Socialism is Not Compassionate, and Why This Should Matter to Christians
Christians should care about politics because, ultimately, we care about people. Government has an increasingly large influence on the lives of people, thus we cannot ignore politics. Further, almost every law reflects someone’s idea of morality. Since God’s morality is ultimate and universal, society benefits by the Christian’s participation in the public square. That is, society benefits when biblical truth is reflected in law.
What we encounter in discussing societal issues today with Christians is that many think socialism is good. In fact, they think that it is distinctly compassionate, thus truly moral. In this essay we will examine why socialism—and its compadres marxism and liberalism—are in fact immoral and inhumane. Conservatism and capitalism, on the other hand, not only objectively produce better results for society, but are the most moral.
When I was younger, and filled with idealism, I embraced socialism. But over time, as I studied the evidence and really thought it through, I realized that my thinking was mushy. Truth became more important to me than my faulty idealism. I moved away from liberalism and socialism. ---Chris
First, let’s define our terms. Socialism is government mandated activities or government control of assets. Marxism is using the power of the state to take money from some groups of citizens and give it to other groups (“redistribution of wealth” or “social justice”). Liberalism is a broader term that encompasses both of the above. Progressivism and statism are synonyms for liberalism. Because there is so much overlap, we will use these terms more-or-less interchangeably.
Ten reasons why liberalism is not only ineffective but indeed immoral and inhumane:
1. Redistribution of wealth is not JUSTICE, it is THEFT. God did not give the Ten Commandments to Moses that read, “Thou shall not steal, unless Congress passes a different law.” In fact, the Ten Commandments rule out socialism because socialism legalizes theft (Eighth Commandment) and institutionalizes envy (Tenth Commandment)! Contrary to liberal thought, forced redistribution of wealth is immoral. True effective compassion is voluntary—from the heart—and for the recipient it is (a) challenging, (b) personal, and (c) spiritual. In other words, the down-and-out need more than money; they need encouragement and spiritual food. Government offers none of these criteria. Whenever wealth is redistributed, an injustice is done to at least one party. While government may legitimately encourage voluntary giving—and encourage institutions that facilitate it such as Christian organizations—it has no moral authority to force people to give by the heavy hand of the state. (Helpful book: The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky.)
"The only lasting solution to poverty is wealth, and only business—not government, not non-profits, not even the church—creates wealth....The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil; its pull is powerful, causing some to even walk away from the faith (1 Timothy 6:10). And we in the U.S., who are wealthier than any people have ever been, need to be constantly warned. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a moral quality to wealth. Nor does it mean that the essence of capitalism is greed. Market economies work, Jay Richards says, because they allow wealth to be created. Only wealth can reduce poverty." ---Richard Doster, https://byfaithonline.com/page/ordinary-life/christianity-and-capitalism
2. Socialism and marxism reduce our freedoms, thus leading to tyranny. Freedom, we argue, is a legitimate moral end in itself—an unalienable right. Remember the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is the foundational principle of America’s Founders, who, incidentally, were overwhelmingly Christian. It is no less true today than in 1776. America’s founders referenced 2 Corinthians 3:17 in support of freedom: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Liberty Bell declares from Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” With liberty, one's soul breathes. (Helpful book: Christianity and the Constitution by John Eidsmoe.)
3. When the government redistributes wealth it even hurts the people it is trying to help! This is not necessarily intuitive, but observable. The welfare mess is a classic example of failed government intervention. We have 50 years of experience which proves that oppressive utopian ideas of “compassion” only imprison the welfare class into perpetual poverty. An interesting current comparison is Texas vs. California. Texas has a conservative philosophy of government while California has taken the liberal utopian route. Texas, as of October 2009, had an 8.3% unemployment rate, while California’s unemployment rate was 12.9%—55% higher than Texas. Who is doing a better job for its citizens, including for the working class? Socialism is oppressive to the poor. (A book that is crucial to understanding the problem is Uncle Sam’s Plantation by black author Star Parker.) Watch this fascinating short clip of Milton Friedman on the Phil Donahue show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A.
"Business, working through free markets is possibly the greatest force for good on the planet today....Business increases prosperity, ends poverty, improves the quality of life, and promotes health and longevity of the world's population." ---John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods
4. Every time the government gets involved in something, in the long run it hurts the economy. We must get over the ignorant idea, however well-intentioned, that the economy is a static entity—and like a pie—that if one group of people has a larger piece of the pie, others get a smaller piece. A market economy is not a zero-sum game. The accurate view is, if government policies do not stifle the economy, the whole pie grows producing greater benefits for all. A dynamic economy creates wealth. Economics is about growing the pie, not dividing it. The simple fact of life is that the sectors of the economy that have the larger pieces of the pie are the most productive ones that generate the pieces of the pie for everyone! Remember that the government does not produce anything. So every dollar taken out of the productive economy (or distorts the productive economy) reduces the total output of the economy. Interference in the economy either by direct action or through regulations ends up decreasing the wealth of the country rather than increasing it. Regulations add to the cost of production, lessening efficiency and raising prices—which in turn lowers demand. When this occurs, those at every income level suffer. Further, armed with the power to tax, government fosters stupid economic decisions because it is blinded without a profit motive. A recent example is how the federal government—through both legislation and Federal Reserve policy—encouraged banks to make home loans to people who could not afford them, precipitating the housing collapse. One must be blinded by pre-conceptions to fail to see that any intrusions into the economy with Soviet-like utopian ideologies are ultimately disastrous to its people. The more utopian liberalism is introduced into the system, the poorer it performs. (Important books: How Capitalism Saved America by Thomas DiLorenzo and How Capitalism Will Save Us by Steve Forbes. Also, watch this short video about how the government worsened the Depression: http://dittosrush.blogspot.com/2009/11/thomas-sowell-explains-great-depression.html).
