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American Christian flirtation with free market principles

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Just something I've noticed, perhaps I'm wrong, but social conservatives (Christians) have a tendency to align themselves with free-market capitalists, or actually be free-market capitalists. Is there a cultural reason for this other than political convenience? To my knowledge, most Christians in the world don't have this tendency. It seems to be primarily an occurrence in the US. To my shame, Catholics tend to be anti-capitalist.

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Guest Erik Martinsen
Just something I've noticed, perhaps I'm wrong, but social conservatives (Christians) have a tendency to align themselves with free-market capitalists, or actually be free-market capitalists. Is there a cultural reason for this other than political convenience? To my knowledge, most Christians in the world don't have this tendency. It seems to be primarily an occurrence in the US. To my shame, Catholics tend to be anti-capitalist.

It's a purely American phenomenon—social conservatives Christians here in Norway, for example, are socialists. The main reason must be that self-reliance and family values are so deeply entrenched in the American culture which they, as conservatives, identify with and seek to preserve. Very few Christians are true laissez-faire capitalists however.

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... social conservatives (Christians) have a tendency to align themselves with free-market capitalists, or actually be free-market capitalists. Is there a cultural reason for this other than political convenience? To my knowledge, most Christians in the world don't have this tendency. It seems to be primarily an occurrence in the US. To my shame, Catholics tend to be anti-capitalist.
This phenomenon is not limited to the U.S. For instance, look at the U.K. and ask which party is more religious and less explicitly socialist. The same thing can be seen in India. Since altruism is the dominant philosophy, and since incorrect ideas about democracy and the role of government are widely accepted, parties that are a little more religious are usually pretty socialist as well; only, less explicitly so than their more secular opponents. Also, in practice, such parties often undermine any move to Capitalism better than their more explicitly socialist opponents.

I recommend Ayn Rand's book titled: "for the New Intellectual". It contains extracts from other books by her. However, the title essay talks about the mind-body dichotomy, about Attila and the Witch-doctor, and will help understand why some people who seek freedom are able to compartmentalize their quest along certain predictable (albeit dotted) lines.

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Just something I've noticed, perhaps I'm wrong, but social conservatives (Christians) have a tendency to align themselves with free-market capitalists, or actually be free-market capitalists. Is there a cultural reason for this other than political convenience? To my knowledge, most Christians in the world don't have this tendency. It seems to be primarily an occurrence in the US. To my shame, Catholics tend to be anti-capitalist.

My history is a little shaky, but my understanding is that when the Puritans first landed they tried their hand at a version of communism, just as the first christians had in the first century surrounding Jesus' alleged ministry. The attempt failed so miserably that it killed a fair proportion of them. Exactly how and why I don't know, but they then turned around whole-hog and went private enterprise - my guess is that a single individual there packaged "thou shalt not steal" with property rights and the adage "God helps those who help themselves", and then sold it to a community desparate for salvation. That formed the nub, but it is not a quaint linear progression from there.

In the 19th century there were a lot of immigrants from Scotland and England who brought various forms of Calvinism with them. A key part of Calvinist doctrine (I'm basically repeating what my lay-preacher father told me here) is that salvation is a matter solely between an individual and his God - another party cannot give a man that salvation and it is wrong to make the attempt. In application to economics it took the form of the explicit rejection of systematic welfare. It was all very well to give a man a dash of hospitality in a time of need, but it was unseemly for an individual to dependent on another for his earthly salvation. Instead, the goal here is to help a man to find his salvation on his own feet. A clear example of this is once when a bum asked Andrew Carnegie for a handout. Carnegie refused, by saying "no, here's something better - I'll give you a JOB". That, writ large, is a program for the rejection of the idea of the state as the guarantor of a man's earthly well-being.

I'm surmising, then, that the two compatible strains of strongly anti-Catholic and Puritan thought that were also (thanks to the Geneva bible) very wary of earthly royalty, plus the anti-royalist and pro-property teachings of John Locke as avidly read by American thinkers, fused to form the economic and political program one finds among fundamentalist Christians in the US today. They've been dogmatically clinging to that interpretation of the bible ever since, in defiance of the socialist elements of Christianity that so energised the Pilgrim Fathers before they learned of the impracticality of socialism the hard way. I could be wrong, but after talking with my father (who is also a history teacher as well as a Presbyterian elder), that seems to be about the main story.

