A friend of mine posted a quote by Peter Singer on Facebook recently and I composed a response. I thought it would be a good idea to share both here.
The quote from Peter Singer was:
“The capitalist economic system, regarded by the classical economists as natural and inevitable, is an alienated form of human life. Under capitalism workers are forced to sell their labour . . . to the capitalists, who use this labour to accumulate more capital, which further increases the power of the capitalists over the workers. Capitalists become rich, while wages are driven down to the bare minimum needed to keep the workers alive.”
My response was:
“Ever wonder why the same people who believe Capitalism will sell them the rope to hang itself (Vladimir Lenin) also believe that religion is the opiate of the masses (Karl Marx)? Ever wonder why everywhere you have communism and collectivism take root you also have persecution of the church? Herb Titus, famed lawyer, graduate of Harvard Law, and head of a couple of law schools himself, addresses the logic behind Peter Singer’s quote about Capitalism in his book ‘Biblical Principles of Law’. In the section on Fault, he talks about Lincoln Steffens, a man [a century ago] who would go around to major cities in the late teens and early 20’s lecturing to civic leaders about corruption. Steffens would teach that church leaders are wrong, because in the Bible Adam blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent and church leaders stop there. ‘The devil made me do it.’ But the real problem, Steffens would share, was the apple of temptation. Remove the temptation and you would remove the problem. Capitalism with it’s economic incentives, he believed, was the problem. Lincoln had visited the young Soviet Union and praised it because he believed it would produce the most general prosperity and be the least corrupt system of any on the earth. He famously wrote, “I have seen the future, and it works!” Of course we know the Soviet Union became one of the least prosperous, most corrupt systems on earth. The problem wasn’t the apple of temptation, and good church leaders don’t blame the serpent. The problem is mankind and sin nature. In the same way, the problem with economics is not the incentives of Capitalism, it’s the corruption of mankind. The idea that mankind is flawed and needs checks and balances is classically called the concept of Natural Law, or to put it differently, the law of mankind’s nature. Natural Law and the English Common Law both looked to Biblical Law as the rule for controlling mankind. The final six Ten Commandments were considered the rule for keeping mankind in check. Inherent in this was also the idea of just rewards – each man is individually responsible for their actions, and reaps blessings or curses as they exercise individual liberty. The Enlightenment – Marx, Freud, Darwin and Kant – turned this idea on it’s head. They believed man was simply and only a product of genetics and his environment. Mankind doesn’t really have freewill because everything we do is pre-determined by chemicals and stimulus. As such, individuals are not responsible for their actions, society is. All of society must pay for the wrongdoing of each individual. And so Enlightenment thinking embraces the concepts of societal insurance, central [social] planning and the idea that good of the collective takes precedence over individual life, liberty and property. At the heart of this is the belief that if we can just change mankind’s environment, we can change mankind. If we can just remove the apple of temptation, we can experience Eden once again. It’s the age old lie, ‘ye shall be as God’. But the problem is not the environment, the problem is sin. The problem is us. And to the degree that secularists stop holding individuals accountable for individual actions and instead try to deal with society as a collective, a nation experiences increasing uncertainty and injustice both in the economy and in the courtroom. Herb Titus’ treatment of this subject is brilliant, and is online at: http://www.lonang.com/curriculum/5/s51.htm”
The exchange reminded me of President Regan’s Address before the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal in Lisbon on May 9, 1985
President Regan said:
“…Yes, democratic Portugal has faced political problems and social problems and economic problems, and, no, democracy, particularly in its earlier years, does not always go smoothly. But this is true of any nation and especially any democracy. In my country, we’ve learned over and over again that democracy can only work when it is judged not in the short run but over the long term, when we keep in mind the principles upon which it is based and remember how right Winston Churchill was to remind us that democracy truly is the worst form of government, except for all the others. The essential truth at the heart of Portuguese and American democracy is our belief that governments exist for the sake of the people and not the other way around. And this belief is based on an essential insight of our civilization—the dignity of man, the value of the individual. My own nation’s forefathers justified our revolution with these words in the Declaration of Independence: ‘… all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ Well, it is this trust in the individual—the right to speak, to assemble, to publish, and to vote, even to walk out—that is the meaning of democracy. Our democratic governments are not built on the proposition that the people are always right; indeed, within the structure of our governments there are safeguards against the whims or passions of the majority. But democratic government is built on the proposition that there resides in the common people an uncommon wisdom, that over the long run the people and their right to political self-expression are the best protection against freedom’s oldest and most powerful enemy—the unchecked growth and abuse of the power of the state…”