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Review of the Reviews: Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem

February 3, 2012

Found a review of this book Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem Jay W. Richards on CRI

Criticizing even Christians today as critical of capitalism (WOW; what a total turnaround from just 30 years ago!), it purports to debunk eight “myths”:

1–The Nirvana Myth, of the possibility of a perfect society in this world
2–The Piety Myth, or thinking that good intentions or simply loving Jesus solve all problems
3–The Zero-Sum Game Myth, that all economic trades are win-lose
4–The Materialist Myth, or “believing that wealth isn’t created, it’s simply transferred”
5–The Greed Myth, that all capitalism is founded on the deadly sin of greed
6–The Usury Myth, that Christianity necessarily opposes capitalism because of interest
7–The Artsy Myth, that capitalism necessarily creates ugly, cheap culture
8–The Freeze-Frame Myth, “believing that things always stay the same”

#1 ties in with the typical criticism of leftism as being “utopian”. But the way many rightists defend capitalism, they are in practice making the same mistake. This whole book and its reviews are a prime case where ideals are laid down, ignoring the sinful nature of men, who bend the system so that it does not work as they claim it does (points 3 and 4 are a great example of this).
But only when its flaws are unavoidably obvious, do they then come out with “no system is perfect”. The argument then becomes that (at least), it’s “better” than others, and thus, “the best in the world” (That’s the ultimate goal of their beliefs).
But this just dismisses the legitimate complaints of others under this system, while only their criticism of other systems are the only thing that’s valid.

#2 is arguing that using the “better”, more “practical” system is just as important as the more humane motives.

#3 and #4 is basically the whole “bigger pie” argument I discussed in earlier entries. Again, it ignores the loopholes and strings the powerful can pull, so that it in practice does seem to become a virtual “zero-sum” game. Just look at the economy! The failure for all this “wealth” to be “created” (when these people continue to be rewarded so richly, despite “overtaxing and overregulating” rhetoric), is just continued to be blamed on others (“liberals”, “socialism”, etc).

#5 dissociates capitalism from the sin it has become most associated with, but once again trumping ideals, often staked on the supposed “character” of the players (“…encourages enterprise. Entrepreneurs, including greedy ones, succeed by delaying their own gratification, by investing their wealth in creative but risky ventures that may or may not pan out”; “…not only channels greed into productive purposes, but unleashes human ingenuity, creativity, and willingness to risk as well”); and ignoring how they do not always play out that way in actual practice. It even claims “Rather than despising the market order, Christians should see it as God’s way of providentially governing the actions of billions of free agents in a fallen world.” (p. 214), which one reviewer ties to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” concept, which is based on the notion of “providence” which supposedly made this country so great in the first place, including through stuff like conquest and slavery, which were also very financially oriented as we saw.
(I’ve even seen this “invisible hand” said to be the Illuminati’s title for God, but we take it for granted! The reviewer, now on p.1 of Amazon, also asks “Is Adam Smith being elevated to the status of prophet?”, and also points out some of the problems with the argumentation).

But if we accept point #1, we should not have to disprove that it leads to greed. If leftist ideals lead to one set of sins, then capitalism leads to others. there’s no “Nirvana”, remember!

#6 explains why “interest” in the modern world does not actually violate the scripture’s condemnation of “usury”. I myself had always wondered about that one! The argument seems to be that interest today, is on money loaned to or by a bank, in which it was risky “and prevented the bank from using the money for other purposes”, and that it “allowed wealth to be created much more quickly than it had been before”, where the ancient money “wasn’t doing anything anyway”. Then, there are unfounded typical claims that we have always seen, such as “the Bible treats ‘risk, investment, and interest in a positive light’, and ‘describes enterprise as productive, not exploitative, and money as fertile, not sterile.'”

So I’m not readily sure how valid these arguments are (as it’s the first time I’m hearing them), but it does look to me more like assumptions and force-fitting the system into Biblical “principles” than any solid biblical exegesis.

#7 is basically a rehash of #5, and shifting the blame to another associated vice (besides greed), called “consumerism”. But the two go hand in hand.
The reviews rightly point out “what sets capitalism apart is not consumption. Consumption is part of every human life and economic system”. But then, of course, it goes into the virtuous ideal of capitalism “…requires that not all wealth be consumed, but that some be saved, risked, and invested. That means that consumerism is, in the long run, contrary to capitalism.”, and “The sorry symptoms of consumerism aren’t unique to capitalism, however. Rather, they derive mostly from the materialist worldview that seems to be everywhere.” “Materialism” has long been a code word for leftism or communism (the whole “Darwin/Marx/Freud” trinity of “godlessness”), which are long decried as “taking over” and influencing everything, including America. So this is basically yet another example of a between-the-lines blaming of capitalism’s problems on communism, as I have been pointing out.

If you want to blame another “c…ism” besides capitalism try corporatism (especially global)! (At least libertarians are more likely to point this out).

#8 is sort of like 3/4 again, but now turned towards the area of resources, rather than wealth. (It also seems to lead to a jab at issues such as global warming). The argument is that human ingenuity will force solutions that will alleviate these problems. This could happen, but then, we must wonder what happened to the Conservative Christian’s familiar claim that man is so evil (sinful) that things will only get worse, especially in light on “the great endtimes apostasy” (which leftism and everything else they condemns are supposed to be apart of. Though Hanegraaf is a partial preterist who likely doesn’t believe in that, but I don’t know what the author’s position is). All of a sudden, now, Christians are taking, what, again, is a sort of “utopian” idealistic vision.

Overall, the biggest proofs against this fervent uncritical praise of capitalism (as actually being practiced), is
•the illusion of scarcity (which 3/4 is going along with), and that, as pointed out in an earlier article,
modern capitalism is based on corporatism, while the original principles of the founders weren’t.

So what’s happening in all of these debates, is that people are upholding values of “freedom” aimed at “private”, yet actual, living individuals, but the beneficiaries of these “freedoms” today, in practice, are these “private”, yet huge, powerful artificial “persons”, which are basically minature governments, and which are intermingling with the state governments to boot!

In debates as to whether a person can do whatever he wants with his property, even if the community protests, if the community uses government, that may be seen as government opposing the right of the individual. However, all this government is in this case is a structure advocating an agreed upon consensus of multiple individuals. It is not some superhuman entity, as it is often portrayed (except in true dictatorships, where it enforces the will of one individual).
So what happens, is we either rule by “the people” (who are “represented” by a smaller group of individuals, as “leaders”) or rule by whichever “private” individual has the most money and acquired power. (Money to buy the assets).

One “government” entity (institutional entity carrying legal power) is as good as another, so the problems remain, and we just look for continue to place blame on the other party.

From → Politics

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