Thursday, August 18, 2011

A System That Works

Months ago I had a discussion with a very good friend about economics and government. That in itself was a surprise, as he rarely cares to comment on the subject; He spends most of his study time on incorruptible things--things that truly are more directly eternally significant than most such political discussions. I made my usual attempts to point out the benefits of capitalism and the free market and he responded with a statement that I've been considering ever since. He said (in my best paraphrase),
"I'm fine with capitalism, but the problem is sin. The reason all [political/economic] systems fail is sin. Any system would work if it wasn't for sin--even socialism."
As I considered his words, they immediately began to ring of truth. Socialism certainly would work without sin. If the person or group of people who held the responsibility of distributing wealth, goods, and services had perfectly pure intentions and infallible judgment, all of society would serve and be served effectively and without any reason for complaint. Likewise, capitalism would be even more attractive if people valued eternal things rather than earthly and temporal ones.

However, further consideration revealed the flaw in this thinking. The quoted statement assumes that governments and economic systems would be necessary without sin. It could be argued that the very reason we have need for such devices is to help us protect would-be victims from the moral crimes that might be committed against them. Capitalism protects us from the coercive will of power-hungry would-be demagogues (a.k.a., "sinners"), while socialism portends to protect us from greedy, rich people (a.k.a. "sinners"). So without sin, there would be no need for such protections.

In other words, any economic system would work... if we didn't need one. While I look forward to That Day, I believe that the better solution for this sinful world is the one based on voluntary actions rather than one based on the threat of violence.