Jeff Neal for C.U.R.E. - Certain Unalienable Rights Endowment

Religion, the Bible and Freedom

In Opinion on January 30, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Today in The Wall Street Journal Aryeh Spero makes the point that the teachings in the Bible – the basis of what is generally called Western, Judeo-Christian civilization – are properly read to be supportive of the work ethic, personal responsibility, and the sanctity of a man’s right to own the fruit of his labor – his right to possess property.  Those sound like the pillars of American capitalism.  He begins with:

More than any other nation, the United States was founded on broad themes of morality rooted in a specific religious perspective. We call this the Judeo-Christian ethos, and within it resides a ringing endorsement of capitalism as a moral endeavor.

Regarding mankind, no theme is more salient in the Bible than the morality of personal responsibility, for it is through this that man cultivates the inner development leading to his own growth, good citizenship and happiness. The entitlement/welfare state is a paradigm that undermines that noble goal.

and the piece closes with:

God begins the Ten Commandments with “I am the Lord your God” and concludes with “Thou shalt not envy your neighbor, not for his wife, nor his house, nor for any of his holdings.” Envy is corrosive to the individual and to those societies that embrace it. Nations that throw over capitalism for socialism have made an immoral choice.

In an earlier post (God is a Capitalist) I made the point that when the government takes from one man for the sake of another, the government has done something immoral.  In doing so, the government has exercised a power it does not rightly possess, since it derives its power from the people and none of us has that power to delegate to the government.  Often, stating this position is followed by “so, you conservatives would let the poor starve and the elderly die homeless and hungry!”  For the record, it’s not true that conservatives want the poor to remain poor.  Instead, it is true that conservatives believe that federal government programs are the wrong approach to providing a safety net.  Self-reliance (with a local community designed and maintained safety net) is more powerful and effective than welfare as an anti-poverty weapon.  (See Welfare vs. Self Reliance)

Only people who don’t realize that Gordon Gekko was a fictional character believe that ‘the rich’ yearn for and aspire to a world in which they stand atop a pile of gold, overlooking a landscape littered with corpses of starved men and women.  Those people who think that is the goal of “the rich” should buy guns and take care of those evil men they think occupy corporate board rooms – how can they in good conscious let those bastards continue their crimes against humanity.  Rich-haters, have the courage of your convictions and put an end to the theft that you claim is the essence of business.

Neither I nor, by my reading, Mr. Spero are making the point that the Bible is dispositive about questions of economic policy.  Rather, the point is that the Bible does NOT say what liberals suggest about society’s responsibility of taking care of the poor (or other ‘social policy’ issues) through government programs.  The Bible is about men and women as individuals possessed of a free will and vested with personal responsibility.  There are no Ten Commandments or a Sermon on the Mount for politicians, and there are no recommendations about voting in elections.  The Bible speaks only to individuals, not to any group or power center.

I posit that the Bible teaches a Randian, egoist morality.  To wit: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  The highest moral standard we’re instructed to employ in our dealings with others is the way we treat ourselves.  That in no way can be read to give license to harm or cheat others as a means to our ends.  That would be suicidal, no?  Instead it tells us we’re all free, responsible for ourselves and have a duty to ourselves to care for others, lest we find ourselves alone, living without the benefit of the acts of other free men, living without Lipitor, FedEx and the iPhone; living without fresh meat in the fridge and ice cream in the freezer.

The Bible’s teachings, taken as a whole, tell us that only by mutually agreeable, voluntary acts by and among free men and women is progress possible in human endeavor.  Does that sound more like capitalism or socialism?

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