Thoughts on Economics: A Response to Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law”

Frederic Bastiat - The LawAfter having read Frederic Bastiat’s The Law (1850), which appears to be a capitalistic response to The Communist Manifesto (1848), I have to say there is a lot I can agree with Bastiat about; but also, some other things, I can’t agree with (for Biblical reasons). The following will be my little “manifesto” for Biblical economics, using Bastiat and the Bible as my launching pads:

1. Liberty, or freedom, is a gift from God. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). God used Moses to set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt in the book of Exodus. Anything that even comes close to looking like slavery, whether as real slavery, or forced slave labor, or minimum wages with non-compete contracts that impede upward mobility–all forms of financial slavery are an abomination to God, and in opposition to liberty. In the book Moving Up or Moving On, it is argued that changing companies is statistically the most lucrative, tried-and-true way to experience upward mobility. I agree. I have experienced this 3 times in the past year. By changing sales jobs in 3 companies over the course of one year, I have experienced about a $25k/year pay increase! I can testify to the truthfulness of changing not only job titles–but changing companies in pursuit of a higher paying job title (or even same title), because there is a Human Resources policy called “negotiating” a salary requirement; and in order to be competitive, companies will often comply in order to hire skills and talent that you have acquired through years of job experience. This sort of liberty is being experienced right now by Generations X and Y, as they are not nearly as devoted to the idea of working for one company for 30 years, as the Baby Boomers are. They are committed to one thing: liberty, freedom, and more money. All of these things are really one thing, when used properly: liberty. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness simply cannot be achieved, success cannot be achieved with a slave mentality. The guilt of not committing a long time to one low-paying company, regardless of how nice the managers and coworkers are–such commitments must be thrown away, if breadwinners want financial liberty for their families. When it comes to personal vocation, there’s only one thing that matters to me: my income level. It is means, for a man of means; and I can use those means for several useful ends; and the ends are for my happiness. Being a “company man” is not conducive to happiness unless the income is enough and the coworkers do not tax your health: otherwise it is slavery; having liberty…now that’s happiness. You must MAINTAIN YOUR SENSE OF FREEDOM TO CHOOSE WHERE YOU WORK, without any pressures; if you maintain this sense of free choice, then you are liberated.

2. Food Stamps and Medicaid. Genesis 41:33-36 provides us an example of the Holy Spirit guiding Pharaoh and Joseph to create a seven year government aid food program during coming years of famine. This is the same thing as food stamps or EBT cards, in principle. And although I cannot prove Medicaid from this text:–by extension, I would say the spirit is the same: God is here sanctioning the government to provide emergency means of health and survival for the poor. This is an instance of divine socialism; it is an example of “robbing” from the rich and giving to the poor (Robin Hood, in a sense). I know this sounds like a Democrat, communist, and socialist idea; something Bastiat would say is opposed to his concept of justice. But its the Bible; and I agree with the Bible, to plead the cause of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:9). I’m not advocating a “nanny state” nor a helicopter government: all I support is that which can by logical extension be grown out of Genesis 41: emergency charity for the health and survival of the poor, provided by the government, and extracted through business taxes.

3. Taxes. Jesus said to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17); that we are to pay our taxes, and not ask questions so much about how those taxes are used. It is perfectly legitimate if you are a government leader to ask that question; but if you are a citizen, you are required to submit to civil authority (Romans 13). I do believe in the “divine right” of kings and presidents, but I also believe that God will punish rulers who abuse their power, like Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37). Bastiat seems to be a libertarian: an extreme anarcho-capitalist, the way he speaks against tariffs and taxes; and I don’t think that’s very Christlike; in fact, its something more in line with the way the scribes and Pharisees thought about Roman taxes, when they questioned Jesus to trap Him (Matt. 22:15).

4. Public Schools vs. Christian Homeschooling. It could easily be argued that the public school systems: elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and state universities–are all socialist institutions. They are all tax-funded; and their curricula are not chosen by the parents who send their kids there. In this way, the parents lose quite a bit of moral and intellectual influence in the area of instilling their own values into their children. Government schools are also agnostic and atheistic, because their science teachers teach evolution from a materialistic and non-theistic viewpoint. This indoctrinates our children into a Darwinistic, nihilistic, and agnostic world view. See the documentary IndoctriNation (2011), which explains this thoroughly; and instead makes a strong case for conservative Christian homeschooling. My wife uses the A Beka Book curricula; and I have personally witnessed the success of homeschooling in several families. My wife, who is blessed with a B.S. in Mathematics, serves as an excellent teacher for my oldest daughter, who is now almost 7 years old. She is getting A’s on Math tests and writes in cursive. The close attention she receives from her mother is educationally priceless. Now, if by some tragedy my wife were to die before her time, I would not be able to teach my daughter, because I would have to go to work. In such a case, I might resort to a Christian school; or if I did not have the money, I would send my girl to a local public school, but only as a temporary fix, and I would have to follow up with her and teach her my Biblical convictions, especially if she is having science or Social Studies classes, which are now teaching kids that homosexuality is acceptable. I think conservative Christian homeschooling, in the old Puritan manner, is the ideal; but just as EBTs or Medicaid may serve the purpose of an emergency measure to promote the long-term health and survival of the poor, so also can public schools serve such an end, lest poor children languish behind their peers educationally, and are not given the same great job opportunities when they come of age. Education is an economic thing, really. But homeschool-minded Christian parents should also seek to catechize their children and raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4):–something that public school teachers are not allowed to do. For this, see Adam Clarke’s Christian Theology, Dr. Watts’s Plain and Easy Catechisms for Children, and P. C. Nelson’s Bible Doctrines.

5. Private Property. God, through His sovereign providence (that is, His guiding hand of supernatural provision for those with faith in Christ), has an ideal to give private property to His children. We see this as one of the covenant blessings in Deuteronomy 8, albeit with severe warnings to keep humble and rely on God in faith, and not to become atheistic once things become easier, and you acquire your American dream home. That everyone may dwell safely and securely, dwelling “under his own vine and under his own fig tree” (Micah 4:4)–that is, his own private property; not leased, not rented out by a landlord. But his own vine, his own fig tree, on his own property. This is the economic goal in the Bible. (And this goes directly against communism, which abolishes private property: and where all houses are owned by the government.) No such concept of property exists in the Bible other than private property as a goal, a blessing, and ideal. Sure, mortgages and landlords are mentioned in Scripture (Neh. 5:3), but the goal is private home ownership.

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