Parable of the Ten Investment Portfolios

Given the emphasis that the president placed on “income inequality” in his 2014 SOTU speech, I thought it necessary for us to review a few things from the Bible. We have wandered so far off from the teaching of Jesus that some of this pandering seems compelling and/or compassionate to us. It is actually evil.

Allow me to say a few things in this second paragraph that will seem outrageous to some, while doing so in the hope that you will then allow me to explain myself. I have argued repeatedly that free grace creates free men, and that free men are the only ones who can create free markets. Free markets are God’s design for us. If you don’t love the idea of free markets, you don’t love Jesus rightly. Christian discipleship requires an understanding of, and deep love for, economic liberty.

So why invoke Jesus by name? Why bring Him into it? First, He is the Lord of all things, including what we do with our money. So there’s that. Second, in his fine book Friends of Unrighteous Mammon,  Stewart Davenport shows that in 19th century America,  two contrary camps developed among professing Christians (and they have been with us since). He called them the “clerical economists” and the “contrarians.” The clerical economists followed the insights of Adam Smith, but did so within a decidedly Christian framework. But as they did this, their language did not emphasize Jesus so much. They were more about “the spirit of Christianity” and a “that wise and good Providence.” Their work was “curiously lacking in overt references to Christ,” even though they were orthodox Christians. Their opponents, the contrarians, went the opposite direction. Their teaching was all about Jesus, and individual discipleship, and the hard sayings of Jesus . . . and that engine was hooked up to socialist assumptions. In short, those Christians with sound economic understanding allowed themselves to be rhetorically outmaneuvered, and allowed the left to have the rhetorical high ground. But coercive taxation is not the way of Jesus, and blessing your neighbor with an actual job is. And so, no, let’s not leave Jesus out of it.

And so, speaking of the difficult words of Jesus, let’s take a look at the parable of the ten investment portfolios.

“As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me’” (Luke 19:11-27).

Ten servants are each given a mina, and we hear a report back from three of them. One made ten minas with his one, and another made five minas with his one. They are both praised. These men were investing in their master’s work in a city that despised their master, and had all kinds of negative things to say about him. The third servant, influenced by all the bad things being said about the “austere” master by these chattering classes, went and buried his mina. The master then judged him according to the false perception he had created for himself, and his mina was taken and given to the man who had earned ten. This grievous action, according to the naysayers of that wicked town, was simply compounding the great problem of “income inequality.” It used to be ten to one, and now it was eleven to zero! And then, to top off this narrative told by gentle Jesus meek and mild, the master summons those who had spread the lies about him in the first place so that they could all be slaughtered in front of him.

So yes, Jesus is the one who told the rich young ruler to give it all to the poor. He is also the one who told people to take one mina from this poor servant and give it to the rich servant. Do not make superficial judgments, especially with the words of Jesus.

Enough with their wicked city, and back to our wicked city. Our demagogues harangue us repeatedly with the lie that the wealthy need to pay “their fair share.” So what share are they currently paying? The top one percent (the ten minas people) are those who earn over $343,927. They pay almost 37% of all federal income taxes. The top five percent, those making $154,643 and up, pay about 59% of federal income taxes. The top ten percent (the five minas people) are those who make over $112,124, and they pay 70% of all federal income taxes. At what point, then, will they finally start paying their “fair share”? At what point will the envy of the liars be exhausted?

We are not just a nation of murderers and perverts. We have legally (but unlawfully) executed tens of millions of unborn Americans without so much as the pretense of a trial. We are moving inexorably toward sodomite mirages, an open invitation to the God of Heaven to flatten us. But we must not leave out this issue of theft. We are represented by thieves in Washington because we vote to send them there, and we vote to send them there because we are a nation of thieves. We want representatives who will look at a man with ten minas, and at me with my one, and we want them to take some from him and give it to me. The current faction controlling this city (those citizens who hate the rightful ruler of it) is more than willing to distribute the minas in that ungodly fashion.

