What’s Wrong with Capitalism?

Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not preached in place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.

These words of Marx and Engels (Communist Manifesto, 3:I:a) suggest that Christianity may be initially quite useful for the socialist cause. Even though the abolition of all religion is ultimately a necessity in their suggested system, Marx and Engels recognize the practicality of incremental progress toward their goals. Hence, they welcome a slight retasking of Christian ideas in order to facilitate societal drift toward socialism, and ultimately toward communism.

Marx and Engels perceive that all conflict is traceable to class struggle, and that class struggle is economic at its core. Redistribution of wealth is a key to neutralizing the conflict and liberating the oppressed from their oppressors. For Marx and Engels, class struggle is an economic issue that can only be resolved politically, hence their political efforts toward an economic final solution. Capitalism represents, for them, a system that enables continuing oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. Capitalism is a great enemy to be conquered, and one that will naturally fall—if and when the proletariat realizes their great strength, unites, and acts in accordance with Marx’s and Engels’ designs.

For Christians, it is reasonable to wonder whether Marx’s and Engels’ drafting of Christianity as somewhat (and initially) useful is actually compatible with Christianity. If the Bible is the sole authority for Christian understanding and ethics, then is there a biblical discussion that should guide the church’s thinking on economics? If Scripture is God-breathed and useful for equipping us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17), then we should expect some economic guidance in its pages. In that expectation we are not disappointed.

The first structured economic model we discover in Scripture is that given by God to Israel in the context of the Law, or the Mosaic Covenant. Israel was to enter into the land of Canaan, enjoy the fruit of the land, give a tithe (primarily of firstfruits) to the tribe of Levi in order to facilitate the Levitical system of worship (Levi was a tribe not given a land inheritance, thus each of the other tribes were commissioned, through the tithe, to help Levi subsist). The charging of interest was disallowed by law, and there were rules governing how debts and debt-enslavements were to be handled. Families within tribes were not allowed to sell their land outside of their families, in order to maintain a level of land ownership that could accommodate the families. In this context there was substantial economic freedom, but with legal limitations on greed.

In other words, certain specific manifestations of greed were illegalized within the community of Israel. Importantly, the overarching governing principle for Israel at that time was theocracy. God was with them, leading them, and ruling them. The Law was not designed to work in a non-theocratic context, and its purpose was provisional (see Gal 3).

In the church age (which began at Pentecost, a short time after Christ fulfilled the Law), there is not such a structured and regulated approach to the legal aspects of economics. Instead, there is a focus on individual character. For example, Christians are to be free from the love of money (Heb 13:5), to look out for the interests of others (Php 2:4-5), to give freely and not under compulsion (2 Cor 9:6-8), not to discriminate based on financial standing (James 2:1-4), and to understand that all we are given is for the purpose of good deeds (2 Cor 9:8-11).

In the church model there are no specific guidelines given for economic legislation. The church is not a national entity governed by legislation. Instead, it is a living organism—a group of individual believers existing and functioning together in and as the body of Christ. The focus of the Scriptures is that believers submit to a process whereby God works in them to conform them to the image of Christ. The expectation is that believers ought to demonstrate in ongoing fashion, that continual transformation in their thoughts, speech, and deeds (e.g., Rom 12:1-2).

So how should believers view private property, individual and corporate profits, commodification of labor, and the like? It is notable that Scripture doesn’t condemn these things—in fact, money itself is never described as evil. The Bible is specific, however, about the central economic problem: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim 6:10). Literally, the phrase could be translated “a root of all the evils.” What is so wrong with a love (or affection, φιλαργυρία) for money that it could be described as a root of all the evils?

Jesus warned, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Lk 12:15). Greed takes the focus off of what life is really about, and emphasizes temporal things. Essentially, greed is a fantastically effective and attractive gateway to idolatry.

Paul warns believers that greed should not even be named among believers—there should be no hint of it among those who follow Jesus Christ (Eph 5:3). In fact, Paul adds that believers should consider themselves as dead to such things as greed—which he equates to idolatry (Col 3:5).

Peter observes that greed is a primary motivation for false teaching (2 Pet 2:3). So while greed often manifests itself in economic areas, it is not an economic problem. Nor is it a political problem. Paul describes in Romans 1:29 how greed is an inherent part of human depravity. It is not merely a class struggle or political issue, it is a spiritually rooted problem. It cannot be solved by political or legislative means—either with Marx’s and Engels’ system or even a more democratic one. Only by the internal and spiritual transformation of individuals by the power of God, is there progress in remedying the root problem. Of course that doesn’t mean that political systems are irrelevant or unworthy of Christians’ time and investment. But despite the proclamations of Marx and Engels, political and economic pursuits have no ability to fix the problem.

Whats’ wrong with capitalism? The same thing that is wrong with every other thing that human hands touch—it’s us. Changing the system or the governing party can’t fix what ails us. That doesn’t mean we ignore such things (thank God we can have some impact in these areas!), it just means that we need to adjust our expectations and our focus. Let’s focus on the core issue, deal with the symptoms where we can, and not confuse the root problem with its symptoms.

