Christianity and the Marketplace (from an interview with Lawrence Reed)

I read this interview last night and thought I would share it with you. I thought Reed’s response to the following question was excellent:

Israel Wayne: Does your personal religious faith in any way shape your view of macro-economics? Please explain.

Lawrence Reed: First of all, I don’t much care for the adjective “religious.” To me, “religion” is man’s attempt to gain God’s approbation through works. Christianity, by contrast, is a personal relationship with Christ that starts with God’s grace and one’s acceptance of Christ as his (or her) personal savior.

Secondly, I wouldn’t say my faith shapes my view of the economy any more than it shapes my understanding of the weather or how a car runs or a plane flies. Objective, observable facts, evidence and natural laws are the keys in such things, though I fully appreciate that the only reason we can even have such scientific tools is that we live in an ordered universe, itself a divine creation and gift.

Where my faith does play a part in economics is in the area of what’s right and what’s wrong. My understanding of Christian principles about human nature and proper behavior leads me to appreciate the uniqueness and preciousness of each individual. It leads me to oppose excessive concentrations of earthly power in any mortal hands. Christian principles call for honesty, humility, patience, respect for life and property, self-discipline and voluntary interaction over brute force. They argue definitively against cheating people through currency debasement, redistributing their wealth through taxation, or pretending that a handful of “experts” with power can or should plan the lives of everybody else. My Christian principles tell me that reforming the world begins and ends with individual self-reform and cannot be achieved by “enlightened” planners pushing the rest of us around.

The Eighth and Tenth Commandments against coveting and stealing by themselves should invalidate most of what the federal government does these days. “Thou Shalt Not Steal” is followed by a period, not a qualifier. It does not say, “Thou Shalt Not Steal except under the following conditions: the other guy has more than you do, you really want it, you’re absolutely sure you can spend it better than the guy who earned it, or if a politician is available to steal it on your behalf.”

37 thoughts on “Christianity and the Marketplace (from an interview with Lawrence Reed)”

  1. He sounds like a solid man who should run for office.

    Merry Christmas, JLP, and the rest of the P family (and fellow readers!)

  2. This is why redistributionists must deny God. If they accept the existence of an almighty God, then it is He who did the “distributing” in the first place. To RE-distribute, they would have to put their own wisdom above God’s. It is much simpler to simply deny His existence.

  3. Jack’s logic is exceptionally twisted in that comment. I guess it was evil when goverments the world over abolished slavery too?

    The bible is very pro-slavery, for example specific laws laid out detailing how hard a slave may be beaten. Answer: as long as the slave survives a day or two after the beating, it was not too hard.

  4. It’s interesting that he opposes a concentration of power. Yet he believes a system that concentrates power at the top. Seems he just doesn’t understand how the world really works. He believes God dispenses rewards on the worthy and that such power is justified. Unless of course he disagrees with who has the power and then it is the devil’s work. That’s how Obama became president, of course.

  5. BG: Any good Christian historian will tell you that the appearance of Christ ushered in a new dispensation, so the Old Testament rules that seem to condone slavery (though aimed at moderating its worst manifestations) do not apply today. Christ would applaud the abolition of slavery in recent times, and especially the fact that the movement to end it was led by Christians. Slavery was previously supported and sanctioned by governments; indeed, it likely couldn’t have existed without them.

    Retiredat40: You make leaps of assumption here about my views that are simply not true and not warranted even by inference from what I said in the interview. The “concentration of power” the Bible refers to in terms of the Creator is utterly unlike the concentration of power in the hands of mortals, which is something the New Testament warns against. For example, God doesn’t stop you from writing errors; a human dictator might not only prevent you from doing so, he’s even more likely to FORCE you to write errors.

  6. @Lawrence W Reed,

    One thing that I have learned is that there is no religion greater than the religion of economics. Most Christians do not believe half of what they claim to believe. But you can be sure that all economists believe 100% of what they claim and no amount of evidence will sway them. That’s true religion. I’ll leave you to both your version of Christianity as well as economics. I find both versions equally ridiculous.

  7. > [He] believes a system that concentrates power
    > at the top.

    Actually, no. God HAS all the Power, but gave us Free Will.

    > He believes God dispenses rewards on the
    > worthy…

    No, He dispenses them as He sees fit. That He does NOT dispense as we are worthy is called Grace.

    > …and that such power is justified.

    That Power is God’s. How can it not be just that the Creator has Power over His creation?

    > Unless of course he disagrees with who has the
    > power and then it is the devil’s work. That’s
    > how Obama became president, of course.

    God allowed the Hebrews to have a King, too. He told them it was a Bad Idea, and told them all the Bad Things a king would do. But the Hebrews insisted that they wanted a king. So God gave them what they asked for — to their detriment.

    THAT is how 0bama became president.

