Wealth is not theft

After reading Ryan’s response, I think the disagreement goes deeper than just between socialism and capitalism, but on economic principles, and even applied rational thought.

As such, I am going to be an anal jerkwad, and pick through his response, both for his edification, as well as my own (and anyone who is reading this). I would love some feedback though, especially if any of my thoughts are illogical.

Point 1: "Economic wealth is theft"
I have to strongly disagree, and I can prove why this is wrong, both from a point of view from Biblical morality, as well as general common morality.
He did not say "some economic wealth is theft", which is surely is. He implied that all economic wealth is theft.
However, let’s look at the definition of theft:
Theft (noun) – The crime of taking someone else’s property without consent.

Does all wealth involve taking someone else’s property without consent? No it does not.
I’ll use Expanse as an example here. I created a piece of software that others have found value in. Every single customer willingly and eagerly offered to me their hard earned money in exchange for the product.
They willingly gave their property.
If 5 million people were to each willingly offer me their property in exchange for the software I created, I have not stolen anything, and I now have economic wealth.

So that point is completely obliterated, because frankly, by showing that wealth, at it’s core, is not theft, and not morally wrong, disproves his first point.

From a biblical perspective, there are numerous people in the Bible who are both wealthy and highly moral (and revered). I can think of folks like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, King David, King Solomon, etc. who were all wealthy, not theives, and their wealth was given to them by God.
Since God would not bless people with wealth if indeed wealth is theft (1 Corinthians 6:10 – "…nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."), that means wealth in and of itself is not theft.
Jesus also used many parables where God was represented as a wealthy owner of private property.

However, even though it completely goes against anything the Bible teaches, Ryan seems to be suggesting that there is no such thing as private property. For that, I go to the second point.

Point 2: "Food (for example) belongs to everyone, not just those who have accumulated pieces of paper and plastic."
I actually happen to agree with Ryan here. I would say that most everything was given to all of us. However, there are two things that are truly and uniquely our own private property, and those are our time and our abilities.

The time I take to cultivate the land, to ward off pests and the like, the time I take every day to plant seed, water the seed, care for the plants as they grown, and the time and back breaking labor I put into the harvest are mine, and as such, the rewards and results of that time belong to me.

To say otherwise is to say that I have a moral obligation to be a slave. Also, what happens when two people want the same item? In a world of limited resources, what criterion do you use to decide who should get what?
Need? That would be a completely arbitrary and extremely subjective standard to use. Why need instead of say, desire? Nowhere in the Bible does it correlate with Marx’s claims of "to each according to his need", so one would wonder where this so called Christian ideology would come from.

And this entire point seems to miss any concept of what money and currency really are. They are symbols of contracts that we each sign with each other. It says "I have used my time in such a way that you are willing to give me X amount of your time and energy in exchange for the results of my time and energy".

Lastly, the Bible confirms the concept of private property over and over again, even in the Ten Commandments (Do not covet your neighbors property), leading one to wonder why God seems to keep reaffirming the concept.

Point 3: "When you’re huddled in a doorway trying to sleep in the rain at night, and you can’t eat while some people expand their garages to accommodate their 7 Hummers, you can’t help but wonder whether it’s really the people at the bottom who should get in trouble for theft."

This is another emotional appeal, and it sounds good, but frankly, emotions change with the day. Emotions are influenced and changed by things such as the weather, digestion, a chemical imbalance, not taking enough vitamins, etc.

So the emotional aspect has to go.

What you seem to be saying, underneath this point is: "Some people shouldn’t have more, while others have less". You can’t say "Some people shouldn’t have more, while others have none", because very few people actually have "nothing".

But that’s not the point. The point seems to be that there shouldn’t be disparity between people. And this is a patently foolish and, quite frankly, an asinine statement.

God made disparity. He approves of it, and disparity, in and of itself, is not bad.

Now to prove my point: Some people are born blind. They were handed disparity. Some people were made blind. They were also handed disparity.
Nowhere in the Bible, or any moral code for that matter, does it say "Everyone should be equal in all regards".
Some are tall, some are short, some are heavy, some are light, some can sing, others can dance, and some can’t even walk. Some are educated, others are not.

That’s disparity.

The Bible is full of disparity, and in every situation in the Bible, every rule that handles disparity, he never ever even suggests that we eliminate it.

He tells us to understand it, to respect it, and to help it. But He never says to equalize it.

As a good example, we can use the theocracy of the Old Testament, in which God Himself laid down the law. He made provisions for disparity, and always managed to take care of those with less, but in every provision, He never once said "take from Rich Person A, and give to Poor Person B".
For instance, one of His commands was that the Rich were to harvest their crops, thereby enforcing the concept of private property, and to leave the edges to the poor and foreigners.
Leviticus 23:22 – "’When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’"

This is actually a wonderful piece of brilliance when you truly sit down to think about it. God provided a way for the poor to take care of themselves, while still maintaining their dignity by commanding them to work for their food, meaning that they had the satisfaction of work, while also being provided for.
But God never said "equally split up the harvest", or "make sure everything is equal".

Point 4: "We’ve made so many exceptions to the Golden Rule that a Carnegie can put scores of people on the street and pay his own employees pittances then get a pat on the back for building a museum none of these people can go to."