But the rightful king is returning, and we should remind ourselves this state of affairs will not always be so.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • Andrew

    Can you share your sources for the tax numbers? It isn’t that I don’t believe you, I just want to look at it on my own.

  • Randall Compton

    I would love to see you write a full-length book on this subject.  Strange, isn’t it, how perverse our hearts are?  God has given us the freedom to give of our own (what he has given us) till our hearts are content–and our hearts generally reach that state of contentment with giving of our own rather quickly.  He has not given us the freedom to play Robin Hood, taking and handing out other folks stuff. I think many who speak of “economic justice” are thinking in “Robin Hood” terms.  They, of course, are the good guys in the economic justice narrative.
    Perhaps this issue of giving away other people’s stuff is also an unbelief issue; we don’t believe God will continue to give to us as we give to others, so we quickly turn to other “revenue sources” to help fund our “feel good” charity. 

  • katecho

    It’s probably not too early to refer to our current system as the greatest financial crime in the history of mankind to date.  The Federal Reserve (which is neither part of the federal government, nor does it have a reserve of anything but ink) has been conjuring about $85 billion every month for the last 5 years.  Their stated purpose for this mammoth intervention (over a trillion dollars a year) is to spur the economy, but it appears the only way we’ve managed to show even a meager GDP growth is by tampering with the way GDP is calculated.  To put this in perspective, Quantitative Easing is equivalent to over $250 every month for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.  That’s over $1000 for a family of four.  Every month.  If the FED actually sent you this money every month, do you think it might warm up your local economy?  I imagine we wouldn’t have to cheat on our GDP formula to notice the economic consumption/stimulus that would result.  Our economy would get red hot with activity.
    But this isn’t what they are doing.  Instead, they give these billions to the private central banks which use it to offset the toxic investments already on their books.  The money isn’t just sitting on the computer.  It allows them to continue forward with new investments in other assets, such as government bonds and commodities, which devalues the currency for those who are trying to save.  It also causes economic grief in other countries who are not pumping money this way.  Imagine if US investors showed up in your country with buckets of FED money and started buying everything up.  It would cause tremendous disruption.  Many countries can’t play the game we play because they don’t have a strong enough fiat currency to manipulate.  We are abusing our dollar status in an oppressive, criminal way.
    So who is benefiting from this FED “intervention”?  Look at who is accumulating assets under this climate.  It’s not the middle class on Main Street.  It’s those who are first in line to play with this newborn money, having financial connections with the central banks.  So wealth is being transferred upward at an increasing rate, contrary to the political blathering about income inequality.  They are simply lying to us.  We are busy trusting them.  The abuse probably won’t end except by force.  As long as there is a FED, our politicians don’t care about economic equality at all (let alone the socialist dream of income equality).

  • Darius T

    One might say that the king of Gondor is returning soon, and as the steward, the Church should be ready to return the city to him with interest.

  • jigawatt

    Wow! Banks actually used to pay out interest!?

  • Melody

    I believe that Robin Hood was merely returning the people’s money to them that had been stolen by the king.  Most people think he was taking from the rich and giving to the poor, but the money had actually started out with the poor. 

  • Tom

    Good point Melody. Ayn Rand had an unfavorable view of the legend of Robin Hood, but only as propaganda used by the Prince John’s.  Also in the story there is the return of the rightful king, which sort of echoes the parable at hand.

  • Kyle B

    Great catch on the Robin Hood narrative. He gave back to the masses what the government had wrested from them. I’ll never watch the Errol Flynn classic in the same way. He just wanted the people to live lives of liberty in Sherwood Forest.

  • Alli

    What Katecho said. Also, why are you assuming that the king’s servants in the parable, correlate to the income brackets of the USA? It seems arbitrary to say that they correlate to “really rich”, “rich”, and “not rich” here and now, people who may or may not be “rich” or “not rich” due to being faithful servants. I always thought of the servants as correlating to us servants in the Kingdom of God and either being faithful to the King(Jesus) or unfaithful. 

  • Thaddeus

    And even if the rich were paying equal taxes everybody else, that would be fine. If the rich got their wealth by illegal means, than it should be looked into, and if they earned it, than we shouldn’t punish them for their initiative and hard work. A poor man isn’t inherently better or more worthy than a rich man.

  • Eric Stampher

    Bravo.  Your then = now math = perfect.  Gotta rib you though on the “rightful king is returning” amil leaning, which I applaud too.

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Why is “fair share” additive? Why does the parable of the talents mean “treasure on earth”? And, why the Kantian definition of freedom?

  • Steven Opp

    Matt, why the Kantian definition of “earth”? ;)

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Steven: I was told to hate the Kantian definition of earth too, and I submit. :P More seriously, “freedom” is a much more controversial idea than is “earth”. Pr. Wilson used to be very stridently opposed to “autonomous” understandings of man. But now he’s stumping Kantian autonomy. Which is also very confusing to me.

  • Geoff

    Here’s the tax info:—Individual-Statistical-Tables-by-Size-of-Adjusted-Gross-Income

  • Douglas Wilson

    Matt, I still am ardently opposed to an autonomous understanding of man. We live under the authority of Christ, and He is the only one who can authorize the rezoning of Naboth’s vineyard, which, in that case, He didn’t. Freedom is defined by the Word of God, not by an ultimate “leave me alone” libertarian vibe.

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    It’s your understanding of man’s relation to man–particularly, your definition of freedom as freedom from–that seems Kantian, not your understanding of our relation to God. What happened to us being interdependent, to Rosenstock-Huessy, to Chesterton’s quips about fences that free, to C.S. Lewis’ critiques of advertisement? Do those only apply vertically?

    The issue is that the market enslaves using different forces than the government, but enslaves nevertheless. A world with licentious, willy-nilly, arbitrary markets, (which are better descriptions of it than “free”) is not a world that offers itself to Christ, but a world that offers itself to capital. The market enslaves by offering us an infinite number of choices, but no reason to choose, no Ka, as ERH would call it. And I, like Odysseus sailing past the Sirens, needs bounds to free me.

    Freedom isn’t freedom from, freedom is freedom to respond, from my unique location. Freedom is created by being addressed (“Hear O Israel” frees). And we are all addressed, since the heavens tell the Glory of God, commanding the nations “Shema”. And then God choose his particular people, a people unique on the earth, and commanded them “Shema”, and thus frees them. But he didn’t stop there, but the Shema became flesh and dwelt among us, and we all, gentile and Jew, are commanded to listen to Him. And listening to Him, in the Scriptures, in the Torah, on the lips of friend and stranger, frees. Freedom is not freedom from, it is hearing.

  • juan

    Granted their is a lot of envy out their but we ALL must see our own self interest motivated bias. Something tells me the top 10 to 1% have their own vices maybe perhaps of greed which our wise benevolent Lord spoke much about as well. We should also take into consideration the love of money from the top down that effects all financial classes, and it is this cancerous greed I believe accompanied with envy that is killing us all poor and rich and all in between. I agree with some of the posts but disagree with the overly victimizing the rich which I feel was portrayed here.
    I personally agree with a low flat tax for everyone rich and poor.

  • Lynne
  • Jeff

    Tax information is available at

  • David Douglas

    Assuming for the moment your points are valid about what things offered in the market being enslaving and things being received from the market by slaves who are further enslaved (that’s my interpretation; I echo others who find your writing a bit hard to follow), what should be done about it?  The issues here are heart issues and largely come under the purview of Christ’s charge to the church to disciple the nations.  I can think of no government action or formalized mass responses to admonitions from the critics (like yourself?; again I can’t tell) that would do anything but make things worse.  And I think that is generally his point:  free markets and quit looking sideways.  The solution to abuses is for sanctified players in the market to offer goods & services wisely and to purchase them wisely.  Doug has made the point numerous times that slaves in a free market are hanging out downstairs in the ball, chain, and cuffs section of the store.  That he didn’t say it here doesn’t deny what he has said before.  You can’t say everything all the time.

