I’m growing concerned about a trend in our culture that, on the face of it, may seem like just a change in economic values. That it is, but it is also a trend in a moral and spiritual direction. It may strike many as a non sequitur to see an economic belief as a moral and/or spiritual belief, but I believe they are inseparable. Economics, simply understood, is the science of how people behave in relation to their goods, services, and community. The word, as it comes to us through the Greek usage, refers primarily to “household management” (oikonomia). Adam Smith, the famous tap-root of the modern free market, was a moral philosopher.
The real evidence that economics is inseparable from morality is the reasoning behind much of the desire for socialism today: there are systemic injustices in a capitalistic society that need to be fixed by socialism. It is inherently a moral argument.
But is it right?
It has become a common headline that more and more young people prefer socialism to capitalism. In some of those same polls, we discover that the younger respondents are unable to define socialism. Add to that a few broad trends in our culture – a lack of historical education, a general disdain for Western civilization, a deep misunderstanding of several seminal thinkers – and you have a recipe for poor decision making.
What should the church and disciples of Jesus think? How should we analyze these things in light of life with Christ? These are the kinds of questions that obsess me when it comes to these trends.
Thankfully, there are several very thoughtful organizations out there doing a good job of working through these questions and coming up with thoughtful and well-researched answers.
I want to be able to think through this issue well and learn to write about it clearly, so I am launching my own economics project. My educational background is in Economics and then Philosophy. My life’s work has been as a Pastor Theologian. I want to put these things together here.
My first three inspirations for these posts are Acton’s “The Principles Project” arranged by Joe Carter, the economic theory of Wilhelm Röpke, and a recent book by The Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics, “Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism”.
My personal nutshell of the nutshell of my economic philosophy is: a free market guided by the rule of law and lived in by virtuous people thriving in robust local institutions. Let’s see how that holds up.