Given the state of government education in America today, there is naturally a great and growing excitement among the youth of today concerning the tried and failed policies of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Or, as they might put it in Brooklyn, it sometimes seems the yoots are all in. After all, if we can put a man on the moon, why is it beyond our reach to bring the cornucopian glories of Venezuelan wealth production here? People, it is not beyond our reach!
As this enthusiasm would seem to be inexplicable and insane, and since we can count on the leadership of our soft evangelical left to start to pamper it anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to present three basic biblical arguments against socialism. We apparently are in need of a short little primer.
Well, here you go.
Meum and Tuum
When the seventh commandment prohibits adultery (Ex. 20:14), what is presupposed in the restriction? Well, the institution of marriage is presupposed. Because there is such a thing as another man’s wife, or another woman’s husband, the crime of adultery becomes a possibility. If there were no marriage, there could be no adultery. The prohibition presupposes the institution of marriage, and obviously exists in order to protect that institution.
So in a similar way, when the eighth commandment prohibits theft (Ex. 20:15), what is presupposed there ? I will tell you. The institution of private property is presupposed. The institution of private property is being honored. The prohibition presupposes the institution of private property, and it obviously exists in order to protect that institution.
People try to get around this by pretending that this reality doesn’t apply to socialism because we are talking about governmental policies, not porch-climbing burglary. The Bible only prohibits theft in the private sector. I see. So if Ahab had done what he did to Naboth via a program of land reform, or eminent domain, or zone redistricting, Elijah would have nodded to himself, saying “that’s more like it”?
Property rights are human rights. Without the inviolable right of clear title, human rights are as worthless as a piece of UN stationery can make them. I will say that again. The reason why socialist governments have such an untrammeled record of abusing human beings is that they begin the entire process by denying one of the foundation stones of human rights, which is property. Pure and simple, without a deep respect for property that the government cannot touch, human rights declarations are nothing more than the flattering words that turkey farmers offer to the turkeys in the run up to Thanksgiving.
But I should anticipate one obvious question. Since the Scriptures do have a category of legitimate taxation (Rom. 13: 6-7), and because a government can obviously steal, where is the dividing line between the two? When does legitimate taxation become theft? The answer I would offer is this. When the government uses its powers of taxation in an attempt to rival or surpass God’s financial claim on us (which is the tithe), the government is abusing its authority to tax. (1 Sam. 8:15) But the fact is that most of us think that getting taxation back down to 10 percent seems like a libertarian opium dream. This just shows us just how far gone we are in our idolatrous statism.
How the Envy Crackles
Socialists are blinded by envy, which is why they consistently rail against the only ones doing anything to lift people out of poverty. This is why their favorite whipping boys are always variations on the “1%.” At the same time, since crackling envy is not to be considered as an internally consistent worldview, but rather a congeries of tangled lusts, hatreds, and desires, the phenomenon of limousine liberals is born. The fabulously wealthy can swank around like there was no tomorrow, trying to harness the powers of hatred and destruction.
A story is told about Leonid Brezhnev who, in the waning days of the Soviet Union, bought himself a fabulous dacha. Quite proud of his acquisition, he was showing his mother around the grounds — the manicured lawns, the placid ponds, the out buildings, the stables, the palatial house, and so on, and as they were completing the tour, his mother was inexplicably sober and quiet. He, puzzled by this, asked her what was wrong. “But Leonid, what if the communists come back?”
Fortunately, there is a diagnostic test that can help you determine if you are in any way afflicted by this spiritual disease. What would you say if an authoritative-looking angel appeared to you, and placed a button on the table in front of you, and said that it was a wealth-creation button. He then went on to explain the rules of the game. If you push the button, every poor person in the country would have his wealth tripled, and this tripling would be in real terms. In others words, they would all be three times better off in their lived experience, purchasing power, and so on. The price, if you want to call it a “price,” is that every rich person would have their wealth multiplied ten times.
If there is any measure of spiritual reluctance in your heart about pushing that button, then, as Pogo once famously put it, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”
This test reveals the central folly of socialism, and every other system of economic unbelief. It is the folly of believing that wealth is a zero sum game — the idea that if one person gets a bigger slice of pie, then this is necessarily at the expense of someone else, who must get a smaller slice. But this assumes that the pie does not and cannot grow. This is where the unbelief comes in. This is the heart of all of it — believing that God is stingy. But that is not the case. Not even close. “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
We have already addressed the moral component of governmental thievery above, but there is another aspect to it. We should remember to distinguish the moral aspect from the competence aspect. Because socialism is thievery on a massive scale, there is no way for these lords of the earth to keep track of everything, and so it rapidly descends into an economic beclowning.
In other words, there are pirates, and we do disapprove of them. As their competence increases, so does our moral disapproval. There is a sense in which we really disapprove of competence in piracy. But if a particular bad guy is Blackbeard burying an enormous treasure on a sandy Caribbean island somewhere, socialists are a band of drunken pirates in Port Royal, having decided to buy rum with their haul, to go on a six-day bender, and to pee it all into the bay.
This elicits a different kind of disapproval. The moral problems with the thieving are consistent across all forms of piracy. Of course. But for them to cause all the heartache and mayhem they cause for the sake of so much Stupid is kind of hard to process.
In a Nutshell
So there it all is. God says not to steal, and this applies to governments. God says not to be envious, and this applies to everyone, including the people manipulated by those politicians adept at stoking the envy. And God says not to be an incompetent loon, and so we ought not to wad up trillions of dollars in order to throw them at the moon.