Sunday, September 28, 2014

Christian Professors Weigh in on Markets, Justice, and Exploitation

On September 5, Christianity Today published an article by Dr. Kevin Brown, seeking to examine the relationship between capitalism and the common good. Brown is assistant professor at the Howard Dayton School of Business at Asbury University and in his essay he chastises the Institute for Faith Work and Economics' video, I Smartphone as a too simplistic, pro-capitalist work that tempts us to "deify the market."The Institute subsequently asked six professors from various disciplines to comment on the question whether markets, within a biblical framework, lessen exploitation. I was one of the professors asked to share my thoughts and they are included in this blog post.

Obviously, a single blog post is not nearly enough to do justice to the question, however some points are clear enough. I wrote:
The market is a network of voluntary exchange. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not the arbiter of truth and beauty, but it is a marvelous institution nonetheless, because the market price system allows for the coordination of a vast, complex market division of labor that increases the productivity, income, wealth, and standard of living of everyone who participates.

This even includes those employed in harsh working environments at what most Americans would think of as unacceptably low pay. We should note, however, that what most people see as labor exploitation is, in fact, people choosing work under such conditions because it is their best alternative.

Of course Christ calls us to be responsible market participants. However, responsibility includes not harming others in the name of good intentions. We do not help the most vulnerable of our society by taking away their best alternatives.

I encourage you to read the entire post that features insights from five economists and an associate professor of New Testament studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment