This is the seventh post that explores the tenets of objectivism as stated by Ayn Rand which are: reality, reason, self-interest and capitalism. In the last post capitalism was explored, defined and compared with Christian beliefs. This post will wrap-up my thoughts on the similarities and differences between Ayn Rand’s concept of capitalism and biblical economic concepts and complete this mini-series on objectivism.
In the last post I introduced the idea that economic systems are essentially amoral, whether socialist or capitalistic. Popular economic theory identifies three main categories of economic systems: command, mixed and market economies. Some economic theorists show their biased premises in defining the terms right at the start when they state that the way scarce resources get distributed within an economy determines the type of economic system. Others recognize that an economic system entails many interrelated aspects including resource allocation, the system of production, exchange and distribution of goods, the social relations with the system including property rights and the structure of management. It will be important to get the definition of capitalism correct before comparing the term between Ayn Rand’s ideas and biblical concepts of economic systems.
If we establish that an economic system entails more than just resource allocation and distribution, the principles in Scripture converge more readily with Ayn Rand’s ideas of capitalism. To reiterate, Ayn Rand does not regard capitalism as an amoral or immoral means to some “common good”, but as a moral social system. Ayn Rand additionally regards capitalism a moral social system in contrast to socialism.
There are numerous biblical passages dating back to the Old Testament advocating fair and honest economic systems, or in Ayn Rand’s words, a moral social system. Proverbs 11:1, 18, 25-26 states (NIV):
The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.
A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.
The idea of “living wages” as proposed by socialist systems is given pause by the many verses in the Bible presenting the idea that the “laborer is worth of his wages”. (I Timothy 5:8, 17-18, Luke 10:7, Matthew 10:10, Leviticus 19:13, Romans 4:4, Deuteronomy 25:4). In any given society, some labor will have greater intrinsic worth than other labor, which will be affected by the value of human life and laws pertaining to the protection of legitimately gained possessions enforced by governing authorities.
An immoral system by extraction such as socialism theoretically distributes the available wealth of the community evenly between all of its citizens. I say theoretically because this has never been the case in practice with a socialist economy (yes there are winners and losers in such a society). The differences between capitalistic and socialistic economic systems are virtually indistinguishable with this narrow perspective, with the notable exception that misery is more equitably distributed and prevalent in a socialistic economic system.
When we see verses in Scripture pertaining to “run the race”, “seek first the kingdom” and “press on toward the goal to win the prize” a paradigm of competition emerges, a concept that is integral to capitalism. When juxtaposed with verses that call for individual sacrifice of or for that which has been legitimately earned, the concept of a “moral economic system” begins to emerge.
This is where Ayn Rand’s sense of the morality of capitalism in contrast to the historical and current manifestations of socialism are most accurate. The concept in scripture that “a man shall not eat if he will not work” aligns closely to capitalistic economic systems that reward work while punishing laziness, a premise that is close to what Ayn Rand has articulated.
This has been an interesting blogging journey for me to thoughtfully consider the writings of Ayn Rand, someone that would not necessarily gain much attention with those who have committed their worldview to the teachings of the Bible and trusting in Jesus Christ for their ultimate salvation. But in the words of the Psalmist in chapter 24 verse 1: the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. Truth may be found in the most unlikely places at times, and as Scripture tells us, even from the mouth of a donkey as the prophet Balaam discovered. I hope that my musings on this subject will be a blessing to you on your own journey in life!