Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm Rather Fond of Trebuchets, Actually

There was a fascinating editorial in the WaPo this last week written by Robert J. Samuelson, a conservative economic commentator whose writings are always thought provoking. It was a description of what he perceives as an assault on the foundation of American capitalism, entitled "Capitalism Under Siege."

Most of the article referred back to the work of eminent economist Joseph Schumpeter, who felt that capitalism contained within itself the seeds of it's own destruction. In addition to it's dynamism, which we enjoy during the boom times but that seriously bugs us during the busts, capitalism's creation of excess resources establishes:

...an oppositional class of "intellectuals" who would nurture popular discontents and disparage values (self-enrichment, risk-taking) necessary for economic success.

As I read this, I found myself agreeing, but thinking that perhaps it isn't just "intellectuals" who are the problem for capitalism. The threat to the core values of capitalism does not just come from leftist professors on campus and busybodies who need to get out there and have a real job.

It comes, I think, from Christianity as well. Working diligently is a Christian virtue, sure. So is being willing to take risks and not cling to the things that this world values. Complacence and indolence wouldn't have gotten the apostles very far.

But self-enrichment? Not really. Christian faith has very little use for self enrichment. If it happens to us as a collateral result of our hard work, then...well...you have more responsibilities in terms of how those resources are used. As a goal towards which we orient ourselves, though, it is rather explicitly and repeatedly rejected by our Lord and Savior.

It's why folks like Ayn Rand despised Jesus people...because within His life and teachings, there lies something very very incompatible with the competitive culture of self that is at the beating heart of the free market.