I have written many times that free markets are for a free people, and that only a free people can sustain them. But slaves to sin cannot be a free people. And the only way to be liberated from slavery to sin is through the gospel that brings new life.
Another problem is that when slaves to sin spiral down into the civic slavery that is their natural civic condition, their masters will also be slaves to sin, albeit usually somewhat shrewder — at least for a short while. At some point the whole thing blows up for everybody, but the bottom line is that sin is the fundamental set of chains. You cannot hope to be enslaved by them, and yet be free in any sense that matters anywhere else.
Hayek, Friedman, and von Mises cannot keep people loving the freedom of markets any more than the wisest geologist who ever lived could have kept Cain from hitting Abel with that rock. Knowledge of the world is not the same thing as knowledge of the human heart.
Other foolish observers within the Christian tradition have seen that this is true, and concluded that the problem lies with Hayek, et al. “We need to have values other than free market values, etc.” This is to say that since sinners cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, we need to haul out the chains of compassionate statism. Make ’em do compassionate stuff and everything. And at the top of this atrocious pile is someone with a brightly doctored O on their Froward bumper sticker. But that campaign theme just makes me think of Prov. 3:32, and I don’t know why Obama picked it.
There is no salvation without a savior, and Jesus is the only savior. And how will they hear without a preacher? What we need is the gospel, what we need is a reformation, what we need is revival.
But in the meantime, Christian statists need to stop telling us that since unbelievers cannot manifest love, joy, peace, patience, etc. in their lives, that this must mean that love, joy, peace, patience, etc. are optional. “Let’s work around not having them.” What kind of sense does that make? Preach the gospel. Free markets are a fruit of the gospel, and you cannot praise free markets without praising the work of the Holy Spirit of God.
Someone once said that real capitalism is easy to defend, but hard to praise. I understand where that sentiment comes from, but I want to lean against it, hard. Adam Smith’s invisible hand (whether he knew it or not) was and is the right hand of the Lord Jesus, and marvelous are all His works.
If we preach the gospel in power and truth, the result will be a free people. And when we have a free people, we will have free markets. Only a free people will be able to trust the hand of God in their financial affairs and market choices, which is what the free market is — people trusting God. That is the only way we can have free markets for any length of time.
What we have now, crony capitalism, or what I call crapitalism, is how sinners try to cheat the system. But you don’t blame football when someone cheats at football. You don’t blame math when people get their sums wrong. You don’t blame gravity when you trip and fall on your nose. Or at least you shouldn’t.
Every form of Christian statism, regardless of how it is packaged and sold, is a sly attempt to arrange for the cheaters to be given control of the game. And the only way we can stop that — you guessed it — is to preach Christ crucified and risen.
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NB: If one of you clever Internet photoshop types wanted to make me one of those Froward bumper stickers, I would probably buy one.