  • Zack

    As I’ve held for years there will never be taxation high enough, redistribution thorough enough nor rhetoric vitriolic enough about inequality to satiate a public yearning to satisfy a desire to live at increasing levels of comfort at other people’s expense. It requires utterly no character, discipline nor virtue to advocate that other people “help the poor” and yet by doing so a man can sound holy and righteous. For one hundred and fifty years popular socialism has refined its relentless methods. Socialism is inevitable anywhere until it collapses the system. It take courage for haves (and have-nots for that matter) to push back against theft in word and dead. Freedom is a worldview with everything to loose and nothing guaranteed. Guarantee is of course what people think they have with the State.
    A related point is this ridiculous and IMHO, utterly wicked, push for an increased minimum wage. Somehow the federal government has taken it upon itself to decide that a person cannot work for less than $7.25/hour. In other words a citizen has no right to offer services for less than that. How is that moral, righteous, just or kind? Where is the righteous indignation  there?

  • Benjamin Polge

    You’re criticism of the ‘arbitrary’ market assumes a view of man that is not taught in scriptures. The Sirens compelled people against their will. People who were lured in by their song were not culpable of their actions as they were not acting as free agents.
    Contrasted with that is the free market. Markets create choices, yes, and an overwhelming number of them. People make bad decisions, even foolish ones, but they remain free decisions. 
    The reason your assertion falls short of the biblical view of man is that it makes man a purely reactionary being. We receive input (in the form of bright and shiny things) and we react to that input in some sort of pre-programmed way. Either this response is biological or it is cultural or whatever moniker you would want to put on it, the end result is the same. In that view, man is not responsible for his actions and thus needs someone (wiser, more enlightened…. stronger… whatever) to protect him from himself.
    The bible says that God will hold each man accountable for his every thought, word and deed. Free markets assume this anthropology and thus put the responsibility of sin mitigation on the people. Regulated markets assume the opposite, thus putting the responsibility for holiness on the elite, wise few. I leave it to you to decide where that leaves your position.

  • Arwen B

    Somehow the federal government has taken it upon itself to decide that a person cannot work for less than $7.25/hour. In other words a citizen has no right to offer services for less than that.

    I ran into this with my first job.  I little to no experience in garment alteration, and I asked the store owner if it would be possibly for her to pay me less than the minimum wage ($5.15 at the time) until my skills were worth that.

    Obviously she couldn’t, and even though my skills improved over that summer, I was never fast enough at the work to earn my hourly wage. She finally gave up on me and started paying me for piecework… which is what she should have been doing from the start, quite frankly. But since minimum hourly wage is the standard default…

  • Aaron Richmond

    But Matthew, freedom can be ‘freedom from’ if the object of that preposition ‘from’ is something other than God, no? Because, as you say, freedom is hearing (which I take you to mean, submitting ones will and life to divine authority), governmental authorities screaming messages contrary to God’s get in the way of that hearing that is obedient to God. So freedom from having to hear and obey an unrighteous government command becomes freedom to hearing and obeying what our God has to say.

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    David, Benjamin, and Aaron: 1) Did you read the essay on the Ka from Rosenstock-Huessy? 2) Since I dispute that “free markets” are “free” in any relevant sense–rather, they are libertine, willy-nilly, arbitrary, and licentious (do I need to tell you that these words all mean free?)–it doesn’t do to keep appealing to them as “free”. 3) Yes, it is possible that specific commands are unjust. That’s not at issue. But their removal does not free us, except in that it it takes away the cacophony. But it isn’t clear that the market is free in the true sense, namely, that it listens to God’s commands, rather than being merely undirected (actually, you’ll have to do some pretty hefty argumentation to show that the “arbitrary market” is in fact free, and not libertine). 4) There is no speech nor language that does not hear the Market’s Shema: Hear O Nations, the Market your God, the Market is One. Really, only governments have the power to silence that a bit. True, the often try to give the Market a megaphone. But at other times, they resist it–as for instance, with a new higher minimum wage.

