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Economics 101 in Christian Nationalism is not in the sphere of conversation for most individuals who call themselves Christians. How can a Christian think about or react to the nuances of economics? Well, in the 20th and now the 21st centuries, it has been what the experts from major institutions or think tanks have to say?
Constitution Economics Chair
A number of years ago I was the Chairperson of the Constitutional Economics group in a small think tank. My challenge was to look at U. S. economics from a foundational and Constitutional perspective. This required more than understanding the historical theories of 18th Century economics. This required looking at the personal lives of the various Founders from the pre-revolution period through the ratification of the Constitution and into the first fifty years of the Constitution being in effect.
The intent of this Constitutional Economics group was to compare modern economic policy to that which demanded the Constitutional Convention from the Annapolis Convention of 1786. With the development of a new nation, the mechanisms of commerce were critical not only at the States inter-relational needs but also from a local to international inter-relational needs.
One consideration that was already a failure at the inception of our new nation is what I missed at as a member of that think tank: What was a Biblical view of economics? Although there was much pulpit peaching and discussions considering the question of ‘what was Liberty?’ – very little has been paid attention to the moral questions surrounding economics and business in general.
This week I give you that introduction into Christian Economics 101 from my perspective as a former Chairperson to small think tank on Constitutional Economics.
Followup on Tocqueville and Kuyper – Pauperism
Within this program I am doing a followup from last week regarding the paper I introduced comparing the strategies of Tocqueville and Kuyper respecting ‘Pauperism.’ I did not get to the Kuyperian thoughts in this comparison.
Tocqueville noting that:
‘…that legal charity is fundamentally flawed.’
‘First, there was much abuse of public assistance. It nurtured sloth and irresponsibility while depriving people of human dignity. Due to sinful human nature, people are naturally prone to laziness. Pauperism made the poor more prone to rely on public assistance, and they lost the incentive to work.’
‘…the inevitable result of public charity was to perpetuate idleness among the majority of the poor and to provide for their leisure at the expense of those who work.’
In summary of the ‘First,’ and related to the human dignity and conscience of the poor, Tocqueville writes: ‘The poor man who demands alms in the name of the law is, therefore, in a still more humiliating position than the indigent who asks pity of his fellow men in the name of He who regards all men from the same point of view and who subjects rich and poor to equal laws.’
Secondly for Tocqueville:
‘pointed out that legal charity severs the emotional ties between people, for donors no longer act out of compassion but rather are coerced by law.’
He writes, ‘One class still views the world with fear and loathing while the other regards its misfortune with despair and envy. Far from uniting these two rival nations, who have existed since the beginning of the world and who are called the rich and the poor, into a single people, it breaks the only link which could be established between them. It ranges each one under a banner, tallies them, and bringing them face to face, prepares them for combat.’
Thirdly Tocqueville points out:
‘…another unintended consequence of legal charity—the loss of freedom for the poor.’
‘…legal charity keeps the poor from even wishing to move.’
Kuyper in contrast.
‘He points out the root of modern poverty as human sinfulness: “that men regarded humanity as cut off from its eternal destiny, did not honor it as created in the image of God, and did not reckon with the majesty of the Lord, who alone by his grace is able to hold in check a human race mired in sin.” People failed to understand “the laws that govern human association and the production, distribution, and use of material goods” … Their cognitive failure and lust for power also led to systemic social injustice.’
‘Unlike Tocqueville’s perspective, which was somewhat influenced by Enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau, Kuyper takes a more conservative stance influenced by principles from the Reformation.’
‘Kuyper highlights the role of the church when referring to the two levels of Jesus’ teachings. The church has a threefold role, that is, the ministry of the Word, the ministry of charity, and “instituting the equality of brotherhood.”
‘…the church shapes social morale and institutions.’
‘…as Christianity strayed from its identity and mission, Europe fell into a chaotic disintegration, which then led to its most severe outcome, the French Revolution.’
‘Kuyper believed that this revolution brought forth a new worldview and value system that worsened social problems. According to the ideals of the French Revolution, all rights originated with the individual. The authority and rights of communities such as schools, churches, and other institutions were simultaneously weakened. Moreover, as the nature of this revolution was antireligious, it led to the separation of human beings from their eternal existence.’
Kuyper believed that the French ‘Revolution produced “a deep-seated social need.” Human beings are forced to seek value in this earthly life, and social relationships also degenerate into the state of animal society, that is “dog eats dog.”
The French Revolution actually created nw forms of inequality. ‘It created a new category of modern social problems characterized by unstable social structures that produced inequality and poverty worse than before. The Revolution also initiated humanistic and mechanistic social engineering to fulfill the needs of human beings.’