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There are 34 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Appreciate the post and the focus. Greed afflicts all things human.

There's always a delicate balance when taking Scripture to economic philosophy. It's easy to sell the Bible short and not derive all we can from it in this regard. It's at least equally easy to wring principles out of it that aren't really there--out of eagerness to give a conviction we have more solid backing.

One way to get off to a good start toward getting all the relevant truth we can from special revelation is start with the question "Where do economic philosophies come from?"  Answering that question thoroughly brings all sorts of ideas onto the table that Scripture speaks very clearly to.    (And one of the followup questions that arises is "What should an economic philosophy propose to do about the fact that human beings are unalterably greedy?")

Jim's picture

What's right with capitalism:

  • The right to own capital / private property
  • The right to take risk and earn a  profit
  • The right to purchase from whomever I choose

We (my wife and I) just finished 1 Kings where the story of Naboth’s Vineyard is in chapter 21. The story is telling because government wanted to seize it (of course ultimately did). In that particular case, seizure of private property is seen as sinful. 

Capitalism is about free markets. 

GregH's picture

Jim wrote:

What's right with capitalism:

  • The right to own capital / private property
  • The right to take risk and earn a  profit
  • The right to purchase from whomever I choose

We (my wife and I) just finished 1 Kings where the story of Naboth’s Vineyard is in chapter 21. The story is telling because government wanted to seize it (of course ultimately did). In that particular case, seizure of private property is seen as sinful. 

Capitalism is about free markets. 

On the other hand, the OT law limited private property ownership in ways that were downright uncapitalistic. Basically land stayed with a family rather than naturally flowing to the most successful as happens in capitalism. And while the wealthy could obtain the use of more land, they did not really own it. They were renting it for a maximum of 7 years.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Per Greg's comment, it is striking that the OT puts some serious bounds on wealth.  Land ownership was permanent, but sales were not, except for redeeming the land of a deceased relative (e.g. book of Ruth).  Kings were not to collect gold, horses, or women--basically the spoils of aggressive war and empire.  No favoritism in inheritances.  You could be prosperous and even rich (e.g. Boaz), but it is as if the Scriptures put some boundaries on most men's wealth and power for their own good.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

We need to be very careful in drawing conclusions about economic policy from Israel. It goes back to the whole discontinuity thing for those of us who are dispensational. There is a fair amount to go on in the NT but admittedly most of it is descriptive and not prescriptive.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It really is a little bit tricky using OT to make a legit. case for an economic philosophy, but not impossible by a long shot. The reason is that economic philosophies arise from beliefs about human nature--as individuals and in societies. And the OT is nothing if not rich in lessons about human nature.

For example what did Marx and Engels believe about human beings as individuals and in societies? I'm a bit rusty on my Marxism, but I think it's not too far off to say that Marx saw all inequality of wealth and/or power as an inherently inferior situation that not only ought to be corrected but that inevitably would be corrected. (I'm pretty sure he is no longer holding his breath waiting for that to happen!)

Right away you have some difficulties, because (a) Scripture everywhere assumes that some should have power and others should not, that (b) some should have more property than others, and most importantly (c) how diligent you are in your labor not only should but normally does directly influence how much property you have... or more properly, how well you thrive. These ideas are everywhere assumed in Scripture but sometimes stated directly as a matter of principle distinguishing wisdom from folly.

So Marx's "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need" is not compatible with biblical anthropology and sociology.

With economic--and political-philosophies it's usually possible to trace them back to their view of human nature, the nature of society, and the role of government, and once you get there it's not all that hard to filter through a biblical grid and see what ideas survive.

JD Miller's picture

Just for clarification on an above comment:  The land was to rest every seven years, but was returned after 7 cycles of 7 thus every 49 years.  This was the year of Jubilee.  If you decided to buy the land 20 years into this time period, you would thus be buying a long term lease for 29 years and then it would be returned back to the original owner or his heirs if he had died.  If you bought the land one year before the Jubilee, you would not want to pay much for it, since you would not have it very long.  Though the land was returned at the end of the Jubilee, the profits that were made off the land were not returned.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

JD, that's my understanding as well. Folks have different ideas on what that system implies for 'capitalism,' but it's probably more useful to consider what it implies for the alternatives. Marxian socialism for example, sees personal property as ultimately being a hindrance to the inexorable progress of humankind. Personal property is a silly notion that will eventually be obsolete.    The property model in the Mosaic Covt. system actually intensifies property ownership by basically saying "That land is so yours you cannot even get rid of it if you want to!"

It's clear that the OT is not compatible with any philosophy that sees personal property as evil. (Whether "evil" fits Marx's view I don't know... I kind of doubt it. But the notion that property ownership is evil is certainly out there)

josh p's picture

My understanding is that the year of Jubilee was about keeping the land in the proper tribe per the allotments. Not sure how much economic philosophy can be derived from it.

M. Osborne's picture

Leviticus 25:23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land."

This strikes me as something more similar to feudalism than modern private property. In feudalism, tenants had rights in the land by virtue of their relationship to their lord, who could place restrictions on alienation; with modern private property, the government exercises police/taxation/eminent domain/escheat powers over the property owners, but cannot generally place restrictions on buying, selling, leasing, etc.