  • Benjamin Polge

    I guess I am having trouble with your distinction of ‘free’ and ‘arbitrary, etc.’. Are you saying that God’s providence is not at work in the marketplace and is thereby human controlled? Or are you saying that it is not ‘free’ in the sense that it has not been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and therefore is still a slave to sin, a la Romans 8? Or did I miss the point entirely?

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Benjamin: Have you read the ERH essay? Freedom is not freedom from restraint, but freedom to follow a summons. Jesus says “Go, make disciples…” and we have been following his summons for 2,000 years. Torah said “Hear, O Israel…” and Israel followed this summons (about as well as we have followed ours). Without a summons, without a ka, without projection, there is no freedom. Rather, better words to describe lack of calling is “arbitrary, libertine, willy-nilly, and licentious.” If we take restraints from the market, we do not thereby make it free, since that would be to *give* it a calling. We make it libertine. So it would be better to say that Pr. Wilson is defending libertine markets rather than free markets. When restraints have been removed, market is not free, since it has no calling. (I don’t mean a “calling”, but that it doesn’t respond to a call.)

    Is it free of providence? No, no more than, say the heart of Nero was, or President Obama’s executive orders are. But that isn’t relevant to the question at hand.

  • Benjamin Polge

    no, I confess I have not read the essay. The PDF you linked to was 241 pages and I simply do not have the time to process through that much information at the present moment. I have downloaded it and added it to my list… thank you for that at least.
    But to address what you’ve said in this thread, by your arguments (still assuming that I understand them correctly) then what you are imposing is an Arbitrary, libertine, willy-nilly, and licentious regulating body imposing libertine controls on the market. The call on the market would have to come from civil authorities, and where would their call come from? Certainly not from the Bible, as the controls on civil authorities are to ‘restrain evil’ not to do good. Any attempts to regulate the markets beyond the evil clearly marked out in scripture would thereby fall out of the given call… making them the libertines. 
    However, if looked at in the light of providence and God’s restraining hand… the market is moving by His will and His good pleasure. Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion… these are all economic activities in the end. The call is upon all the children of Adam and their successive generations, and the market where these individual actions take place.  Civil authorities would do well to recognize that fact. 
    Providence has everything to with the issue. If God is not sovereign, then unrestrained markets are truly libertine. However, if God is sovereign (and He is), then civil authorities that do not recognize His sovereignty over the market are the libertines. 

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Yes, the PDF was long. Scroll through to the section on Ka. Regarding the rest of your paragraph: I’m not imposing anything. Do you mean proposing? (I’m confused.) But that doesn’t quite make sense either. I’m not proposing that the market be controlled by the government, I’m confused by this silly modernist definition of freedom. I don’t think you understand what I’m saying, so I can’t respond to the rest–with one exception. What is freedom according to you, and according to me?

    The one exception: Sure, the Market is under providence. As is disease. And as is President Obama. But you take medicine to regulate disease. And resist the President to regulate politics. So why not resist the Market–I mean, you object to government regulation on other grounds, but that “providence” argument says that we shouldn’t regulate it at all.

  • jiagap

    “The current faction controlling this city (those citizens who hate the rightful ruler of it) is more than willing to distribute the minas in that ungodly fashion.”
    Don’t forget to add that the current faction controlling this city takes his cut in the process. 

  • Zack

    “I ran into this with my first job.  I little to no experience in garment alteration, and I asked the store owner if it would be possibly for her to pay me less than the minimum wage ($5.15 at the time) until my skills were worth that.”

