Sunday, October 23, 2011

Against the Idolatry of Economic Philosophy

I wrote earlier that most political/economic debate in the United States these days is along the libertarian-to-socialist axis, which is anchored at both ends by inflexible athiests, Ayn Rand at the libertarian end and Karl Marx at the socialist end.

But every point along this axis has an often unspoken connection with the concept of "good and bad." This is easily shown. For example: No matter whether a person believes education should be completely private (libertarian) or completely governmental (socialist), or any point in between, that person believes it because he thinks his view is "good." Good for people; good for society. Otherwise, why should he care how education is conducted, or even if it is conducted?

And that "good" point is what Christians should focus on, but, I'm afraid, frequently do not.

I think that many people tend to have a loyalty to their political/economic philosophy, sort of regarding it as their home-town sports team. Go Dodgers! Go Manchester United! And that my-team attitude, I think, is a bad place for anybody to be, but especially for Christians.

Especially for Christians because whenever we put anything above God and his Word, we are slipping into idolatry.

I think the proper attitude for Christians is to ask themselves which solution to a social problem is good, regardless of whether it is the solution of their "team." Someone who is never willing to consider a solution other than what his team offers is guilty of the idolatry of putting man, or a man-made philosophy, ahead of God.

So, what does adopting this attitude accomplish? Well, I'm hopeful that it would be a help for our hearts and at least a bit of help in coming to conclusions. For example, while I generally think solutions toward the libertarian end of the axis are going to be better than those on the socialist side, I'm willing to accept some socialist solutions.

To take a fairly safe example, I think the government should control the military -- lock, stock and barrel, so to speak. That's pretty socialist.

There are also times when I'm a semi-socialist. I believe the government should sometimes be allowed to trump private-property rights. For example, if someone owns land in a pass through the mountains that the government needs for an important highway, and if he won't sell the property, I think the government should be allowed to buy it from him regardless (though, since this could so easily be abused, I want lots of rules to control when the government can exercise this power).

So, I'll try to be faithful to God above my libertarian-leaning philosophy, and I hope Christians leaning towards socialism will do the same.