The Bible and Economics (9)

                        Ownership

Adam was required by God to operate in terms of a theocentric hierarchy of authority: God > Adam > Eve > the serpent. This hierarchy, Adam’s act implicitly announced, was to be replaced by a new hierarchy: the serpent > Eve > Adam > God. God did not allow this declaration to go unpunished. Had He implicitly consented to it by refusing to enforce the terms of the original lease with Adam, He would have transferred original title to Satan through the serpent.

Adam wanted to be on top. He wanted to be in charge of making the decisions on allocation. But he could never be on top. The hierarchical structure of the rival covenants — God’s real one and Satan’s mythical one — prohibited this. He could be directly under God or he could be under his wife, who in turn was under the serpent, who was under Satan. Either God would be on top or Satan would. Adam could never become the original owner. The best he could hope for would be the office of second in command. He had that from the beginning, but he forfeited this legal claim in his rebellion.[1]

Foolish people hate hierarchies. They frequently act as if these are all some kind of conspiracy against the innocent, that must be overturned. But heirarchies are not evil, when they are based on godly order.

Likewise, the traditional romantic revolutionary is only interested in smashing what he claims is wrong, but replacing it with something of any value is beyond him. His motto is essentially “perfection through destruction.”

This should lead us to the logical conclusion that violent revolutions are never productive, in the long-term. The French Revolution, with its subsequent excesses and violence was a retrograde step for France, as was the Russian example, 130 years later. In both cases, the leaders of the revolution and their policies were infinitely worse than what had been the status quo.

Likewise, the American colonies in 1776 had their problems, but what did their revolution achieve? Bloodshed, damage to property, inflation, centralisation and much higher taxation. But that’s not what the text-books are inclined to refer to. So much for the Glorious Revolution of 1776.[2]

Social institutions may certainly be flawed, but if they are smashed by revolutionaries, what will replace them: perfect ones?  So, when societies are in need of change (which is essentially always), our goal should never be violent revolution, which leads to disorder, overreaction and chaos. What is needed is steady, incremental and godly change and growth, beginning in the communities’ grass roots: the families and the church.

This is why the maintenance and defence of private property is always so important for a free society. “You shall not steal” (Ex.20:15) is a protection for the individual, the family, business and the church. Is it any wonder that totalitarians hate God’s commandments?

Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, and when Naboth wouldn’t sell it, Ahab consented to Jezebel having Naboth killed, so he could seize the land (I Kings 21). The judgements of God as a result, led to the violent death of Jezebel (II Kings 9:30-37), and the destruction of all of Ahab’s descendents.

This means that Christians should always emphasise the necessity of public order and restraint. Having said that, it was Cromwell who wisely commented that

No authority has the right to perform any actions it pleases whatever the consequences. … All agree there are cases in which it is lawful to resist.[3]

Conclusion:

Of course there are problems in government, just as there are problems in the community. But the answer is never to tear down government itself. A poor government is better than no government at all: anarchy. The lasting answer means that we begin in the community, with the individual, the family and the church specifically. For these are the institutions that can and must be changed, initially.

Changed individuals, families and churches will lead to broader changes, because changed people will want and expect their governments to change, too. So, the essential reform is that which begins in the most essential place: the human heart.

And isn’t that where the Holy Spirit has always wanted to commence, anyway?

Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders. No one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle.[4]

 

 

 

[1] Gary North, “Christian Economics in One Lesson,” 2016, ‘Scarcity and Ownership.’

[2] On this, see Gary North, “Conspiracy in Philadelphia.”

[3] Quoted in “Cromwell,” Antonia Fraser, 2001, p.266.

[4] Ludwig Von Mises, “Socialism.”

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