5. Socialism reduces the incentive to innovate and produce. Christians are often not used to thinking about economics. But we should. If we are interested in increasing charitable giving, we should grow the economy as much as possible so that philanthropy is possible. Is your church’s giving better when the economy is healthy or when more people are on welfare? Capitalism has a firm historical and intellectual foundation in Christianity, yet is attacked by liberals as not compassionate. Liberals have the misplaced notion that profit is immoral. The voluntary exchange of goods and services for profit is not immoral. The fact is, the profit motive is the engine that grows the economy and has produced every modern convenience. Just take a moment to think through the things in your life and ask yourself why they are there. From the food you eat to the products you use, there has been an enormous amount of entrepreneurial energy and innovation that has made these things available to you. Government, on the other hand, not only does not produce anything, it creates shortages. Milton Friedman said, “If the Government was in charge of the Sahara Desert, there would be a shortage of sand.” An example in the real economy would be government health care. It is a certainty that the currently proposed government takeover of medicine will lead to fewer doctors. In one study, 45% of doctors would consider quitting if Congress passes health care overhaul. Bright students, faced with huge costs to attend medical school, will choose other fields. Such is a logical outcome from absurd policies. If we cover more people, we would need more doctors, more nurses, more hospitals, and more clinics. Promises of universal coverage cannot overcome the reality of universal shortages—leading to poorer service and rationing. This is certainly immoral. Socialism actually reduces incentives for productive activity of both the classes from whom the money is taken and to whom the money is given. If a father continually takes money from a successful son and gives it to a slothful son, eventually both sons will become less productive and tainted. (For a discussion on biblical capitalism verses darwinian capitalism, see http://www.faithfacts.org/blog/biblical-capitalism.)
Steve Forbes (see his book How Capitalism Will Save Us) contends that with the rise of democratic capitalism humankind has become wealthier and healthier than in all previous centuries combined. In a democratic capitalist economy, he says, people interact in networks of cooperation that "teach discipline and moral lessons—from the importance of showing up for work and handling money responsibly to the value of teamwork."
6. Studies show that government is much less efficient at the same tasks as private enterprise or charity. At least one study (http://www.gerrycharlottephelps.com/2009/08/fed-govt-wastes-more-money-than-business-charity.html) showed that Government administrative costs consume 35-55% of the total expenditures. So in the health care debate, for example, if insurance companies make a 3-7% profit on sales, they are still hugely more efficient at delivering health care services than government. And unlike the profit made by private concerns, that 35-55% loss by government benefits nobody—it is essentially lost (wasted). Is there not yet enough outrage at story after story of pork barrel spending in Congress? How numbed does one have to be to fail to see that government by its very nature not only wastes money but is bent to cronyism and fraud? Of course, man’s inherent sinfulness can show up in any organization. But the government has never run an efficient system of any kind anywhere, with the possible exception of the military.
7. Socialism rewards failure. Consider the takeover of General Motors. There have been hundreds of automobile companies that have failed in our history. Every once in awhile, the free enterprise system purges itself of the losers, only to be replaced by more efficient producers that have a better model how to deliver more goods and services that consumers want to buy at a price they can afford. It is suicidal for society to resist this trend. A key tenet of investing is to cut your losses and reinvest in more promising things. In an investment portfolio, nursing your losers leads to a stagnant portfolio of trash. One may think, at first glance, that it is compassionate to save jobs by government interference. But in the long run, the economy is held back by government interference, hurting everyone. Check out this article which explains how even our prized anti-trust laws and the progressive income tax tend to reward the inefficient producers and slow growth: http://mises.org/daily/3856.
Socialist communities fail because non-productivity is tolerated. In socialist economies, high goals aren't set, lousy work is condoned, there's no motivation to improve one's living standards, government quashes incentive and innovation, and assets are routinely misapplied. Therefore, there is nothing to encourage the investment of one's time, effort, or assets.