    That’s the problem. Too many talking heads and politicians somehow think that forcing would be employers to think that individuals’ skills are “worth that” will make it so.  The non-creation or destruction of paying work is just one unintended (I’ll be generous) consequence of a wage floor. There are other huge opportunity costs in the way of time lost in experience, networking, skill development, and just mere character growth.  Not to mention other cost shifting that happens due to distortions caused by the price controls. If labor costs are propped up in on place it’s going to draw from somewhere else.  Most people don’t have the foggiest idea what the role of a job is in the larger place of the economy let alone in smaller domains like a firm. You have a job working for a firm because they have decided to pay you rather than do it themselves. If you hire somebody you do so because you choose to have certain things done rather than do them yourself.  Get paid a salary, commission or wage for a service is an exchange of value for value in the clearest economic sense.  You value the $xx.xx and the other party values that widget being made, fixed, ran or sold.  You can offer more value for value. The employer can offer more value for value. You both can end the arrangement. That’s it. Trying to force arbitrary, third party values on top of the goods, services, labor or the medium of exchange leads to disaster with shortages and over production.  Right now we have just that. We have people making $7.25/hour who, in a free economy, would likely be paid half that or less. In the same vein we have people making $7.25/hour who, in a free economy, would likely be paid twice that.  Is that justice?


  • Aaron Richmond

    Matthew, I can’t help but think you’re not allowing for Doug’s qualifications. From his second paragraph:

    I have argued repeatedly that free grace creates free men, and that free men are the only ones who can create free markets.

    Does free grace make a man free in an “arbitrary, libertine, willy-nilly, and licentious” sort of way? Of course not. So why would the free market created by such men somehow become all these things? Take his comment to heart: He’s not talking about ‘leave me alone’ libertarianism. It’s not a libertine market argument he’s making. He’s arguing for men whose market dealings are marked by obedience to God’s call for how men ought to interact with each other, and then showing how things are currently outside of that call.

  • katecho

    Matthew N. Petersen’s disingenuousness aside, I don’t think anyone is disputing that sinners do many sinful things within a free market.  However, Matthew is in error to suggest that a free market is one without any criminal restraints.  The problems of the free market are not the result of a lack of sufficient criminal restraints.  Similarly, the problems within ancient Israel were not due to a lack of sufficient criminal and moral restraints.  They had God’s perfect Law.  Rather the problem was lack of converted heart, and unbelief.  They needed the law written on their heart.  The State cannot fix this cultural condition by turning more sins into crimes, or by increasing socialist interventions and market manipulations.  This notion is very tempting, but false.  Such attempts (even if sincere) only mask the natural consequences to the unconverted culture, and make the problem worse.
    Confiscating the wealth of a sinful, greedy, heartless banker or CEO, and giving handouts to low-income families, does nothing to change anyone’s heart.  What it can do is cause class bitterness, callousness toward the truly needy, entitlement, and dependency.  This is just what we are seeing today with the Statist interventions already in place.
    So, contrary to Petersen, a free market is not one without criminal restraints, rather a free market is one where theft and other such criminal behavior is swiftly addressed by the State, but the market is able to find its own level, according to natural consequences of reaping what one has sown.  Not everything a sinful employer does is a crime, but in a free market, he will reap what he sows.  The more godly the culture, the sooner things find their level, the swifter the market consequence.  But even so, consequence does come.  God has made the whole world that way.

  • Andrew Lohr

    Ayn Rand blasted Robin Hood and then created Ragnar Danneskold (sp?), the pirate/philosophy student/bishop’s son in “Atlas Shrugged” who did the same kind of thing, taking from the takers to repay the producers?

