First, what is the difference between capitalism and socialism? Yesterday I saw a good video by Dave Ramsey, notable Christian businessman and author of several books on financial security and independence. At 3:53 in this video, he begins to break down the difference between capitalism and socialism:
Interviewer: There are some unique circumstances that we’ve never had to overcome before. You’re still confident that we can overcome all of them.
Dave: I am, because what drove us into the gutter is lack of leadership. And what can turn us out of the gutter is not some kind of mystical economic system. It’s just believing again. And you know where believing comes from? Leadership. Ronald Reagan really didn’t do that much except make people believe they could.
Interviewer: But wasn’t that all he had to do?
Dave: That’s what I’m saying.
Interviewer: I mean, I talk all the time about success, personal success being self-fulfilling, and success of economic policies of countries to a large degree, if you don’t think you’re gonna make it, then you can’t make it, it’s hard to make it. It’s hard to get lucky and be successful at the same time.
Dave: If you allow all the negative voices to cause you to sit in your cave and suck your thumb, you’re gonna starve. *grins* You have to get up, leave the cave, kill something, and drag it home.
Interviewer: Now, Dave, I predicted a couple years ago that 2016 was going to be about capitalism and socialism, and right now, Americans are being pulled on one side, you’re being pulled…listen, this Bernie Sanders rise, I don’t think it’s about Hillary Clinton’s emails. I think this guy authentically is touching something within people, particularly young people. On the other side, there’s Donald Trump, there’s Carly Fiorina, so I saw this a long time ago and I am legitimately concerned that Americans may be just so frustrated with capitalism as they see it now, that they say, ‘Let’s try this socialism thing, it looks good on paper.’
Dave: Well, it’s been sold to them in the college classroom on many campuses for a couple of generations now, and we’re seeing the fruit of that. That is being harvested, where Bernie Sanders is even a serious consideration. A couple of decades ago, he would have been a laughing-stock. His economic policies are…
Interviewer: People thought a couple of months ago he would have been a laughing-stock!
Dave: Yeah, it’s because it’s straight-up communism, and Hillary’s right there next to him. I mean, it’s crazy. And yet we don’t want some kind of an anarchy thing either on the capitalism side. Capitalism that works should be what we called ‘sanctified capitalism’. It needs to have a moral component to it, where people are doing the right thing, because doing the right thing attracts customers, and doing the right thing keeps customers. Rather than doing the thing for me, I can serve in the marketplace. That’s real capitalism. Capitalism that’s all about me, kind of an Ayn Rand kind of a thing, is selfishness, how much can I get, no rules, just let me go, just plunder, that’s not capitalism, that’s anarchy.
Interviewer: Although, don’t you think that that anarchy type of capitalism you talk about, it’s hard to achieve, because if you are running that kind of a business, someone’s going to set up shop right door next to you and run it just a little bit better, a little bit more customer-centric, a little more quality-centric, and you ultimately can’t keep a business like that running in this country.
Dave: The marketplace will purge the crooks eventually. It naturally does that. The problem is, though, that the extreme socialistic-type people will use someone who’s a crook, going ‘yay, capitalism!’, as an example of capitalism, and I keep trying to remind folks, that’s not capitalism, that’s a crook.
Interviewer: I’m glad you brought that up, because we heard before, and I think it helped President Obama get elected…
Dave: It did.
Interviewer: …Unfettered capitalism! They can’t control themselves! The green is too great! Even Alan Greenspan sort of hinted at that, and that was the political fodder that got President Obama got elected, and my great fear is that somehow that resurrects itself, with the shaky stock market going into the election, with the shaky economy, this is the worst post-recession recovery we’ve ever had, and people are saying it simply doesn’t work, we’ve got to try something different.
Dave: Well, when the candidates continue to tell people that the way you’re going to prosper is that we’re going to solve wealth inequality, rather than the way you solve wealth inequality is go become wealthy. When the candidates keep beating that drum, then you have a segment of the population who sits back and says, I’m going to elect someone who’s going to make me wealthy, and that has never happened in the history of man, regardless of economics. You’ve never had people in power make other people wealthy. This is the greatest, greatest economic system in the history of mankind, the little man has a better chance right now. I’m a little man, I started with nothing. You’re a little man, you started with nothing. I mean, that has a better chance right now today than he’s ever had right in any other system.
Here’s another Dave Ramsey video on capitalism vs. socialism, also very good. I encourage you to watch it, because my fingers are tired from typing out the transcript above, and it’s only six minutes long:
I really like that phrase, sanctified capitalism. Capitalism with a conscience, providing us with the opportunity to do well for ourselves financially, and in the process, help others prosper.
One of the best features of capitalism is that it encourages innovation. It encourages hard work, discipline, and diligence. Socialism discourages innovation and creates an ‘Eeyore’-type atmosphere, where the little man cannot get ahead, so he says, ‘Why bother?’. The little man is given his piece of the pie and told he should be grateful for it, while in the meantime, government officials prosper off the money from taxes levied.
When I am looking for a president, I am looking for a capitalist. I am looking for someone who understands conservatism–that it is easier for ‘the little man’ to succeed in life if taxes are kept low and government interference is kept to a minimum. (Note that I am talking about unnecessary interference, not regulation. We need to keep businesses from pouring toxic chemicals into our waterways, polluting our atmosphere, selling us drugs that don’t contain what they say they contain, and allowing food with unhealthy or toxic ingredients on the shelves. Regulation is good, but government interference can stifle legitimate industry growth in the interest of funneling economic resources to the power brokers in Washington.)
