Does God care whether we people marry and have children?
Does God care whether Christian parents raise their children to know him?
Should government promote bearing children?
What are some effects of declining birth rates in other countries?
What are the economic effects of declining birth rates?
Who has the right to decide how children are trained: government or parents?
What does the Bible say about parents having to raise children to know him?
Does the government have the responsibility for training children?
What do educational bureaucrats think of parents training children?
What do school boards think of parents training children?
Should school boards be elected by local, state or federal government?
Should Christians be opposed to government-run education? (public schools)
How should schools be viewed by parents? As a replacement or as a helper?
How are schools viewed by those on the left and in communist countries?
How can you measure how supporting a government is of parental rights?
How is parental authority viewed in left-wing EU countries like Germany?
How is parental authority respected in the United States?
Should parents have a choice of where their children go to school?
What is a voucher program? How is it related to parental autonomy?
How does competition (school choice) in education serve parental needs?
Why do public school teachers, unions and educrats oppose competitition?
How well do public schools do in educating children to achieve?
Does the government-run monopoly of public schools produce results?
Does paying more and more money to public schools make them perform?
How do teacher unions feel about having to compete in a voucher system?
Does the public school monopoly penalize the poorest students?
Does the public school monopoly penalize children of certain races?
Does the public school monopoly cause racial prejudice?
What else should parents demand on education policy?
Is it good for parents when schools refuse to fire underperforming teachers?
This podcast is just amazing! This is what we need to be teaching in church. Church should be the place where you go to learn and reflect about how to tailor your life plan based on what the Bible says. And I think that this whole notion of free market – of choice and competition benefiting the consumer (parents) – applies to everything that government does, especially education and health care. The genius of America is that our Founding Fathers engineered a system that reflected all of this knowledge of economics, which then made it much easier for individuals and families to enjoy liberty and a higher quality of life. If we want to keep the benefits, we have to remember why these decisions were made at the founding of our nation.
The free enterprise system should not be adopted simply because it is the best system for creating wealth. The best reason to support free market capitalism is a moral reason. Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, and a Christian, describes the moral argument for free market capitalism.
It might seem that the best case for free enterprise is the material one. Free enterprise lets people make more money, buy more and nicer stuff, and have a greater degree of comfort. The freer our economy is, the more competitive the US economy is vis-à-vis the rest of the world. And so on.
But these aren’t our best arguments. There is another reason, a transcendent reason, for which free enterprise matters most—and this is the case we all must be able to make today.
We all learned early on in school that the Declaration of Independence claimed for each of us the unalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Note that the founders didn’t assert a right to be happy; such is the domain of tinpots and crackpots, of 1984’s “Ministry of Plenty” and Josef Stalin’s aggrandizing self-description as the Soviet Union’s “Constructor of Happiness.” So what, in practice, does this right to pursue happiness mean?
It means the right to define and earn our happiness through our ideas, hard work, and gumption, to earn our success by creating value honestly, in our own lives and in the lives of others. It doesn’t mean the pursuit of a big lottery win or an inheritance. Those bring money, but not happiness. And a mountain of evidence shows that after a fairly low threshold, more money doesn’t make us happier. The best case for free enterprise has nothing at all to do with money or material goods or wealth. Those are just icing on the cake. We must stop talking about free enterprise as just an engine of wealth creation. It’s much more than that.
In short, the secret to the pursuit of happiness is earning our own success; creating value with our lives and in the lives of others. This earned success is the fruit of hard work and just rewards in a system built on merit. Only in a free enterprise system is effort and innovation rewarded over connections and predation. (And this means that we have to draw a distinction between free enterprise, which is based on opportunity and competition between ideas, and corporate cronyism, which is just another form of statism masquerading as free enterprise.)
Here are 3 reasons why I think that social conservatives should support free market capitalism.
1) Right to work
It’s very important for Christians to have an economic system in place that allows them to work without having to promote anti-Christians ideas. But when government gets too big, what happens is that Christians are no longer free to take any job they want, and still keep a clear conscience. In some states, you have to join a union which uses your union dues to elect Democrats, who very often are liberal on social issues. Or, you have big government forcing Christians to perform abortions against their consciences. Or, you have big government forcing Christian organizations to provide health insurance plans that cover abortions and contraceptives. That’s why Christians need to vote against big government regulations on employment – we need the freedom to work at a job that does not violate our consciences.
2) Right to earn
It’s very important for Christians to keep what they earn so that they have the maximum amount of money to make decisions that make sense for them, according to their consciences. Take the example of day care and education. The big government statist is constantly trying to to create more and more government-run day care and public schools. Why? They want to take money away from families so that they cannot afford individualized private and parochial schools, and lump them all into government run schools that are more “equal”. The problem is that this is bad for Christians who want more oversight into what their children learn. For example, what sense does it make for a Christian man to pay for day care and public schools when he marries a teacher who becomes a stay at home homeschooling mother for his children? He has to pay for day care and public schools he will never use, and it eats into the money he has to afford a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. Christians should oppose a day care and education system run by a secular leftist government. They will never reflect the values of Christian parents.