8. Socialism and marxism ultimately lead to financial destruction. The U. S. budget death spiral in which we now find ourselves places us at a very serious risk of economic collapse. See our blog entry, “U. S. Budget Death Spiral”: http://offgridblogger.wordpress.com/. As Margaret Thatcher said, “Socialism works until you run out of other people’s money.” Let’s just consider the centerpiece of the liberal socialist agenda—Social Security. It is a madoff/ponzi scheme. It taxes workers to pay for those who are retired. There is no actual “Social Security Trust Fund”—even though this term is still commonly used. The liabilities of the Social Security system are unfunded promises to pay retirees. Together with Medicare, these transfer payments are by far the largest item in the federal budget, and are the primary reason why the federal government is on the brink of bankruptcy. The Social Security tax burden hits the low income worker’s budget the hardest. And studies show that if workers were to put what they pay in taxes instead into a conservative personal investment account over their working lifetime, they would have substantially more income at retirement! And they would own the account and thus have something to pass on to their heirs. See http://www.socialsecurity.org/reformandyou/you.html.
9. Liberalism destroys the Rule of Law. America is the heir of the Rule of Law, which originated with the Hebrews in ancient times. America’s Constitution is quite clear that there are specific enumerated powers of the federal government, and all powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states. The liberal agenda in legislation and court rulings has openly ignored the Constitution. Considering federal health care legislation, there is absolutely no authority in the Constitution to force people to buy something they do not want—yet our legislators could care less. When the Rule of Law is destroyed, despotism takes over. The result is predictable: If history is any judge, in time the Constitution will completely crumble into shambles and the United States of America will dissolve. History proves that the yearning for freedom always pushes man to demand the freedom that he is convinced is a God-given right.
"Jay Richards poses the question: How is wealth created? Economists, he explains, can't easily answer the question, but Christians can. The key source of material wealth in a modern market economy, he says, is not material—it's spiritual. According to Richards, 'Wealth is created when our creative freedom is allowed to prosper, when it's undergirded by the rule of law and suffused with a rich moral culture.' Mankind's unfettered creativity reflects God's image, and this, Richards points out, is one of the least appreciated truths of economics." ---Richard Doster (https://byfaithonline.com/page/ordinary-life/christianity-and-capitalism)
10. Liberalism not only breeds hatred but indeed contributes to people’s deaths. Because liberalism is a relativistic worldview, some people are ultimately expendable. We see this in every leftist government, but fail to make the connection to this ideology at home. Liberals attack conservatives as being self-centered, money hungry, and uncompassionate. But who are more likely champions of the innocent unborn and the elderly? The current health care debate should heighten the awareness of who is concerned about the almighty dollar over human rights. It is the liberals who are willing to cut back on mammograms for middle-aged women to save a few dollars. It is the liberals who would ration care to seniors to save money. It is liberals who want free abortions—taking the lives of millions of innocent unborn children. We ask: who are truly compassionate and who are the hypocrites? Further, liberalism pits one class of citizens against another. It especially fosters hatred, envy, and covetousness toward the successful rather than admiration and inspiration. Bitterness filters down in an organization too. We ask you to consider how you are treated by government employees such as those behind the counter at the Post Office or tax office compared to most for-profit business. In which setting are you more likely to get more personal warmth and upbeat, caring service? Ironically, socialism is inherently heartless, while capitalism is inherently caring for the customer. Remember that a business’s survival depends on the satisfied customer. Related to this in an important way, liberalism also often discourages faith in God or creates new gods suitable to a pre-conceived ideology. It is no accident that the further left a government becomes, the less religious it is. Full-blown leftist governments are atheistic. (Helpful book: Godless: The Church of Liberalism, by Ann Coulter.)
We remind our readers that both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia had Socialist in their names. Nazism is short for National Socialism. The party led by Adolph Hitler was the National Socialist German Workders Party. Communist Russia was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Objections Considered: The socialist may object to these arguments by saying, “But wait. People have rights.” For example, in the current health care debate, we hear that people have a right to health care. But this is incorrect. Health care is not a right. It is a good/service—like food, clothing, shelter, or life insurance. And the way to distribute these things that is the least expensive to the consumer with the best quality is through private enterprise. The free exchange of goods and services is the most moral and the most effective means of distribution. America’s Declaration of Independence is an historic document that philosophically defines rights. Rights are God-given to personhood rather than something conferred by government. In particular, life is a right. A good or service is not a right.
Indeed, America's Declaration of Independence explains that liberty—that is, freedom from government interference—is also a right. So liberals who say that something like government health care is a right in fact have it backwards. Government interference into health care tramples on liberty and thus tramples on (that is, abrogates) our rights!
Liberals place large emphasis on the spread between the most successful and least successful in a capitalist country. But That spread is even larger in socialist countries. Huge wealth is obtained in socialist countries by cronyism, using political power to garner an advantage. In true capitalism, political power advantage to a few is eliminated. Under capitalism, wealth is obtained by those creating the greatest service or most desirable products that others freely purchase. Which system is the most moral?
Summary: Conservatism is constructive. Liberalism is destructive. And nowhere in the Scriptures do we read anything that even remotely resembles socialism. We are not arguing that government has no role to play in society. We are arguing that there are usually constitutional solutions in the free market that are much more effective while being morally upright, consistent with human rights—and biblical.
For further information on the Bible and Government, see our articles: