I used to be a fairly hard core capitalist. And while, I share many behaviors with that culture (like people being ”free” to determine what their occupation is, invest in it, and reap the benefits to do with as they see fit), I’ve since rejected identifying with it because God’s ways of government, community, responsibility and freedom don’t seem to fit into any human construction.
And as I’ve come to this understand this, I’ve really had my eyes opened to the evil of consumerism, capitalism, and the so-called free market (not that the human made alternative structures aren’t equally so). It sounds great when you’re riding the wave. But what about when you’re in the way of the wave?
If you want to go to college, get an advanced degree, work in an office, live in suburbia, etc., then the system works great. But what if you just want to live a simple life, grow your food, live and work with your family, do some art (whatever form that takes: dance, woodcarving, painting, sculpture, programming), and worship God? God’s government-cultural design as found in Torah, where your property was forever, interest on debt was pretty much forbidden, debt was cyclically forgiven, etc., then that simple sort of life was easy. If you wanted to do the office job/etc, you could still do that. But it would be like an add-on. Your life is “sustained”. Your family has enough whether you succeed or not, so you really can program or do labwork or whatever, for “fun”. Because you love it, not because you had to.
But, what about the normal routine in the here and now? You probably don’t own land, and even if you do you have to work just to keep it. And the land you own probably isn’t big enough to grow enough for yourself, and you probably can’t pay your taxes based on what you create there because you can’t compete with Walmart, and no one knows about you anyway. And even if you have something worthwhile that someone would want and you could let them know about it through the internet, a lot of things you’re able to make or do for yourself, you’re not allowed to sell.
Say you want to have a little store in your garage? enter government who tells you that you need sprinkler systems, and architectural schematics, and handicap bathrooms. Things your house and land seemed to have done without for decades.
So instead you end up this intense pressure, then you have to go out in the world and work for someone else. Oh, and along the way, you were told you had to get a college education, so now you have a mortgage even before you have property. Now you definitely have to go work because you need the money.
See, one of the great evils of this “free” market situation is that it creates conditions where you have to work for someone else. It creates slavery. Now, some will point out that’s because the market isn’t free because of government over regulation. But those regulations, I suspect, came about under the influence of big business. Is it coincidence that these regulations protect those already in the game from new competitors? Is it a coincidence that health regulations require the kind of multi-million dollar facility that Tyson has and that a local individual family cannot afford which makes their meat, dairy, and eggs “unsafe”?
The whole thing builds up this huge pressure to just do “normal.” Where the family is forced to work apart and not actually enjoy the benefits of owning property. A silent sort of slavery.
Why do we put up with it?
Because we think we can get on top of the wave and do well. We can have that nice big house, and our business can eventually dominate.
But . . . why do we have to dominate? Why does our business have to grow beyond our local market? Why does our business need to grow beyond our community? Where its taking money from customers who we will never have a chance to meet with love?
I think the problem with it is really the same as the problem with having too many children. I think children are blessing, and I disagree generally with artificial contraceptives, or at least how they are used. But I also disagree with lack of family planning. I don’t think God intended us to have as many children as we are physically capable of. The curse said we would have too many children (“I will greatly increase your sorrow and conception”). I think we should only have as many children as we can invest the love and training in their lives to give them a good “chance” of being God’s children. We should only have as many children as we can shape into God’s image.
I think the same applies to business. Bigger is not better. More is not more. Our business should only grow so far as it increases God’s kingdom by doing so, not simply making more money. Perish the thought! I should not expand my business beyond my ability to use it for God. That is one of the reasons (less precisely understood in my own past mind), that I never wanted a corporation. I don’t want shareholders. I suppose silent shareholders would be alright, but I never want to dilute my vision with someone else’s. I never want to be under the influence of someone else who wants me to grow the business for money’s sake. It should only grow for God’s sake.
And when you understand that, it becomes obvious that there are financial opportunities that should be passed up. Expansion and acquisition are not in and of themselves signs of success. Success could easily be measured by giving a godly competitor an advantage. Refusing to enter the market of a neighbor who is also God’s child. I would hate to find myself in competition with a brother or sister. I shouldn’t desire to compete with them. If I know a better way to do something then I should desire for them to succeed even if it was at my expense. Likewise, they should do the same for me.
Of course, I think I need to protect myself from those who aren’t godly. So I wouldn’t be willing to make my business weak. And I want to make mine able to weather storms. I want it to be strong, like a house or a car.
But that’s why its so important to have that base of a sustainable house and land. To be able to fall back to it. To say, “I have enough if this fails.” To be in a position where I can afford to fail. And getting caught up in this world’s way of business is antithetical to that. It wants you to be in a position where you have to succeed outside of the home. To force you to succeed even at the expense of another. So you can’t choose to do right, but only to do more.
***Action point: Normally, I just share thoughts here. But I have this idea that I’m working on, for a “phone book” probably on the internet. Probably a network of sights. It would probably be a great idea for a big central run business, but that’s opposite of the idea. So I think many operators linking to each other would be better.
Anyway, the phone book would be based on Torah consistent business. It has to be more than a vague “love thy neighbor”, it has to be the love God already defined. It requires you to actually act for the benefit of your neighbor. That is why business, where you don’t actively work for the good of your neighbor (= nigh-bor/near person) is evil. You have to consider whether in God’s eyes what you’re doing is good for the customer and for your “competitors”. That doesn’t mean being weak, it means you are REALLY TRULY seeking an outcome of blessing for them. You don’t want your customer to buy, you want them to experience good (and ultimately to do good themselves). You don’t want to crush your rivals, you want there to be enough for both of you.
So this phonebook would be of those kinds of businesses, and by businesses I also mean individuals working/producing out of their home, and probably also have room for believers who don’t explressly agree with the Torah but are at least recognized as leaders trying to express the Kingdom in their business.
But in the meantime, let me encourage us to seek out our people (God’s people) and not just spend money in the market, but spend it in the market that actually is building God’s kingdom. Don’t go to a mass manufacturer (if you can help it), find a believer who makes or does that.
Let’s start funding what we want the world to become.