelligence, and social aptitude combine to make the man and make him different from all others who came before him, are now, or will be in the future. I am different than you, and you are different than your neighbour. And even if something between two people appears the same, perhaps they both enjoy golf, those “insignificant” differences they have within their shared interest display their distinct individuality from one another.
Therefore, it only makes sense that we adopt a system of economics that recognizes and accommodates these inherent variations of every person in the nation. To do so promotes the system that best enables our endowed individuality to thrive. A refusal to adopt a free system would therefore be contrary to our nature. In fact, I think implementing an economic policy that treats everyone the same (socialism) is to treat us as less than human.
The wonderful thing about capitalism is that it promotes our ontological diversity. It is a system of economics that not only permits but is entirely dependent on natural human spontaneity and individuality. All of the goods we enjoy today, from smartphones to guitars, are only possible because we as inventors, marketers, and business owners have the free opportunity to exercise our extensive creativity and intelligence given to us by God. Multiplied by billions of citizens, all of whom possess different skills, desires, and ideas, we are privy to an unfathomable variety of creations made available to us by the free market.
Without capitalism, this ability to exercise our differences is heavily restrained. Everyone who lives in a state of centralized economic policy likes the same food; they have to, or else they starve more than they already do. Everyone in a centralized economy likes the same movies—whichever ones the state allows to be shown. And everyone in a country where capitalism is outlawed likes the same political party—all the other ones are gone.
2.CAPITALISM AND TIME
Following our rebellion against God, our present lives became scarce. That is to say, they run out, and we die. Because time is now scarce, we must trade it. Generally, this trade takes form in the intermediary of money. When a man agrees to work for $20/hr, it’s because he has performed an analysis of his skills and talents and has reached a conclusion that in this specific situation, one hour of his life is worth $20. In converting hours worked into cash, the market converts productive time (working) into something that can be exchanged for other goods making life better. Thus, because money is a measure of time, the man is indifferent whether he has $20 in his pocket or an hour of free time to do what he wants; this is good and is to be enjoyed. There is nothing wrong with using money to make the best for ourselves and our families so long as it’s in obedience to God’s law and will. History has proven that a capitalist market is the most efficient way of promoting this blessing. The intermediary of money and markets allows man to trade his work for a variety of goods. Indeed, history has shown that no system in the world elevates people out of poverty so quickly while increasing the opportunity and quality of life for our descendants. Such desires and hopes are moral and are championed by Solomon in the Ecclesiastics and Paul in Thessalonians.
3. THE MORALITY OF CAPITALISM
One of the miracles of the free market is that it recognizes all men to be self-interested. This axiom is acted out regularly in everyday life. A toddler refrains from disobeying his parents because he knows he’ll be punished if he does so. And as long as the “bad” consequences of the discipline are worse than the “good” effects of disobeying his parents, he will obey his parents. Similarly, most of us refrain from stealing items at stores because we conclude that the consequences of stealing (x number of years in jail) outweigh the “benefit” we receive from stealing.
Now when a man wants something that his neighbour has, especially if he cannot get it legally, he is prone to act out in sin. Because we are naturally immoral, regardless of economic affiliation, the man who has a strong desire is more likely to commit a crime—he might thieve or cheat or kill to obtain what he wants. Laws restrain such behaviour, but only to an extent. If the desired item is necessary, say it's food or water or medicine, man will not hesitate to break all laws to survive. More than that, because man is naturally inclined to temporal posterity, the guilt he feels from something like stealing will pale compared to the benefit of “living another day.”
Thus, the solution is to utilize a system of economics so that the benefits of acting justly might outweigh the “benefits” of acting unjustly. Is there an economic form of governance that honours man for acting in accordance with what God commands?
Indeed, in a free market, man is instantaneously rewarded for acting lawfully and morally. The value of capitalism is that it promotes a legal trade while simultaneously discouraging sinful action. Rather than killing one another to attain goods necessary to survive, a free enterprise policy moderates a market between men so that the profits accrued from peaceful trade outweigh the “profits” of savagery. Instead of stealing from a neighbour, we can trade goods and both be made better off. The reason men refrain from brutality in a free market is that it pays to do so. And anytime sin is restrained by lawful means, we as Christians ought to champion it.