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Aaron: Let’s take with what seems to be your suggestion for a definition of “freedom”, namely, “obedience to God.” A “free market” is defined as “A market economy in which the forces of supply and demand are not controlled by a government or other authority” (from wikipedia). That is, “free” in “free market” does not mean “free”–that is, obedient to God–but rather, follows the Kantian definition of freedom as “freedom from”–a “freedom” that would be more accurately described as libertine (from liber = free), licentious (from licentia = freedom), willy-nilly (from will I-nill I = will I, will I not = choose this, choose that) or arbitrary (from arbitrium = choice). That is, it would be more accurate to talk about arbitrary markets than free markets. We could then argue whether arbitrary markets are freer than non-arbitrary markets, whether they promote free men, or whether free men would want them. But the only way that we can say “freedom, therefore free markets” is if “free” is used unequivocally in the premise and the conclusion, namely, (since Pr. Wilson is arguing for unrestricted markets) “without restriction”. That is, the argument only works with a Kantian definition of freedom. Hence, my contention that Pr. Wilson is insisting on on a Kantian definition of freedom.

  • Brent

    Matthew, I think you are being overly subtle here. A man and a market can never be “free” in exactly the same sense because they are fundamentally different things. It seems perfectly acceptable to use the word “free” in two different senses here. If you click on the tag “The Good of Affluence” there are some great posts of his that help connect the dots from God’s grace to free markets (sorry, don’t have time to go back and link them right now). 
    Now, if you want to say that we don’t live in a society of free men (in the biblical sense), you’ll find no disagreement here. But then the question isn’t “which kind of free?” The question is “Since most men are not free, are there situations where the government should create barriers in the market?” I think that’s a more complicated, but more relevant question.

  • Brent
  • Brent

    And another good one:

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Brent: Sure, it’s fine to use them differently. But “free men therefore free market” is as good an argument as “free men therefore free love.”

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Regarding the first link: There was no private property in Israel, but rather familial property. And the commandment not to steal is not dependent on private property. The second link either says “it is good economic practice not to have government interference”, which may be true, but does not support the conclusions about Jesus requiring free markets in this post, or is just a “free men therefore free love” style argument.

  • Aaron Richmond

    Matthew: We seem to be talking past each other. I understand you’re arguing against what you see as Doug’s argument for a market without restriction. But I think Doug agrees that the market should have restrictions and I get that from his stipulations that the kind of free market he’s talking about is one made by free men who have been freed by God’s free grace. So the last part of wikipedia’s definition “…not controlled by government or other authortity” would not fit with what I take Doug to be saying because the forces of supply and demand would be subject to God’s authority in a free market (using what I take to be Doug’s definition). This is just like his point about coercion: it’s not that a government shouldn’t coerce, but that it should only coerce when it has explicit biblical warrant to do so. 

    This, of course, raises the question: how can the forces of supply and demand be subject to God’s authority? This can only happen if the people who create those forces of supply and demand are subject to God’s authority (that is, if they are free men). As katecho mentioned, free men are still sinners, so there will be intentional and unintentional sins associated with such a market, and the government should play a role here with punishment and regulation. The burden of this Doug’s post here is to show how the government’s out of line as they play their role and that this is because they’re a government elected by slaves (that is, men who are not free–set free by free grace–or, at least, men who haven’t applied their freedom to their understanding of economics yet).

    So, as far as I can tell, you’re using the wikipedia definition of a free market and rightly critiquing it, but you’re critiquing it as something Doug is agitating towards because he’s used the term ‘free market’ in his post. Is it not possible that given his stipulation about a free market being the product of free men (who are in turn products of free grace), and his comment that he’s not for libertarian anarchy, his position is not contained within the wikipedia definition? 

    In other words, if you take Doug writing “Free markets are God’s design for us” and plug in the wikipedia definition, then Doug’s would, indeed, be saying a bad thing. He’d be saying that God’s design for us is to have no authority over what we do with our money (wikipedia: “…not controlled by a government or other authority”). But wait, Doug also wrote this: “So why invoke Jesus by name? Why bring Him into it? First, He is the Lord of all things, including what we do with our money.” Therefore, I conclude that his definition of a free market is one that is free in the true sense, not in the Kantian sense.

    I’ll probably check out after this. Seems we’re both just repeating ourselves. Feel free to take the last word.

