“1. the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroads, etc., are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth, and, in its later phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased governmental control, etc.” Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, copyright 1972.This definition has two parts. The first part has three main points. Capitalism means business is privately owned, seeks a profit and is based on competition. How do those concepts reflect or reject what we see in the Bible?
First of all, does the Bible support the idea of individual ownership of production? All you need to do is look at the lists of wealth for the patriarchs. You will find lists of cattle, sheep and servants. These are not condemned. It has always been assumed that Peter was part of a family that owned their fishing boats and were in business for themselves. Lydia was a dealer in purple. I could go on, but if that isn’t enough for you, you’re not willing to consider facts.
How about profit? Read the passage about the excellent wife in Proverbs 31. This has it all. She buys property and plants a vineyard. She manufactures clothing items and sells them. She is a charter member of the Chamber of Commerce. And she is praised for it. Or picture the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14ff. The only one who was condemned was the one who did not do business with what he was given. Profit is not a dirty word in the Bible. Stop reading Marx and start reading Matthew.
But what about those dirty greedy merchants that hoard food? The Bible has a word on that also.
(Proverbs 11:26 KJV) He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.Notice that the merchant is not told to give it away and praised for his generosity. He is praised because he sells when there is a need. I could go other places and show that he could expect to make a fair profit and not be condemned. By that I mean a fair profit in his eyes and God’s eyes not in the eyes of the people buying.
Does the Bible support the basic principles of capitalism? I would have to say yes. Is capitalism Christian? No, because Jesus did not come to establish an economic system. But having said that, it is a lot closer to free market capitalism than state controlled socialism.
The second part of the definition makes it seem like it was added by a committee seeking to water down what is was about. The second half begins to mingle with socialism so I am not sure what it is doing in this definition. This part is unsupported Biblically but get your definitions right.
homo unius libri