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Can Christians Be Capitalists

Can ... Be ... A K ... reasons of space, we have to be very concise in this ... ... we mean people who put Christ first in their livesas their guiding ...

Can Christians Be Capitalists?
by A K Whitehead

For reasons of space, we have to be very concise in this article.
By Christian we mean people who put Christ first in their lives
as their guiding principle. These are not those who call themselves
Christians but who live independently of the Body of Christ.

What Is A Capitalist
A capitalist is one who owns capital. From an economics perspective
capital is not money or finance. Capital is what is used to produce
goods or services: machinery, tools, equipment, etc. It used to be
said that the distinctive feature of a capitalist is that he can wait,
in distinction from a worker who cannot wait because
what he acquires from his work is what he needs to live from week-to-
week or month-to-month.

Labout And Capital
To be a capitalist, therefore, one must have the means to wait. Mainly this
is because goods and services all come into being only through some
process of production. And such processes inevitably involve time and
therefore waiting. This is the initial source of the capitalists market power,
and the inherent cause of labour's market weakness. One sees this power
struggle in every industrial dispute, especially when it engages the ultimate
strategy of the strike, when called by labour, or the lockout, when called
by capitalists.

Capitalists And Markets
There is another aspect attached to waiting which is central to the
question we are discussing. How do capitalists behave within a competitive
market environment?

Behaviour is considerably determined by the market. His basic objective
is to survive. What does his survival depend on? Profits. Without profits
he will not continue into the long run.

On what do profits depend? There are many parts to this answer, but the
principle components are efficiency and establishing a market advantage.
The latter, in turn, depends on out-thinking and out-performing competitors.
That means producing at a high quality level or, what amounts to the same
thing, a lower real price level.

This takes us to the real nub of the question we are addressing. Where
markets are highly competitive, out-performing competitors is difficult.
So long term survival is difficult because every organisation will be
pressured into using the same most, efficient technology and prices will
be competed to levels which produce relatively low levels of profit.

No-one likes this kind of situation because it is constantly threatening to
the long term objective of survival. Yet, conditions of uncertainty are the
norm. And market capitalists do not like uncertainty. They have always
and will always attempt to reduce uncertainty. They do that by, one way
or another, getting rid of the competition. It is a remarkable paradox that
the greatest argument in favour of a market system, its competitiveness,
is the one thing which market participants spend their time trying to get rid of.

Eliminating Christianity In The Market
Eliminating competitors unavoidably means eliminating Christianity from
the market environment. Competitors are got rid of by driving them out
of business before one's own organisation is driven out. And that is the
major principle involved in long term survival. Historically it has frequently
involved illegal means, but in any case it involves taking every advantage
and using every possible means to outreach and eliminate competitors.

In The Wealth Of Nation published in 1776 at a very early stage
in the development of market capitalism, Adam Smith, who coined the
phrase about the iron hand of the market, pointed to the essential
characteristic of any market: that it works on the principle of selfishness.
Markets deliver the goods only when participants operate in their
own self interest.

So the basic principle of market capitalism is diametrically opposed to
the fundamental teachings of Jesus. He taught a number of principles
which are damming to the market system. One could quote many scriptures
from the New Testament, but a major one comes in Luke 6. 27 - 36.
To quote only verse 31: Do to other people what you would have
them do to you.
Space will not permit further quotations. This whole
question at length is discussed at length in my book The Path To
But this passage is sufficient and is supported by many
other teachings of Jesus.

And we do not have to be capital-owning entrepreneurs to be a
culpable part of this system..Even those of us at work are in a market:
a labour or jobs market, in which we all participate. And we get on
primarily at the expense of others. We often do to others what we would
certainly not want them to do to us.

The Consequences?
Anyone who reflects on the extensive non-Christian aspects of markets
must reach the conclusion that it is a system incompatible with the basic
principles of Christianity. It even grabs Christian feast days for
itself. Just consider the commercialisation of Christmas and Easter. In many
respectsFree Articles, one would have to conclude that its principles are satanic - but
we have all be bought by the system!

Markets do deliver the goods. More goods and vastly greater standard
of living than ordinary people could ever have expected or dreamed of. But there
has been a price. A spiritually horrendous price. It is expressed primarily in the
way we treat others.

So what are the personal consequences and implications for the Christian?

Article Tags: Long Term

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A K Whitehead
Web Site: Email:
Experience: Over twenty years in Christian healing, teaching and writing.
Qualifications: B.A., M.Phil., Camb Univ Cert in Religious Studies
This article may be reproduced on condition that it is unaltered and that all
this information is included.

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