The Beginnings of Christian Reform (17)

One of the reasons why the sales tax known as a tariff is a bad idea is that it hides our failure. We may be able to compete domestically, but we lose in the world markets. The world is becoming one market. The international division of labour is expanding. Tariffs conceal domestic producers’ lack of skill. They conceal it from the producers, who fall behind. The domestic producers lose access to buyers outside the nation. They sell to a much smaller market. If the tariffs are removed, they find themselves far behind the performance level of companies that have grown up with international competition.[1]

About twenty five years ago, I had a conversation with an Australian pig-farmer, in Armidale, Australia. He was quite upset because subsidised Canadian pork, which he claimed was being “dumped” in Australia, was making it difficult for him to make a living from his pigs. What I think was really happening, was that the Canadian government was extracting monies from Canadians via taxation, and subsidising Canadian pork farmers to “dump” their produce overseas.

This was and is economic lunacy. Who was really suffering? Canadian taxpayers, and Australian pork producers; two sets of losers. The scripture makes indirect reference to this.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it. ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets (Mat.22:36-40).

Why does the price of Canadian pork in Australia, have any relevance to Jesus’ statements? Because the opportunities of the free market in international trading are really the logical economic outcomes of what Jesus called the second commandment.

Loving my neighbour means in terms of lawful business, permitting him to do what he wants, granting him access to whatever markets he wishes around the world, without interfering in his activities through such things as tariffs on imported goods, subsidies, or other interferences in the free market. But foolish governments that ignore the scriptures, love these kinds of intrusions.

Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan, was in response to a lawyer who questioned Jesus, saying “Who is my neighbour” (Luke 10:29).

The Bible has lots to say about this. It says,

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbour, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you. Do not devise harm against your neighbour, while he lives securely beside you (Prov.3:27-29).

Paul reiterates this application of the law, when he teaches us that

Each of us is to please our neighbour for his good, for his edification (Ro.15:2).

What does “pleasing our neighbour…” really lead to?

Every nation in the world, due to its natural resources, its weather and the skills and attitudes of its people, has specific things its people can do really well. In Australia for instance, we are good at producing agricultural products such as grains, meats and wool, along with fruits and vegetables. Most of these commodities are in demand overseas. It is extremely important to Australian producers of these and other products, that they can readily access overseas markets for their produce, along with obtaining the things they want from other nations.

The Swiss and the Belgians are famous for their chocolate, and what is good for Australian agricultural producers, applies in exactly the same way, to them. They want unfettered access to international markets for their produce, just as we do. Switzerland and Belgium are a long way from Australia, but in the international context they are still our neighbours.

The irony of what Jesus has commanded, is that it is actually in the best interests of Australians, to be concerned for the welfare of Swiss and Belgian chocolate producers.

Why?

Because the benefits of the free market inevitably come back to us. In a free market, the resultant prosperity of Swiss and Belgian chocolate producers, means they will have greater capacity to buy all kinds of international goods, including Australian produce. The free-market leads to what economists call a “win-win” situation: it’s good for everyone.

Conclusion:

Christians should consistently and vigorously oppose all government subsidies to industries, along with all tariffs on imported goods. These mechanisms historically, have been counter-productive for everyone. Furthermore, they have been a short-sighted means of gaining the votes of ignorant people, who will inevitably be harmed by such follies in the long-term. Furthermore, business operators have to learn to stand on their own feet, without the “assistance” of governments. This is an aspect of the Biblical command to “…work out your salvation through fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12).

Thinking of our neighbour, down the street or thousands of kilometres away, and what will be in their best interests, will actually prove to be good for each of us.

It is obeying the commandments of God, and it makes the world a better place.


[1] Gary North (www.garynorth.com) “How Well are You doing? You don’t Know for Sure,” 25/7/2011

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