The Problem of Human Government

People have usually styled Capitalism as a “Christian friendly” economic system. And it is, in that Capitalism makes similar assumptions as Christianity about human nature. Christianity says that everyone starts out with an evil nature. This nature must be dealt with by a righteous, albeit forgiving, God. Christians believe this to be self-evident because, for instance, you don’t have to teach a child how to lie. But if you want him to tell the truth even if it hurts, you must train him to adopt the principles of honesty in daily living. Capitalism makes a similar assumption by saying that human nature is generally fallible based on historical precedent. It does not say necessarily that everyone will be bad. Instead it says that in any society of humans, there will invariably be those who justify taking advantage of other people.

Capitalism may be “Christian friendly” in the sense of the two “matching up” in it’s claims about such realities. But Christians are dissatisfied with the outcomes of Capitalism. Sure we like the fact that people get to decide their own level of risk. We are all for the idea of personal responsibility. But inevitably there will be people who fall short of the merits of the Capitalist system, or in essence, fall off the radar: people who are “at risk”, according to sociologists. Empathic Christians feel it is their responsibility to do something to help these “at risk” individuals or groups. Although we may agree with some of Capitalism’s viewpoints, if we are intellectually honest, we must inevitably be disgusted by some of it’s outcomes.

If capitalism, then, does not fit the bill, what else is there? Many who disagree with capitalism find communism a better alternative. The question must arise, where should Christians stand on this thing called Communism? It certainly appears to be a good thing, everyone working together and sharing everything equally. It sounds great. It definitely fits the picture many Christians have of their own church. Many churches strive for a communal inner atmosphere. We believe we are meant to enjoy each other and help each other, just like we are meant to enjoy God forever. It appears that although capitalism may line up with Christian realism, communism is the system of government that most closely matches Christian idealism – they just don’t call it communism or may not know that it is a form of communism. It may work in the church or a commune where many folks volunteer and agree on the same standard of social morality. But this begs the question, is the rest of the world up to it?

To answer this we have to look at what Marx predicted. He claimed that all resources would be collected and distributed by the ruling class – socialism. Then the working class would become aware that they are being exploited and take power from the ruling class in a bloody revolution, ushering in communism.

Now, some will agree that communism is the best form of government on paper. Some might praise the merits of capitalism. But who amongst us is ready to take the step of socialism to get there? It may be for good intentions. However, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with such things.

Socialism is a form of total government – or totalitarianism. Total government attempts to put “all” under it’s rule. This is for any number of reasons. But let’s consider the implications of only the ‘good’ reasons. Benevolent socialism might be done in an attempt to curb all manner of poverty and illness – basically to decide the level of risk for it’s citizens. Does it accomplish this task? Consider an analogy –

A lake full of some toxin may be cleaned up if enough money is spent. The lake may be 99% toxin free once the clean up is done. That one percent left, or some number less than one percent, is nearly impossible to attain. The trace amounts left of the toxin are so elusive that one might spend a fortune just trying to eliminate that last one percent. In some cases it’s like what mathematicians call a tangent – a line curving infinitely closer to zero (the axis) but never getting there. No matter how much money you spend, you can’t quite eliminate that last one percent.

Socialism is like the tangent that demonstrates the infinite dollars spent in trying to clean up the last little bit of toxicity. Or, in our case, poverty and illness. So by the time socialism has culminated, poverty and illness has not been eliminated and in the mean time we have taken away everyone’s freedom to choose their own level of risk (clean up their own toxins) for a solution that is unsustainable, economically speaking. It can’t be sustained by wealth unless wealth is being created. If the creation of wealth plateaus so will the amount of wealth we can tax.

But even if somehow we make this step of socialism successfully, true communism, as it’s successor, may still be deterred by human nature. A revolution to take power creates a power vacuum. According to communist ideology, that vacuum is never again filled by a government. There is no government in true communism. The only thing left is simply the shared principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” – Marx and Engels. Communism never accounts for human corruption or selfishness. It claims that those things are caused by people owning what we now call “property.” But even if all “property” is eliminated they can never eliminate the feeling that we are our own property. The ultimate thing we think we own is ourselves. It is the alleged ownership of that property which makes us consequently selfish. It is that selfishness which bites us back and reminds us of it’s existence every time we think it can be done away with by some trick of government or even no government at all as it were. And if there is no government in this great communism, how will we be protected from others’ selfishness if they at once decide they want or deserve more?

This leaves us with a problem. How are we to handle human nature? The options are either to eliminate human existence all together, leave the flaws alone, or somehow fix human nature. This is where both capitalism and communism part ways with Christianity. Communists don’t think the human nature itself needs to be fixed but only it’s environment. Capitalists think human nature is impossible to fix and adjusts policy accordingly. Christians, on the other hand, believe that human nature is the very thing to fix and that it really can be. Christians also believe that it is for the ultimate individual and collective good that human nature must be fixed. Of course, we believe that it’s fixing is no doing of our own and that it is not really fixed but forgiven first and then dealt with as it is till it is something different.

All government systems may eventually fail. However, they may survive longer if they account for the inevitable flaws in government that human nature will create. Capitalism admits to these flaws. We’re heading towards socialism because in a capitalist system were always trying to fix the flaws. Fixing the flaws in a Capitalist society can lead ultimately to communism. Fixing the flaws in a Communistic society can lead to Capitalism. If Marx was right and we see Communism on the other side of Socialism, how will we then account for the flaws without perpetuating the cycle?