JJM

Edited by John McVey
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Actually, they're not, it's just that we are shown more of the "evangelicals [creationism, 'young earth', millenialims, etc]" by the Establishment media to discredit capitlaism by associating it with the backward bumpkins. Most of the major churches are leftist in one way or the other. Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc... with only a small percentage of Christians over on the right. The reason there is a conservative plurality in this country is that ideology is done on an ad hoc basis

As to why, well the left has always been associated with atheism and atheists

Just how deep is the conservatives' affinity to capitalism?

http://cockpit.spacepatrol.us/endof.html

Not very. When it clashes with religion. they'll throw it under the bus in a heartbeat. In fact. the Evangelicals did the hatchet job on Romney that set up NcCain who was so busy courting the left (media, eco's, et al) that Obama was the candidate of integrity.

http://cockpit.spacepatrol.us/08feb.html

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Just something I've noticed, perhaps I'm wrong, but social conservatives (Christians) have a tendency to align themselves with free-market capitalists, or actually be free-market capitalists. Is there a cultural reason for this other than political convenience? To my knowledge, most Christians in the world don't have this tendency. It seems to be primarily an occurrence in the US. To my shame, Catholics tend to be anti-capitalist.

In Mexico the alleged pro-business party is also the religious one. Here that means Catholicism. I say "pro-business" because that's what most people think Capitalism is. It's called the National Action Party (PAN for short in Spanish)

Anyway, I also say "alleged" because in almost nine years of holding the presidency, the PAN has done little to further liberalize the economy. An attempt about seven years ago to reform the tax code reuslted in higher taxes and furhter complicationc to the tax laws. A more recent attempt resulted in higher taxes, double taxation and yet more complex tax laws. A third attempt, I fear, would result in a law requiring a blank check to be mailed to the government every month (only not so simple).

This is a result of three factors: 1) a divided legilsature (among three major parties and a bunch of little ones), 2) political ineptitude by the PAN and 3) a very noticeable lack of justification for any of their ideas, always couched in terms of altruism. They never say "with these reforms you'll be better off," but rather insist "these reforms are needed for the good fo the country."

Oh, the PAN isn't all that religious, either. They are against abortion and gay marriage, but that's not a major issue for them. President Fox, when newly elected back in 2000, waved about a standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but then so did Miguel Hidalgo (an actual Catholic priest) when he launched the first calls for independence in the 1800s. Neither Pan president goes around spouting religion, either.

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Christians in Canada are also more pro capitalist though I tend to think that it is a sham that would be sacrificed in a second to achieve a better understanding of god or some such nonsense.

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To me, speaking as a Catholic (Although I'm sure plenty of Catholics will disagree with me), capitalism is a core value, to the extent that I don't believe that Christians can be true to their faith without being pro-capitalist.

Socialism is the organized theft and redistribution of wealth from those that rightfully earned it to those that didn't. Theft is against the ten commandments, and the fact that the the recipient of that theft is purported to be an object of benevolence is irrelevent.

Charity stops being charity when the giver no longer gives of his own free will (which God gave him), and instead is FORCED to give, thereby having his God given freedom stripped of him, in the name of a greater good (There is no greater good than God given rights).

Edited by NotCrazyDan
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To me, speaking as a Catholic (Although I'm sure plenty of Catholics will disagree with me), capitalism is a core value, to the extent that I don't believe that Christians can be true to their faith without being pro-capitalist.

Q.E.D. (in this modern world, it is hard to be against all freedoms, I guess. So, some people pick their vice.)

Edited by softwareNerd
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To me, speaking as a Catholic (Although I'm sure plenty of Catholics will disagree with me), capitalism is a core value, to the extent that I don't believe that Christians can be true to their faith without being pro-capitalist.

The difference seems to be that god is the only one that can tell you what to do/ought to do for a social conservative, while more secular liberals would think society can tell you what to do/ought to do. In either case, the reason is not primarily about the individual.

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To me, speaking as a Catholic (Although I'm sure plenty of Catholics will disagree with me), capitalism is a core value, to the extent that I don't believe that Christians can be true to their faith without being pro-capitalist.

It is difficult to believe that the Catholic Church would support a political system which allows prostitution, drugs, does not sanction straight marriage above other types of marriage, does not forbid incest, animal porn, or abortion, etc. (I'm sure there are many others)

Are you really telling me that you support a laissez faire society in which some people will do all of that, and will be free to do it, because of your Catholic faith? What, specifically, in Catholicism, leads to the support of those specific freedoms?