This is out of the order in which is was stated, but it was such a frivolous point that I saved it for the end.
The simple fact is, for every case of greed and evil in capitalism, I can show at least one for the evils and abuses of socialism.
We’re not talking about specific examples here.

We can sit here and throw back and forth historic examples of each ideologies rotten apples, but that proves nothing. That would be like a white person and a black person constantly saying "Well, Hitler did this" and  "Oh yeah, Idi Amin did that".

So, now that I’ve dealt with the specific points, I would like to discuss some core basic principles.

Capitalism and socialism, at their core, are simply just means of resource aggregation and dispersal. Both systems say: "To get resources, do X, to give resources, do Y". Both are just constructs that dictate the trade of resources within a society.

And in the end, I think each system, taken to an extreme, is evil, and leads to evil. Capitalism without regard for the poor, the sick, and those unable to care for themselves is not a system that I endorse, nor does the Bible, and nor do most people on the right.

Socialism, which uses coercion and force to distribute goods, taken to it’s extreme, leads to mediocrity, discontent, and in fact, creates more poverty.

And I think what we currently have in America is a bit too far towards socialism, but still, I believe now, within the realm of where it should be.

And I’ll explain. I think we all agree that there are those things which are better when they’re shared. The Internet is an example of this. If a private party owned the Internet, it would be a much worse off place, with much less innovation.
Ideas are best developed when they are shared.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we should use the force of law and government to force people to share their ideas. That would lead to mediocrity, and stifle the development of those ideas.

Why? Some people would say that people are greedy by nature, and therefore capitalism feeds off of that greed.

But I disagree. Greed, like every other sin, is some good thing which has been polluted. Sexual immorality is taking a good thing (sex) and perverting it. Theft is taking a good thing (ownership, and stewardship) and perverting it.
And the moral good that greed is perverting is the moral good of "rewards". All throughout the Bible, God promises us rewards. Over and over again, He drills into our heads that if we do good things, we will be rewarded.
We are promised a reward, and in exchange, we have a driving ambition to get that reward. And a reward is more than a good feeling. God promises us material rewards, such as eternal life, His presence, a material afterlife, literal crowns, etc.

That is not sin. That is a moral good.

And socialism completely misunderstands that and removes that. It somehow assumes that the reward of a good feeling is the only thing that should drive us to produce, but because it has such a narrow view of humanity, it fails.

And capitalism will fail if it forgets the real human condition of disparity.
But socialism fails because where capitalism rewards efficiency, socialism does not. Capitalism rewards hard work, socialism rewards laziness and hard work equally, but it actually produces laziness. Why? Because human beings will always try to find the shortest distance between two points.
Why work, when someone is willing to give it to me for free?

This isn’t even a problem of application, this is a problem of fundamentals. Where as capitalism can lead to greed, and can be abused, socialism at it’s fundamental level has these problems.

Also, I believe that we should use the law to encourage giving, and taking care of others, but you cannot force morality. Forcing someone to give at gunpoint is not that person being moral.

And you must understand, if the fundamental basics of an ideology is flawed, it won’t work if you just throw more bodies at it. For instance, trying to jump and touch the moon won’t work, no matter how many people are jumping.
The idea is just flawed.
The same goes for socialism. If the idea breaks down at the most basic level, it won’t work on a bigger level.

However, all that being said, our society must make room for SOME socialism. I think most of the right is not against socialism, per se, but against it at a government mandate. Our government encourages charitable giving (with material rewards no less), and I think that policies like welfare can be abolished when the private arena takes care of those real human needs.

I now believe that the way to remove failed governmental policies is not to vote them away. They’re trying to fill a very real need, and voting them away does not eliminate the need, nor does it guarantee that the need has been filled.

The way forward, the best way IMO, is to outgive those programs. We need smart, wise, shrewd, ambitious and savvy people to step up and find creative ways to outgive the government. When we can do that, when the welfare offices are empty because people would rather get help from somewhere better, then welfare will die, and governmental enforced socialism will go away.

We’ve been missing the mark, and I will confess the sins of those of us on the right. We’re using the lazy man’s approach to the problem of welfare. I believe that there are many things that the private sector can do better than the public sector can, and I think providing for the poor and downtrodden is one of those.

So let’s do it guys. Let’s apply our superior efficiency, our more motivated employees, our economic craftiness to not only help poverty, let’s eliminate it as much as humanly possible. There will always be some poverty. Poverty has a few root causes, and some of them are voluntary causes, and short of imprisoning people because they choose to be poor, we cannot eliminate those causes.

But we can fill needs. We’ve already set up a system where our homeless people eat better than many wealthy people in other countries. Our number one problem is obesity. We have engineered a system where one man can work for an hour and feed himself and his family for the day.

No other time in history have we had this abundance, and I think we can utilize those same principles to outgive.

That’s my call to arms.

1 comment to “Wealth is not theft”

  1. Respiro Media

    I live in an ex-communist country and I have to tell you that still there's a mentality according to which wealth is theft. Definitely, there were/are several examples for wealth = theft, but the problem is that in the general mentality there's no delimitation between richness by work and richness by theft…

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