Tag Archives: capitalism

Capitalism: Get Out While You’re Still Saved?

At it’s very foundation, Capitalism works because of people’s selfishness. Adam Smith the Father of the modern capitalist economy said,

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

I’ll begin, for the sake of Virgil, by saying that in practice in our society, I have not seen or know of a better system then capitalism. I’ve thought that there is a chance a different governmental or economic system would better serve society, but I’m not sure, nor do I know enough to argue, that it would. That being said, Capitalism still has it’s downsides.

We often make choices and contribute to systems that we believe in and agree with. There are personal and moral reasons people boycott stores, flee countries, choose not to vote, refuse to pay taxes, or live off the grid. It’s a much more daunting task, but I wonder if we should not at least consider the same possibility as it relates to our economy.

If our economy by it’s very structure encourages us to act in our own self interest, it goes quite counter to the life that Christ calls us to. And if our economy by in it’s flaws creates a structure of economy that oppresses people, then it goes against our calling to love our neighbors. Is there a way to remain a part of that system, to contribute to it, play a role in it, and benefit from it, yet in a way that still allows us to fully follow Christ?

We don’t know much about a large portion of Jesus’ life but it seems likely that he was a carpenter for most of his adult life. It’s possible he paid taxes and was involved as much as the next person in the economies of that day. Yet, during his ministry we see challenges to the structures in place. He makes satirical play of a question about taxes. Jesus when the tax is required conjures it up out of the mouth of a fish. He dines at people’s homes, relying on the hospitality of others rather then his own wages to provide food and shelter. When he dines at a Tax Collector’s home though, isn’t he benefiting from the corrupt system?

It just seems that economy is another area that Christians don’t think about at all. We just take for granted the system that is in place and don’t consider whether it’s appropriate to be involved or if there is another way. When Mindy and I went to Papa Festival they tried to use an alternative currency during the event. It was similar to the Ithaca Hours, which a whole city adopted. It seems like a creative way to step out of the current economic system (though it seems like it’s just replacing it with a similar one, although more local and maybe less corrupt).
Maybe we are supposed to be moving off the current economy and joining the Amish. Or maybe there is a way to involve our selves in the economy of the world in such a way that it is still honoring to God and not involving ourselves in a corrupt structure.

Biking as a form of capitalist rebellion

I bike to work. I have for most of this year and to a large degree I’ve biked as many places as I could since I was in high school.* The two primary reasons I have choosen to bike are financial and physical.
I don’t like cars. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy driving, especially my stick shift, but I could do without. Cars cost you money no matter how much you drive them (licenses and tags, insurance and oil changes) and then they cost you money when you do drive them (gas and maintenance). I’ve had some bad experiences with cars (three of which I put about $400 into to fix and they promptly broke less then a week later). When I average repairs and everything out (except gas) it has cost Mindy and I about $1000 a year to have a car. It has cost me much less then $100 a year to have my bike (far less if I hadn’t had two stolen). Every day I bike to work I save money, and then environment and more.
I don’t like ‘working out.’ It’s not that I hate fitness clubs, I just find it silly that we’ve advanced our technology so much that we don’t get enough exercise in our daily routine. Now we schedule in a time to drive to the gym, burn some calories, drive home and eat more then we need. I work up a decent sweat every time I bike to work, and I really like that because I have to go to work, and now I’m getting some exercise while I do it.

That was more then I thought I would say about my own personal motivations for biking, but it brings me to my final point. I’ve said this before: I’m glad gas prices are going up. I really don’t like the idea that oil companies are probably the ones benefiting, or that violence and the threat of violence has contributed to the increased prices. Yet, in our society, where we are ignorant of our impact on the environment, and we are so focused on what is convenient for me, we really don’t choose to change unless it is hurting our pocket book.
I’ve biked around town at all hours of the day and I see more and more people who are biking to and from work then I have ever seen before. The cool thing is these aren’t your hip, “look-at-me-I-bike-to-work” type, these are folks who pulled the two wheeler out of the garage, dusted it off and said, I’m not going to let capitalism have the last say. Keep biking.

*There has been periods of time where “could” does not include any ride in which I would get sweaty, I’d have to wear a helmet, or I would possibly be seen by someone I know. Those periods occured mostly in high school, but still occur on occassion.