  8. Retired,

    Please explain your version of economics. It’s clear you don’t like “right wing economics” (whatever that means. So, what’s your version?

    If you could wipe the slate clean and start over, what would you do? Maybe that’s a good question of the day.

  9. Realize that there is no perfect form of economy or government until Christ returns.

    As humans, we must choose alternatives and make choices based on what is best overall. OVERALL, if you want a thriving economy, then it’s best to let prices rule and allow FREE people to make choices based on that.

  10. I think I’ve wasted enough time here already. But I don’t have a version of economics. Economics is largely theory and influenced to a great degree by political views. Expressions of economic theory are largely world views — a belief in how the world ought to work. That’s why Mr. Reed’s views simply echo how he believes the world should work and he talks such nonsense as government taxation being theft.

  11. Retired,

    Government taxation CAN be a form of theft. Think about it. Politians make promises of benefits to certain voters, get elected via those voters, and then pay for the program by taxing the wealthy (the fewer number of voters). That is theft. It’s especially theft when you consider that close to half of the country doesn’t even pay FEDERAL income tax (ignorning payroll taxes).

  12. Retired, if you take money from someone on the street and give it to your elderly mother, that is stealing. If you hire someone to steal from someone on the street and give the money to your mother, that is stealing.

    How is it any different when you hire a politician to do it?

  13. Taxation is the price for society. Think about it. That’s how you fund roads, bridges, highways, public education, military and all the rest. All the things Americans love and do not want to cut, something both Republicans and Democrats are overwhelmingly in agreement on and continue to pay their taxes without much complaint.

    You talk a lot about half the country not paying income taxes. They don’t pay income tax because of the following:

    –personal exemptions
    –individual deductions
    –child tax credits
    –401(k) contributions

    You personally don’t pay tax on roughly your first $59,000 which I have never heard you complain about. But if someone else gets the same deal, you think it’s a problem.

    Which of those do you personally favor getting rid of? You can’t be FOR something and AGAINST it at the same time. If any of these are touched, Republicans will go nuts.

    Yes, the rich will pay the majority of taxes because they have all the money. They also need to buy off the public in order to continue their business-friendly policies. When the average American starts paying a large percentage in taxes, it will be the end of the Corporate Welfare state.

  14. That is what we call the “all-or-nothing” argument. Since taxation for public projects (roads, bridges, schools, etc.) is OK, taxation for any and every reason is OK.

    But the U.S. government does not have the Constitutional authority to tax for any reason, but only “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”

    It does NOT have the authority to collect taxes to pay individuals’ personal debts, to provide for individuals’ personal protection, or to provide for individuals’ personal welfare.

    I’d be quite happy to have a flat tax w/o exemptions or deductions. A national sales tax would be even better.

  15. Lawrence #5) I welcome your list of NT bible versus that are anti-slavery (they don’t exist). However, there are some pro-slavery NT versus:

    Ephesians 6:5-9
    1 Timothy 6:1-5
    1 Peter 2:18-29

    As for your assertion that “the movement to abolish slavery was led by Christians” — that may be true, but the slave trade was also led by Christians too.

    1. BG, I looked up I Timothy 6:1-5 in the ESV Study Bible. Their notes led me to I Corinthians 7:21. Here is what they have to say about the word “slaves” as it is used in the Bible (bold mine):

      “The Roman institution of being a “bondservant” or “slave” (Gk. doulos; see esv footnote and Preface) was different from the institution of slavery in North America during the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Slaves (bondservants, servants) generally were permitted to work for pay and to save enough to buy their freedom (see Matt. 25:15 where the “servants” [again Gk. doulos] were entrusted with immense amounts of money and responsibility).”

  16. Slaves are slaves. They aren’t paid labor. Even if some did get nominal pay, they were owned as property. They were not minimum wage workers.

    Read the about the warfare exploits of the Jews in the Old Testament when they were a tribal culture. The Bible specifically states that it is fine for Jews to own slaves as long as they are not Jews.

    Not only that, the Bible instructed Christian slaves to be respectful of their masters if they were Christians. Because after all, they were “helping” a fellow Christian.

    In addition, the Southern Baptists were a pro-slavery sect. They used the Bible to justify the slave trade.

  17. Yes. You’ll have to rationalize that. Not to worry, it was mostly the Old Testament which doesn’t count anyway except when it does.

    Read some Exodus where it states that if a master beats his slave to death with a rod, he shall be punished. But if the slaves survives the beating, he shall not be punished because he is his property.

    Sounds like good clean work if you can get it.

  18. Matt 25:30

    “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

  19. Retired,

    There are lots of other verses in the Bible that talk about how we should love one another. You choose to focus on the ones you don’t like in order to justify your view of the Bible and then you tell me I’m the one justifying. That’s why I said we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  20. BG,

    I’m certain employment looked much different in the days of the New Testament than it does now. And, since when did “servant” mean “slave”?

  21. Oh brother. The Bible says all kinds of crazy stuff. It has some nice parts and it has the ugly parts. You, like 98% of weekly churchgoing Christians, have never read the Bible fully. You have only read your favorite parts and you rationalize away all the ugliness.

    I’ll give the Southern Baptists the nod on this one. They say you either gotta believe it all or you gotta throw it out. Every word of the Bible is true because God wrote it. If it condones slavery then God condones it. Period.

    The Bible is what it is.

  22. Yes, you are “familiar.” I grew up keeping the Sabbath on Sunday. I am familiar with it too. But like you, I never bothered to read most of it.

    Let’s not get in a huff about your rationalizing when you choose to believe that slaves were simply hired hands. You didn’t have any idea what the Bible says about slavery and still don’t and have sought out an obvious excuse for it.

    That’s why your response is the classic: “Let’s focus on the good stuff.”

  23. The “New American Standard Bible” uses the word ‘slave’ instead of ‘servant’ — along with a long list of other translations that use that word as well.

    Do you think Matt 25:30 is saying that the slave/servant is set free when they are “cast into the outer darkness”? Or is the slave/servant still under the master’s control while they are “weeping and gnashing teeth”?

    Anyhow, going back to the Bible and taxation — Jesus was pretty clear that taxes are to be paid, and nowhere is there indication he thought taxes were “theft”.

    Math 17:24-27
    Math 22:15-22
    Luke 2:1-5
    Romans 13:1-7

    Jesus was accused of opposing payment of taxes, but Pilate found that charge baseless (as well as all the other charges against him — Luke 23).

    And if you want to get all “Old Testament” there is the old law of Gleaning: purposefully leaving some of the crops in the field (after harvest) for the poor/strangers/widows — basically a redistributing tax.

  24. BG,

    You left out the verses before where the master rewarded the other two servants for increasing their talents.

    Jesus lived in a time before “democracy.” Promising voters free things at the expense of the wealthy meets the definition of theft, don’t you think?

    I’m not against paying taxes. I just think the tax code should be fair (as do you).

  25. Retired,

    I didn’t say, “let’s focus on the good stuff.” I was merely saying that we choose to look at what we want to look at.

    Yes, the Bible says a lot that I don’t understand. I figure my job is to trust God and He will make clear all that I need to know, when I need to know it.

  26. “Jesus lived in a time before “democracy.” Promising voters free things at the expense of the wealthy meets the definition of theft, don’t you think?”

    Is it theft when I pay higher taxes than someone who tithes (donates) to their church? Likewise, is it theft that religious organizations are exempt from taxation?

    Is it theft when I pay taxes to fund wars I don’t believe in?

    Is it theft when I pay SS-taxes to fund old-folks’ retirement, knowing that the system won’t be around when I retire?

    The answer is no to all of these, because I don’t see taxes as “theft”. Taxes are payments to government to provide services for the betterment of us all. I disagree with government spending that is mostly championed by Republicans, you disagree with government spending that is mostly championed by Democrats. Both are funded by taxes, and none of that taxation is “theft”.

    The spending (and taxation) was approved by OUR elected representatives — if you don’t like the spending/taxing then work to elect new representatives.

    “I’m not against paying taxes. I just think the tax code should be fair (as do you).”

    Correct, I’m for a fair, flat tax, with absolutely no allowances for any exemptions/deductions/loopholes of any kind — collected by the IRS based on Congressional spending (no deficits allowed). This servers two purposes: 1) it is fair/just, no group is taxed more/less than another. 2) it eliminates a major part of political pandering (promising tax breaks to certain groups for votes).

    As Retired #16 says: you, yourself, are not paying income taxes on at least $59,000 of your income: personal exemptions, standard/itemized deductions, child tax credits, 401k tax shelters, etc, are allowing you to avoid a “fair” tax rate (there are groups paying a much higher tax-rate than you yourself are paying).

    Note: I’m also not calling your $59k tax-free income “theft” either, because the law allows it. Doesn’t mean I don’t want the law changed though — similar to how the biblical pro-slavery laws were changed in modern times too.

  27. > And if you want to get all “Old Testament” there
    > is the old law of Gleaning: purposefully leaving
    > some of the crops in the field (after harvest)
    > for the poor/strangers/widows — basically a
    > redistributing tax.

    Except for one important thing, BG — it was VOLUNTARY. There was no government enforcement of that requirement.

  28. > Taxes are payments to government to provide
    > services for the betterment of us all.

    But the transfer payments are NOT for the betterment of all, but for the betterment of those who receive them.

  29. I wonder what Mr. Reed has to say about corporate CEO’s making millions of dollars while their workers don’t get paid enough to support their families?

  30. It has always been the case that unskilled labor makes no more than survival wages. If they made more, unemployed, unskilled laborers would take the job for less.

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