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Aaron: Do you think that men who are freed by grace could have their government place restrictions on the market, in order that it be free? And if wikipedia were changed to “not controlled by government or other created authority” would it accurately describe “free market”? If it is, we often put restrictions on things to make them free–a violin string is freed by the tension, a child may be freed by a father’s command–why not here?

    Please do comment, I think we’re actually starting to get somewhere.

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    I think the real issue is whether government has the authority to put restrictions on the market, not whether a “free market” is ideal.  But if so, the claims that “If you don’t love the idea of free markets, you don’t love Jesus rightly” don’t work. This is a disagreement between Christians on adiaphora, regarding whether government has authority to speak to to the market. The argument I’ve seen is that we should only use authority we have explicitly been given. But the problem is that whenever we speak we are using authority, and if that law is followed, we may only speak in Jesus name, and never else–so we can’t even ask for the peas to be passed at dinner. And the argument I’ve seen for the scope of government is based on Romans 13. But Romans 13 does not command the government to do *anything*, it makes an indicative statement about one part of the reason there are civil governments. That may be the only reason, and it may not, and Christians can legitimately disagree over that issue. But either way, it isn’t a command to government telling them to punish wickedness–just look at the grammar.

  • Brent

    Matthew: You said ” But “free men therefore free market” is as good an argument as “free men therefore free love.”” I’d agree with you there. The point of my linking those articles is that Doug has fleshed out his position in much more detail than just “free men therefore free market.” I would still like to see the full argument. Even reading the linked posts it’s not fully clear to me how he arrives at “If you don’t love the idea of free markets you don’t love Jesus rightly.” But he has developed his position more fully than you seem to give him credit for. In response to a couple of your other questions: If “free men” meant “perfectly sinless” men, then we would have no need of governmental influence in a free market. Restriction on a market would not make it more free. Since even free men can sin, and since we do not live in a society of free men, I think it’s appropriate (and biblical) for the government to step in sometimes. I can see where restricting the sale of alcohol to those of legal age can make the market more free in our society. The thorny questions are What restrictions? Where? How much? and Where should it stop? But I would submit that’s not because a free market is inherently problematic; it’s because men are sinful. You also asked previously if a free market promotes free men, and if a free market is something free men would want. I say no, of course a free market doesn’t promote free men. It’s the other way around, as Doug states. And I say yes, free men should desire less restriction on their economic activity because they are the kind of men who know how to rightly use their freedom without government involvement.

  • katecho

    Aaron Richmond wrote:

    “As katecho mentioned, free men are still sinners, so there will be intentional and unintentional sins associated with such a market, and the government should play a role here with punishment and regulation.”

    My concern was to distinguish sins from crimes.  In a free market,, the government has a direct role in punishing market crimes (theft, safety and health violations, bribery, etc), but not market sins more broadly considered (greed, lust, pride, gluttony, sloth, etc).
    Just because something is sinful does not make it a crime.  In a free market, the government does not interfere to pick winners and losers, to redistribute earnings, or to set prices.  These interferences are usually justified by the State when they are unable to identify a specific crime within their jurisdiction, yet they determine that a certain sin needs to be rectified by the sword regardless.  As I mentioned before, the nanny State’s attempt to address sin (rather than specific crimes) actually masks the consequences of that sin such that it deepens or pops up in other ways (such as class bitterness, entitlement mentality, dependency, etc).
    Furthermore, the State’s attempt to be our (sword-swinging) Mother is to violate the role of the Church.  So when Doug Wilson writes:

    “If you don’t love the idea of free markets, you don’t love Jesus rightly.”

    I would extend this observation to say that:  if you love the interference of the nanny State, you don’t love the Church rightly.

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    Brent: We roughly agree.

  • Steve H.

    Pastor Wilson,
    Over the several years I have been reading your blog you have intimated that you believe the income tax is theft.  This resonates with me but I have questions (What government taxes are lawful?).  Could you recommend any resources that make a more thorough case for your view which also anticipate the objections sure to come from the other side? 
    Steve H.