I won't waste people's time naming a bunch of things that in fact expressly forbid those freedoms, because they're known (commandments, Bible quotes, specific Vatican publications). Address those too, please.

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Capitalism: dictionary.com definition

an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

Capitalism: Webster's dictionary definition

an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

Try as I might, I can't find a definition of the word that includes the definition of marriage or the morality of incest, animal porn, abortion, etc.

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this should not really be that much of a surprise, capitalism developed in part due to Calvinist Protestantism (Max Weber, Protestant work ethic etc) despite the teachings of Jesus espousing certain anarcho-socialist sentiments. also, conservative Christians consider it their duty to help the poor, not governments (they are half right I guess... :P).

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Capitalism: dictionary.com definition
The source of your confusion is that you're using this limited (primarily economic) concept of Capitalism on an Objectivist forum. You're probably not aware that Objectivism sees individual rights as the basis for a moral political system, and uses the term "Capitalism" to denote such a system. The right to own property and do what one wishes with it is one right. The right to an abortion is another.

And, don't come back with a "my definition is standard" reply. It does not really matter in this context. When using your limited (even if standard) usage to this audience, it is best to clarify it for what it is.

Edited by softwareNerd
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You're right I wasn't aware that there was a difference in definition to subscribers of this forum. However one can probably infer from the original topic title that the 'standard' definition is the one being used.

No, one could not, but now that you clarified: I'm against whatever you are implying Christians are "flirting" with, because it contradicts the basic principles of Objectivism, Laissez Faire Capitalism, and the US Founders. I do not support any political system in which a religious group gets to decide which rights are to be allowed, and which are not.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Before Ronald Reagan, often times members of both political parties and of all political persuasion had religious elements. I'd certainly say it started favoring the Republicans more BEFORE Reagan, but his 1980 election permanently placed the Religious on the Right in America. As a matter of survival, CHristians adopted more "free market" principles. However, to this day many still support welfare and services for the needy. Bush's "Faith Based Initiatives" is a good example of this mix of welfare statism and religion.

Dr. Ghate of the ARC actually did a talk on the predominance of religion in politics over the past 40 years, and spoke about the rise of a religious Left.

You could also say that many Christians, being American traditionalists, merely support capitalism because it is old and not because it is good. Rand made comment to that effect in a speech delivered in the 60s.

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It is worth noting that it is a dubious claim to say that Christians "flirt with free market principles." 50 years ago this may have been the case, but Christians (and the GOP in general) are all firmly in the camp of medicare, social security, "green" alternatives, etc. They simply do not push it as hard or as consistently as their counterparts on the "left" do. The label of "conservative" is actually the best one for their frame of mind; they do not particularly care what changes get made, so long as they are made slowly. Once made, the conservatives accept it as the status quo within about a generation, and suddenly medicare - not the free market - is what must be "conserved."

I would not call current GOP/Christian/Conservative political philosophy very free market. Some of the rhetoric they use is - but it rings hollow and hypocritical in the face of all the very not-capitalist programs they endorse and support.

For the latest example, witness the Obama plan to regulate the financial industry even more. The Republican response hasn't been "laissez faire!" but simply a spineless, whining mantra that we must be cautious in enacting new regulations, so as to "do it right." They are not against regulation, in principle or even for purely pragmatic reasons - they simply wish to take more time in figuring out what regulations will work. That is not the stance of a politician who flirts with free market principles, thats simply the stance of a quasi-socialist conservative.

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I'm afraid your totally right Sanj. And the truly tragic thing is that 'Free market capitalism' is catching the blame for the recent economic meltdown, when it was government interference that caused it, and people are too duped to realize it.

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I'm afraid your totally right Sanj. And the truly tragic thing is that 'Free market capitalism' is catching the blame for the recent economic meltdown, when it was government interference that caused it, and people are too duped to realize it.

Wow. I appreciate that, and I agree completely.

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There's a big difference between what the higher-ups in the Republican Party advocate and what the rank and file Christian Fundamentalists think. That the former are ignoring what the latter want is rankling the latter, while the former can take the latter's vote for granted - what else are they going to do, vote Democratic?

JJM

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From my experience with Christians, they are more advocates for what they see as tradition and traditional values. Any support they show for capitalism is based more upon how they see it related to traditional America, than as a value itself.

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