3) Right to spend
It’s very important for Christians to have the freedom to purchase products and services that make sense in their worldview. Take the example of health care. Secular leftists would love to force private medical insurance companies to cover things like abortion and contraception as health care. In some states, these things are specified as mandatory for every health care plan. That means that Christians who purchase health care are being forced to pay for services like abortion which they will never use themselves. This is nothing more than the redistribution of wealth in order to lower the cost of abortions for people, in order to encourage them to be sexually active before they are able to accommodate children. Christians need to oppose this – we do not want to have to pay for things that go against our consciences.
So, in addition to the reasons that Brooks mentioned (the happiness of earning your own way and serving others), it’s important for Christians to understand how free market capitalism fits into their plans. We do not want to support big government, especially when big government so often is not compatible with Judeo-Christian values. In the free market, it is much harder for ALL the businesses to conspire together to block Christians from working, earning and spending according to their consciences. We must resist top-down control of the free market so that we have the liberty to do what we ought to do in order to be virtuous.
Part 1: The Eight Most Common Myths about Wealth, Poverty, and Free Enterprise
Part 2: Can’t We Build A Just Society?
Part 3: The Piety Myth
Part 4: The Myth of the Zero Sum Game
Part 5: Is Wealth Created or Transferred?
Part 6: Is Free Enterprise Based on Greed?
Part 7: Hasn’t Christianity Always Opposed Free Enterprise?
Part 8: Does Free Enterprise Lead to An Ugly Consumerist Culture?
Part 9: Will We Use Up All Our Resources?
Part 10: Are Markets An Example of Providence?
Parts 4 and 5 are my favorites. It’s so hard to choose one to excerpt, but I must. I will choose… Part 4.
Here’s the problem:
Myth #3: The Zero Sum Game Myth – believing that trade requires a winner and a loser.
One reason people believe this myth is because they misunderstand how economic value is determined. Economic thinkers with views as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx believed economic value was determined by the labor theory of value. This theory stipulates that the cost to produce an object determines its economic value.
According to this theory, if you build a house that costs you $500,000 to build, that house is worth $500,000. But what if no one can or wants to buy the house? Then what is it worth?
Medieval church scholars put forth a very different theory, one derived from human nature: economic value is in the eye of the beholder. The economic value of an object is determined by how much someone is willing to give up to get that object. This is the subjective theory of value.
And here’s an example of how to avoid the problem:
How you determine economic value affects whether you view free enterprise as a zero-sum game, or a win-win game in which both participants benefit.
Let’s return to the example of the $500,000 house. As the developer of the house, you hire workers to build the house. You then sell it for more than $500,000. According to the labor theory of value, you have taken more than the good is actually worth. You’ve exploited the buyer and your workers by taking this surplus value. You win, they lose.
Yet this situation looks different according to the subjective theory of value. Here, everybody wins. You market and sell the house for more than it cost to produce, but not more than customers will freely pay. The buyer is not forced to pay a cost he doesn’t agree to. You are rewarded for your entrepreneurial effort. Your workers benefit, because you paid them the wages they agreed to when you hired them.
This illustration brings up a couple important points about free enterprise that are often overlooked:
1. Free exchange is a win-win game.
In win-win games, some players may end up better off than others, but everyone ends up better off than they were at the beginning. As the developer, you might make more than your workers. Yet the workers determined they would be better off by freely exchanging their labor for wages, than if they didn’t have the job at all.
A free market doesn’t guarantee that everyone wins in every competition. Rather, it allows many more win-win encounters than any other alternative.
2. The game is win-win because of rules set-up beforehand.
A free market is not a free-for-all in which everybody can do what they want. Any exchange must be free on both sides. Rule of law, contracts, and property rights are needed to ensure exchanges are conducted rightly. As the developer of the house, you’d be held accountable if you broke your contract and failed to pay workers what you promised.
An exchange that is free on both sides, in which no one is forced or tricked into participating, is a win-win game.
On this view, what you really need to fear as a consumer is government intervention that restricts your choices in the marketplace, or makes some choices more expensive than they need to be (tariffs).
If you care about poverty, it’s often tempting to think that it can only be solved one way – by transferring wealth from the rich to the poor. But that is a very mistaken view, as any economist will tell you. The right way to create prosperity is by creating laws and policies that unleash individual creativity. Letting individuals create innovative products and services, letting them keep what they earn, making sure that the law doesn’t punish entrepreneurs – that incentivizes wealth creation. Fixing poverty does not mean transferring wealth, it means giving people more freedom to create wealth on their own. Free trade between nations is an important way that we encourage people to create better products and services that what they have available in their own countries.
Economists agree on the benefits of free trade
Who could possibly disagree with free trade? Well, many people on the left do. But economists across the spectrum of ideology (university and private sector and public sector) agree on the benefits of free trade.
Here is the list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:
A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)
Socialist economic policies don’t work because they are making policies that are based on economic myths. We know that these myths are myths because of economics is a mathematical science, and because we have tried good and bad policies in different times and places. We have calculations and we have experience to know what works and what doesn’t work. If you want to help the poor, you have to respect what economists know about how wealth is created. The solution is not to “spread the wealth around”, it’s to encourage people to create more wealth by inventing things that people freely choose to buy.
If you made it this far, I have a fabulous parody video about the perils of tariffs and the benefits of free trade, made by Remy. He’s a libertarian, but that just means we don’t listen to him about foreign policy and morality. Only fiscal policy.