I have a couple of eighth graders who are starting to take an interest in politics. Sometimes they ask me soul-searching questions that cause me to dig in and search for answers.
“Why isn’t socialism a good thing? We are taught to give to the poor. Isn’t that what socialism is all about? Why shouldn’t the rich guys give to the poor? They have more and to spare. What is the difference between what Christ taught about charity and what leftists want?”
In order to fully understand the answers to these questions, we must first understand the philosophy behind capitalism, socialism, communism and charity.
According to a Internet dictionary, capitalism is a free-market system – an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free, competitive market and motivation by profit.
Capitalism, I believe, is the economic system the Founding Fathers intended when they set up the Constitution.
The Founders were property holders and wanted to remain that way. They didn’t want a king telling them what to do and how to do it. They felt that they were intelligent and educated enough to manage their own resources.
Under the Constitution, the government was only to be responsible for things that needed more than their own ingenuity, like protection from invading armies and criminals.
They were capable of handling their own affairs without government intervention. Capitalism gives everyone equal opportunity under the law.
The American Dream became a reality under capitalism. Every man or woman could start a business and become successful according to his or her investment of time, energy, imagination and ingenuity. The profits belonged to the business owner.
Of course, not all businesses were successful. Some of them failed miserably because they were not managed well or the skills or service became obsolete. In essence, the marketable product became the determining factor in the success or failure of the business.
If people liked and bought a product, the business was a success. If not, it failed, no matter how big or important the business thought it was. In the past, the government didn’t step in with a bailout.
The dictionary defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership ... a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state; a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism. ... ”
With a socialistic economic system, the government begins to own and manage all the businesses, the insurance companies, banks, car companies and construction companies.
The government takes care of everyone because the government leaders are supposedly wiser than its citizens.
The government knows how to provide for the poor and take care of the needs of the rich better than the individual. Socialism is a step short of communism, in which a small minority controls decisions over everything and everyone.
According to dictionary.com, communism is a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state; a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.
Both socialism and communism sound good on the surface. It sounds like everyone would be equal and have plenty of food and resources to be happy.
There would be no rich or poor. Everyone would be one happy family. There is one major flaw in socialism and communism.
It is called incentive. In a capitalistic society men and women work for themselves and receive the profit from their labor. With socialism and communism, the profit is divided whether everyone labored or not.
I explain socialism and communism to my eighth graders this way: There are five people living at home. Dad works, and Mom keeps up house.
Dad shares his income with the family because no one else has a job. Everyone is happy. One day, Bill – who is a good worker – gets a job mowing grass. He gets up early, works all day in the hot sun and comes home at dusk with $25.
Dad says, “You need to share your earnings with the family. Jane needs $5, Jack needs $5, Mom needs $5 and I need $5. You can keep $5.”
Bill says, “But Dad, Jack and Jane watched TV all day and I worked hard. They don’t need any of my money.” Dad kindly explains, “It is not your money; it belongs to the family.”
The next day, Bill spends his $5 and watches TV with Jack and Jane. Bill’s incentive to earn money is gone. Socialism and communism engender laziness. It is easier to let someone else do the work if your reward is going to be the same as everyone else’s.
On the surface, socialism seems like the perfect charitable society. The all-wise and powerful few manage everything and decide how to take care of everybody. In a perfect world, there would be no poor or rich.
Everyone would be equally happy, basking in plenty. But it doesn’t work in the not-so-perfect world we live in.
As the government grows bigger and bigger, we see corruption and greed become a factor. Men who have unlimited power almost always move toward corruption.
If they have power to spend other people’s hard-earned money, they squander it because they don’t have a sense of the price that was paid to earn it.
There is another problem with socialism and communism. They rip the heart right out of Christianity. Our Judeo-Christian belief system is based on charitable giving and sacrifice.
If you own nothing, it is hard to freely give something away. In socialism and communism, taxes are mandatory and will require a punishment for those who do not give.
Charity is a thing of the heart that engenders feelings of compassion and goodness. It fulfills the law of sacrifice. In other words, people who are charitable reach into their hearts and give what they can spare to those who have less. The decision belongs to the person and there is no consequence for not giving.
I believe that the Lord had a hand in writing our Constitution. I believe that He takes an active part in governmental affairs, if the leaders and the people will ask Him.
We are no different from the children of Israel. When they followed God, the people prospered – when they did not, the people perished.
God set up America with a capitalistic economic system so that Christianity could flourish and grow to fill the whole earth.
He intended that the rich give to the poor out of the goodness of their hearts, not because they were compelled to do so.
He intended that this nation become prosperous so that it could help His children all over the world. He wanted care packages to be sent to victims of tsunamis and hurricanes. He wanted a nation that would be an example and teach other nations about the blessings of liberty.
He wanted a compassionate people who would be able to say, “This is my property and my money, but I can see that my neighbor is in need. I have enough and to spare,
I will freely give.” God will not bless others through individuals who have lost the incentive to become self-sufficient. God needs people who have ambition and excess to freely give it to those who have not.
Socialism and communism are schemes and will blatantly destroy God’s plan. God never intended for the Robin Hoods of the world to take from the rich and give to the poor.
No matter how wonderful and romantic Robin Hood may seem, he is still a thief and God said, “Thou shalt not steal.”
Stealing not only breaks a commandment, it trains a society to belittle and hate. If a person can steal from another human being, it means that he or she feels more important and valuable than others.
In so doing, he or she gives others permission to feel the same way. Soon society becomes a war zone of selfish neighbor fighting against selfish neighbor.
On the other hand, in my experience, charity begets charity and compassion begets compassion. It is hard to hurt someone you have compassion for.
It is hard to take from your neighbors when you know how they feel. That is the wisdom in Christianity.
One day, everyone will be treated equally and there will be no rich or poor, but it will not come about through socialism or communism.
It will come because mankind has truly learned to follow Christ’s teaching. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I pray my eighth graders will understand which form of government will bring them closer to that final government where Christ will rule and reign forever. PD