Kuyper lays out five ideological camps, ‘socialism, including nihilism, anarchism, social democracy, state socialism, and cynical pessimism. Each of these at its core
arose out of a concern for the social problems created by the French Revolution. Thus, they are all characterized by an antireligious attitude, for the root principle of the Revolution was not humanism, but rather a rebellion against God’s rule and a will to establish human rule—“neither God, nor master.”
See the full paper by Li Ma/Jin Li that has a simple summary of:
Kuyper proposes his ‘Sphere Sovereignty’ as a leading mechanism of dealing with the same issues in humanity that Tocqueville discussed.
‘Based on this understanding (of Sphere Sovereignty), Kuyper claims that socialist movements or other ideologies can never solve social problems, for “the social question cannot be resolved rightly unless we respect this duality and thus honor state authority as clearing the way for a free society.” Human society is neither a mechanistic gathering of human beings nor atomized fragments. Rather, it is an organism with both individual freedom and interpersonal ties.’
‘Kuyper believes that absolute ownership belongs only to God, and human beings are responsible to serve as faithful stewards…’
‘…Only when people acknowledge God’s absolute ownership can they come to the realization that wealth is needed not just for self-fulfillment but also for the common good through service to others.’
In reading the full paper, Kuyper points to family taking care of family, the state needs to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and ‘the state exists outside of the family and society as a divinely ordained structure to preserve justice.’ ‘Kuyper stressed that material assistance “should be confined to an absolute minimum,” or else it would harm the dignity and natural resilience of workers.
‘Finally, Kuyper highlights the role of the church in engaging social problems.’
Sam Adams Wisdom
To Peter Timothy (my emphasis added in bold italics)
Boston November 21, 1770
‘The Nonimportation Agreement since the Defection of New York is entirely at an end. From the Beginning I have been apprehensive it would fall short of our Wishes. It was continued much beyond my Expectation: There are here & I suppose every where, men interested enough to render such a plan abortive. Through the Influence of the Come (committee) & Tories here, Boston had been made to APPEAR in an odious Light; but I would not have you believe it to be the true Light. The Merchants in general have punctually abode by their Agreement, to their very great private loss; Some few have found means to play a dishonorable Game without Detection, tho the utmost pains have been taken. The Body of the people remained firm till the Merchants receded. I am very sorry that the Agreement was ever entered into as it has turned out ineffectual. Let us then ever forget that there has been such a futile Combination, & awaken our Attention to our first grand object. Let the Colonies still convince their implacable (unable to be appeased) Enemies, that they are united in constitutional Principles, and are resolved they WILL NOT be Slaves; that their Dependance is not upon Merchants or any particular Class of men, nor is their dernier (last) resort, a resolution BARELY to withhold Commerce, with a nation that would subject them to despotic Power. Our house of reps[sic] have appointed a Come (committee) to correspond with our friends in the other Colonies, & AMERICAN MANUFACTURES should be the constant Theme.’
Perversion of ‘necessary and proper’ From the ARTICLE SIGNED “CANDIDUS.”
[Boston Gazette, January 20, 1772.]
‘IN the Massachusetts-Gazette of the 9th instant, Chronus attempts to prove that “the Parliament’s laying duties upon trade, for the express purpose of raising a revenue, is not repugnant to and subversive of our constitution.” In defence of this proposition, he proceeds to consider the nation as commercial, and from thence to show the necessity of laws for the regulation of trade. – In the nation he includes Great-Britain and all the Colonies, and infers that these acts for the regulation of trade, “should extend to all the British dominions, to prevent one part of the national body from injuring another.” And, says he, “If laws for the regulation of trade are necessary, who so proper to enact them, &c. as the British parliament, or to dispose of the fines & forfeitures arising from the breach of such acts?” And then he tells us, that as a number of preventive officers will hereupon become necessary, the parliament have thought proper to assign to his Majesty’s revenue “the profits arising on the duties of importation for the payment of those officers.” This is Chronus’s “method of reasoning “, to prove that because it is necessary that the parliament should enact laws for the regulation of trade, about which there has as yet been no dispute that I know of, and because it is proper that such preventive officers as shall be found needful to carry those laws into execution, should be paid out of the fines and forfeitures arising from the breach of them, Therefore, the parliament hath a right to make laws imposing duties or taxes, for the express purpose of raising a revenue in the colonies without their consent; and that this is not (as is alledg’d by our Patriots “) “repugnant to or subversive of our constitution “. …
1. Investopedia – A Brief History of Economics By Andrew Beattie, Updated July 30, 2022
2. The Economics of Life – Law & Liberty Book Review
3. Economics and the Bible, by Roger S. Nam, George Fox University
4. Economics, Theology, and a Case for Economic Growth: An Assessment of Recent Critiques, By Edd S. Noell and Stephen L. S. Smith, November 12, 2020
5. Sam Adams Program 2-22-20 Davos 1776 – A Question of Economics