Many people believe that the world needs a better economic system. Some Christians say that capitalism is a bad system. Others say that capitalism is deficient, but is the best system that exists.
This sort of thinking is confused. An economic system is not something that can be pulled off a shelf and imposed on society. The idea that an economic system can be replaced by another, in the same way that problems with the way an operating system like Microsoft Vista can be resolved by purchasing Windows 7 and installing it over the top is misleading.
An economy is not a machine or computer, but is created by people interacting together. The shape of the economy is determined by the way that people function and interact with each other. An economy is shaped by two things: human nature and law.
Most of what people do not like about an economy is the result of human nature. The fall of man means that greed, selfishness, violence, dishonesty, pride, foolishness have become natural. The recent economic crisis has revealed all these aspects of human nature.
Law constrains human nature by putting boundaries on what sin and evil can do, but there are limits to what law can do. The only real solution to sin is the cross and the renewal of the spirit.
The best law is Godís law. Under Godís law people are free to buy and sell when they choose, which allows markets to emerge. The law prevents theft, which prevents greedy and selfish people from expropriating things that belong to other (Ex 20:15).
The law recognise land as productive an asset and prevents people from losing their land unjustly (Lev 25:14-17). It recognises the value of working livestock as productive capital that needed greater protection (Ex 22:1). Productive tools and equipment receive extra protection (Deut 14:6).
The laws on weights and measures prevent manipulation and inflation of the currency (Deut 14:13-16).
These laws are all that is needed for an economy function. We do not need an economic system. Godís law is all we need. It allows people to improve their situation by buying and sell. It allows them to accumulate capital, so they can be more productive. Freedom to trade and freedom to accumulate capital is all that is needed for an economy to function.
Godís law does not guarantee that a perfect, fair and abundant economy emerge. Greed, selfishness, dishonesty, pride and foolishness all conspire against that happening. The law explains this clearly (Deut 28:15-68).
When Christians say that they do not like this or that economic system, they are really saying that they do no like Godís decision to make humans free. They are also saying that they do not like Godís law. They assume that we can install some mysterious system that will be better than what God has given us.
What Christians seem to want is for the state to come in and impose a perfect state of peace, harmony and prosperity. As long as people are free to choose between good and evil, this is impossible. Any solution that state imposes just becomes another vehicle for sin and evil.
Godís law is the best restraint on sin and evil. The gospel and the Spirit are the only cure for sin and evil. Once they have done their work, Christians can create prosperity and plenty by generosity and sharing.
The Communist Russian economy was not really a different system. It was really just a very different human morality and a different set of laws.
These laws prevented people from owning property. The political committee in a village could confiscate land and form it into a collective farm.
Laws prevented people from buying and selling freely, because the prices of most goods and services were set by political authorities.
The revolution crushed human values and turn the Russian people into selfish lazy people.
The Russian economy did not need a new system. It needs the gospel and the spirit to change human values. It needs Godís law to restrain greed and selfishness. If those two things were accepted, good business would emerge and evil practices would wither away.
The American economy is not capitalism.
The American economy is made up of many of many people. Some are good, but many are influenced by a culture that enshrines selfishness, dishonesty, greed and pride.
America is governed by two parties that are almost the same. The real power rests with a coalition of political leaders, big business and military manufacturers. These groups look after their own interests. The largest political donations come from business leaders. In return for this support, the political leaders look after big business and military equipment manufacturers.
American laws protects big business and gives huge powers to large corporations. Limited liability laws foster the growth of big business. Banks are given monopoly powers that enable them to make enormous profits. American values justify the payment of huge bonuses to bankers.
America does not need a new system. It needs a new culture renewed by the influence of the Spirit of God. It needs Gods laws. The gospel and the law of God would transform the American economy. The huge businesses that have done so much harm would quickly wither away.
Many Christians get upset about disparity in wealth in a modern economy. However, I have never met a Christian who is upset about their own wealth. I have never met a Christian who says that their income is too large.
If you are upset about your own wealth, the problem is easy to solve. Just give some of it away to someone who is poorer than you. If your income is greater than you need, give it away. Too much wealth is a problem that is easy to solve. Giving is the solution.
Christians who are upset about the unequal distribution of wealth are no upset about their own wealth. They are actually upset about the wealth of other people. They can see people that they think have too much wealth. This is a harder problem to solve. There are only two solutions:
Persuade the wealthy person to freely give some of their wealth away.
Force the wealthy person to hand over their wealth so it can be given to those with greater need.
The first solution is not very popular, because it will not have much impact.
The simplest way to implement the second solution would be to get a gun, point in the back of too-wealthy people and force them to hand over some of their wealth, but that does not sound very nice. People who want a better economic system are really looking for a way to forcibly take wealth form the people that they think have to much, but without getting their hands dirty. Unfortunately, force is force, whether it comes out of the barrel of a gun, or a larger mob.
The New Testament model for dealing with surplus wealth is generosity and sharing. Forced giving is never part of the solution. The transformation of the gospel and the spirit makes the first option possible. The Spirit will lead some wealthy people into giving to people with insufficient means to prosper. This is the best way to eliminate the problem of inequality that everyone hates.