Some say that capitalism encourages evil men to prosper. The problem with that is, a crook will find a way to prosper in any economic system. A dishonest man will always find a way to cheat people out of their money. There are always legal loopholes, for people looking for them. But I like where Dave said that the market will weed out corruption naturally. Perhaps if the banks and auto industries had been allowed to reap what they had sown in 2008, and the companies had failed, then that weeding-out would have taken place naturally. It’s hard to say now, but what seems to have happened is that numerous politicians and dishonest businessmen were the ones who profited from the Wall Street bailouts, and it all came at the expense of the working class–bankers and politicians got rich while the working class lost their homes, their money, and their livelihood.
‘Sanctified’ capitalism, on the other hand, like Dave says here, is being a servant in the marketplace. James Altucher talks a lot about helping people in his books, beginning with Choose Yourself! I can’t find the quote, but it said something along the lines that you will always make money if you focus on providing a product or service that helps people. I have seen this over and over again: when I worked for companies that provided products and services that helped save other companies money, these companies always prospered, even in times of recession. When I worked for companies that solely focused on squeezing as much money as possible out of their employees and customers, these companies’ fortunes fluctuated with the financial tides. I know which kind of company I prefer as a Christian.
Just a warning: I am about to quote some scripture. Note that I am not using this scripture to tell you who to vote for. That crosses the line. Instead, I want to show you why valuing work is a great thing.
As believers, we see in holy scripture, from beginning to end, the admonition that mankind should work, beginning in Genesis 2:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
As soon as man was created, God gave him a job to do.
2 Thessalonians 3:
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
And in more forceful language, 1 Timothy 5:
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Traditionally, Christians value work because we are told that it’s the right thing to do. Staying in a job you hate isn’t healthy long-term, but providing for your family takes precedence over momentary emotional satisfaction.
Another aphorism I like goes like this. I think it comes from Dave Ramsey as well: “Money doesn’t make you happy. But being financially secure makes you happy, and money can buy a lot of things that make you happy.”
I would also submit that helping others with the money you earn can also make you happy. Helping others benefits both the giver and the receiver.he key to remember here is that if you have more money, you can do more good with the money. The larger the government is, the more inefficient and corrupt it becomes, and government will never do more good with your money than you can.
As Christians, I don’t think that glorifying a system that takes from the poor and rich alike, in the form of increased taxes, and giving that money into the hands of corrupt, wealthy politicians to do what they wish, is a very good idea. Bringing socialism into the United States is a very, very bad idea.
So where does this fit into a Donald Trump nomination? After all, isn’t Trump a crook, or at least a dishonest businessman? I don’t believe that he’s as evil a man who people says he is. He’s had some businesses fail or underperform. But he is also the only businessman on the platform, and the only one talking about:
- Fixing poorly-constructed trade deals in order to benefit United States businesses,
- Keeping taxes low for individuals, which increases our take-home pay and provides individuals more capital to invest in creative, money-making ventures,
- Keeping taxes low for businesses, which encourages them to keep their companies over here, rather than moving them overseas,
- Encourage H-1B visa reform, which discourages dishonest businesses from replacing talented citizens with inexpensive foreign labor,
- Encouraging immigration reform, which has the potential to open up job market positions currently occupied by non-citizens.
In other words, Trump is the best bet for business, and if he is the best bet for business, he is the best bet for entrepreneurs as well. If you want to make money in this economy, in any economy, you can. But small business owners and individuals do better in environments where business growth is easier, because taxes are low and government interference is kept to a reasonable minimum.
Christian entrepreneurship, getting involved in the economy, is one of the best ways that we can influence the market for good. We are the light of the world. Where we go, Christ goes. If we are involved in the marketplace, Christ is. Creating honest businesses that can help people is a very good thing.
I’m not saying that the economy will nosedive if a Democrat gets elected for president, but historically, it appears to me that presidents who kept taxes low tended to help grow the economy, because, as Dave Ramsey put it earlier, they help people believe again.
If you’re looking for a well-spoken man or woman who will tickle your ears or provide you with all the Scripture you need to hear, Trump is probably not your best bet. Sometimes I cringe when I hear him speak, but I respect his off-the-cuff style. He can be brash and arrogant, and he says some things that people don’t like. But that’s because he’s not your typical politician. He’s not interested in what you think of him. He’s a man with ideas, and if you like the ideas, vote for him. If you don’t, don’t. It’s very simple. But I think he has some very, very good ideas that will benefit American business, and if it benefits American business, it helps American Christians.
Here’s a take from several Redditors answering the question, ‘Why Trump?’. The first entry is particularly good. I was going to quote it here, but it’s far too long. Go spend the time to read it if you’re really wondering how someone could vote for Trump.
Christians, if you value giving money to the poor and to charity, the best thing you can do is to vote for politicians who believe in capitalism. If you have five dollars to give to charity and the government takes four, you can only give one dollar to charity. If you have five dollars to give to charity and the government takes one dollar, or 50 cents, or less, then you have all the more to give to charity. Charitable donations to churches and the poor always go up when people are making more money. They go down when the economy is struggling and people are unemployed, underemployed, or struggling under the weight of expensive taxes and health insurance.
American Christians have the greatest potential for good that this world has ever seen. Creating small businesses has never been easier–you can set up a web site and an online store in an afternoon and begin bringing in profit within days. An honest believer can then use that money to do good in the world. But the more that government takes of that money, the less good the believer can do in the world.
Encouraging healthy economic growth can help Christians use more money for good, to send more missionaries worldwide, to help the poor and needy, and to help bring people out of poverty. The United States has traditionally had one of the healthiest economies in the world. Let’s keep that economy healthy by voting for men and women who believe in capitalism, the only system that encourages innovation and serving others. Let’s vote for people who will encourage a healthy economy, and then use that healthy economy to do good in the world. It’s one of the best things we can do as believers.