The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism written by Max Weber, a German socioligist, economist and politician, is considered a foundational text for American capitalism. In the book, Weber wrote that capitalism in northern Europe evolved when the Protestant (particularly Calvinist) ethic influenced large numbers of people to engage in work in the secular world, developing their own businesses and engaging in trade and the accumulation of wealth for investment. In other words, the Protestant work ethic was a force behind an unplanned and uncoordinated effort led by the Spirit of God (not government) that influenced the development of capitalism.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 support this claim, but it is not the complete solution. The ability to earn wealth is not an exclusive gift to those who are hard working Protestants. Likewise, poverty is not an indication of failure to work hard. It is also true that government is unable to successfully manipulate real economic growth. The genius of American Capitalism has been the freedom to capitalize great ideas and innovation, with mindful commitment to building a more perfect Union where the working poor have an opportunity to participate in a growing economy. The problem is a gradual shift away from a “Protestant work ethic” to a “profit work ethic”.
Our present problems are not as great as the problems of our past, such as slavery and women’s suffrage. However, we must examine if we are still at the intersection of faith and capital, or have we left faith behind in pursuit of capital. President Obama called belief in capitalism “blind faith.” He said this philosophy, of letting people “fend for themselves” has “failed.” He added that “people are frustrated, they’re anxious, they’re scared about the future. [But] now is not the time to quit….We’ve been through worse…. It took time to free the slaves. It took time for women to get the vote.”
It is too easy to argue that “Capitalism is unjust, unfair…A new system must be put in its place, and this takes time.” There are no perfect systems and I do not believe it is possible to legislate the love of neighbor principle. Taxes are a means to balance the scales; however, this removes personal responsibility for love of neighbor and establishes an ever increasing government that can be more self-serving than the tax payers. This problem is exacerbated by rising government debt and decreasing domestic production.
Recent global opinion polls show falling public support for capitalism. This is most marked in the country that used to epitomise free enterprise. In 2002, 80% of Americans agreed that the world’s best bet was the free-market system. By 2010 that support had fallen to 59%, only a little above the 54% average for the 25 countries polled. Nominally Communist China is now one of the world’s strongest supporters of capitalism, at 68%, up from 66% in 2002. Brazil scores 68% too. Germany squeaks into top place with 69%.
France, one of the world’s strongest economies, continues as an anti-capitalist outlier. Only 6% of French “strongly” support the free market, down from an already puny 8% in 2002. Add those who “somewhat agree” with capitalism’s superiority and the figure is 30%, down from 42% in 2002. Turkey (another free-market success story) had the same level of support then, but it has dropped even lower, to a mere 27%. In Europe only Spain seems to buck the trend, rising from 37% in 2002 to 51% . Indians, on paper big winners from free-market reforms, appear unimpressed: support has dropped to 58% from 73%.
Capitalism’s waning fortunes are starkly visible among Americans earning below $20,000. Their support for the free market has dropped from 76% to 44% in just one year. The research was conducted by GlobeScan, a polling firm. Its chairman Doug Miller says American business is “close to losing its social contract” with average families.
Perhaps the balance can be found in Act 4:32-36 and Acts 5. The focus must return to building Community and less on making a name for our selves.
Leave a Comment
No comments yet.