Sunday, February 5, 2012

What the Bible Says About Capitalism

Aryeh Spero has a very thoughtful essay on that very topic in this past Monday's Wall Street Journal. Spero is a Jewish Rabbi, so not surprisingly he limits his discussion to the Old Testament. Nevertheless, what he says is quite good. His thesis is that the general religious ethos at our nations founding was, as he puts it Judeo-Christian, and provided legal, institutional, and moral support to capitalism.
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.
Spero notes the Bible's stressing personal responsibility, the importance of labor, the implications of our being made in the image of God, the necessity of honesty in business dealing, and equality under the law. All of these things are important for sustaining a prosperous and free economy.

Spero also discusses the important example of Joseph's plan in dealing with the famine in Egypt (Gen. 41; 47).

At the end of Genesis, we hear how after years of famine the people in Egypt gave all their property to the government in return for the promise of food. The architect of this plan was Joseph, son of Jacob, who had risen to become the pharaoh's top official, thus: "Joseph exchanged all the land of Egypt for pharaoh and the land became pharaoh's." The result was that Egyptians became indentured to the ruler and state, and Joseph's descendants ended up enslaved to the state.
Spero ends with a very profound insight about how corrosive the sin of envy is for the good society.
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.
The entire essay is well worth your thoughtful reading.

1 comment:

  1. great article! What I am almost more amazed at are the comments that people have posted calling the artlicle blaspmous or out right saying the bible is a historically inaccurate book and should be ignored... I have always thought that classical liberalism was the only secular worldview compatiable with christianity, this article gives weight to that line of thinking.