Thursday, April 26, 2007

Waxing Politique

We have Commies at Borders. You know, Reds, Soviets, Bolshevists. Commies.

I have written in past about The Sextion, the area in Borders that (Pent)houses books on sex. Some customers like to read these books without other people noticing them, so they snitch them from The Sextion and take them to far reaching corners of the store where no one will find them. A couple times a week, I'll be shelving in, say, Computers and come across a sex book left there by a purposefully unidentifed customer. I have come to call these books "Commies," as they attempt to redistribute the literarily sexual wealth throughout the store.

Thus, when I call out to my fellow invetory worker, "Hey Squeaks, I've found another commie bastard in the cooking section!", it has nothing to do with a witch-hunt. Unless it's one of those REALLY kinky erotica books.

In the midst of this sexual McCarthyism yesterday, Squeaky Bellows and I somehow stumbled into a serious conversation about capitalism and socialism. He began by saying he feels Marx got a raw deal. For a moment, however brief, it felt like Chapel Hill all over again. Good times.

Now I rarely wax politique here at Redeeming Prufrock. This is partly because I feel that no truth exists in politics - and I'm not talking Clinton/Lewinsky or Bush/Iraq type truth. I feel that many different ways exist to achieve our common goals. Conversely, I also believe that many different ways exist to send the country to pot. This makes the supreme arrogance and unwavering self-confidence that dominate the political scene seem foolish to me. This frustrates me to no end. More than that though, when it comes to politics, I know jack divided by squat. It would be foolishness for me to write on it all the time. Yesterday, however, an interesting irony emerged from our conversation that I thought merits sharing with y'all (thanks for the edit, mwk).

Capitalism works because of the sinful nature. The genius of Adam Smith's invisible hand (and I know we do not operate under a perfectly invisible hand system but work with me) lies in the fact that when all parties work for their own self interest, the community wins. Capitalism works because it accomodates our selfishness, our disregard for others, our sin.

Socialism, on the other hand, may have held water in theory but failed precisely because of the sinful nature. When people saw no personal reward for their hard work, they ceased to work hard. The well-being of others and of the community (ie, generosity) could not sufficiently motivate.

Hooray for oversimplification.

I believe the early church leaned socialist. In the early chapters of Acts, the Bible tells us they held everything in common. This was not pure socialism as we have come to know it, but the common underlying threads are there. It seemed to work rather well. We do not hear tell of rampant poverty and starvation among the early believers. Socialism seemed to work well in conjuction with prayer and sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Ironic, then, that communist governments have almost uniformly striven to eliminate religion from the culture.

What really fascinated me in our discussion was the modern church's defense of capitalism. My church experience is limited, but the white, American, suburban church I know defends capitalism to the last. We fly the American flag in many sanctuaries for goodness sakes. Often, if you listen to the television and maybe even many pulpits, you will hear capitalism defended more vigorously than the Gospel. What a pity. Ironic, then, that the church, which begins its current worldview with the basic statement that sin ruined everything, ascribes so strongly to an economic system that bases its success on that very sin.

What to do with all of this I do not know. The irony of it all and my blindness to it just struck me as supremely fascinating. One thing I do know: whatever adjective you want to put on it, I hope some of those early church leanings are still around as I begin to ask God's people for provision in my life next year.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

I probably shouldn't join this, but I couldn't resist. I think your "oversimplification" is a perfect explanation of those system's faults. I certainly think that a true communist system where there was an external motivation to lead people to share all they had (God) would work well.
But the reason I am a Libertarian is that I understand the sinful nature of humanity, and feel no need to force religion on our society at large.
In the absence of that commonly held belief in God, though, I cannot support any socialist system.

Bradley said...

"Bolsheviks," not "bolshevists." Unless you can learn the lingo, you're not going to get any Bolshevik money from anyone. Try again later, comrade.

Jenn Pappa said...

Ben, great post! very challenging to our pro-democracy-we-have-the-answers mentality...

50 years ago you coulda been arrested for this post... crazy huh?