A "sale" of land in Israel was really a sale of usage rights, produce, etc.

I work for a title company, and some day, I will write A Title Analyst Looks at Leviticus 25, which will surely stand beside Keller's A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 as a real devotional classic. Are there any dermatologists out there willing to write A Dermatologist Looks at Leviticus 13? At this rate, we could outstrip Stormie Omartian, who recently released The Power of a Praying Landscape Artist, large print edition.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

M. Osborne's picture

So, to Jim, in light of my previous post: Naboth's reply to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers," is, I think, more than, "I ain't sellin'." I think he's saying it's simply not allowed. I could be wrong there. Haven't checked it specifically.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

GregH's picture

I don't have a problem with saying the Bible implicitly condones some capitalistic ideas. Throw Marxism out. But that does not mean it endorses the wholesale and extreme capitalism that many would push for either. The capitalism of Ayn Rand is every bit as unbiblical as Marxism, probably more so.

Jim's picture

M. Osborne wrote:

So, to Jim, in light of my previous post: Naboth's reply to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers," is, I think, more than, "I ain't sellin'." I think he's saying it's simply not allowed. I could be wrong there. Haven't checked it specifically.

I cited Naboth to illustrate the right of private property against government seizure. 

A NT citation about private property would be Acts 5: ".... a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, .... Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? "

Bert Perry's picture

It might be noted, regarding the reversion of land to the tribes/clans/families in the OT, that nobody actually buys land in perpetuity today, either.  Think about it for a moment.  We die, and the dirt is piled on top of the casket, not put into it, no?

And regarding whether Marxism is worse, or a truly unbounded Randian "greed is good" capitalism....OK, one does away with the notion of capital altogether (read the Communist Manifesto if you doubt this) and violates "Thou shalt not Steal" and "thou shalt not covet" out of the Bible in effect, and the other assumes that there is no moral component to economics and more or less writes "thou shalt not covet" out of the Scriptures.  And of course, with abortion and the well known crimes against humanity by Communists, both tend to write "Thou Shalt not Kill" out of God's Word, too.

Which is worse?  Well, Communism has been more "successful", at least in terms of body count and scope of implementation (yay?), but to quibble over whether one group's rejection of a few letters of the decalogue is worse than another's in theory is....something of a hyper-academic discussion that I'd be glad to bow out of.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

M. Osborne's picture

@Jim: I don't deny an OT/NT support for some kind of private property. I'm just not sure that "private property" and "government seizure" are the right categories for the Naboth story. For one thing, one gets the feeling that Ahab's desires are not for eminent domain or official use, but for personal pleasure. For another thing, the reason Naboth cites seems to go back to restrictions against alienation. However, apparently that has been debated and discussed in even a full-length volume, The stories about Naboth the Jezreelite : a source, composition, and redaction investigation of 1 Kings 21 and passages in 2 Kings 9 by Patrick T. Cronaue. Now I can really get my geek on.

@Bert Perry: If I own 123 Main Street in fee simple, and sell it to you in fee simple, from my vantage point, I have sold the land in perpetuity. There is no prospect of reversion to me. If I hold only a leasehold interest (say, for 99 years), I can sell only rights that last for 99 years. I may be able to enjoy all kinds of rights in the property, but in this setup, there's no way to sell in perpetuity. And you're right in a spiritual sense that our enjoyment of property does not last beyond death. But from a legal sense, from the vantage point of the property, your legal interest in that property lasts beyond your death into your estate, where you can direct what happens to the property through a will (and if you have no will, laws of intestate succession kick in).

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Jim's picture

As an aside ... I love capitalism. I don't think in an idolatrous way!

I've been a capitalist since my youth. First with a lawn mower (the capital)  and my sweat (the labor) (Summer time) and shovel and labor in the Winter.

My Dad's view ... you want $$ ... there are tons of opportunity. Wan to go to camp? Earn the $$. Want a bike? Earn the $$. Dad (now dead) pressed that lesson home to me. 

I attempted to buy stock as a teenager. I looked through the stock listings in the paper and found a cheap one ... Curtis Publishing. I think it was trading at about a buck and I could afford to buy 100 shares. I called a broker up and got the brush off (I was 15 or so). They since filed for bankruptcy. I would have lost it all (ha!) 

Imagine ... we can buy a portion of a company ... invest some cash (and any more you can buy shares for commissions under $ 5!). I like the risk ... some go up ... some go down. Eg ... Lumber Liquidators (which I don't own!) 

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the OT provisions, I've no great desire to go back to them, but I do think that we can learn a lot from what those laws accomplished.  Even the King had no claim on someone else's land--Naboth example, as well as the fact that the Temple was built on land bought from a Gentile, Arauna the Jebusite.  You couldn't end up owning half of Judea through business, couldn't be a loan shark, etc..  Welfare was a matter of private generousity, not public.  Largely, the New Testament maintains this kind of thinking.  

Reenact Mosaic law?  No.  Learn from what they accomplished?  You bet!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I've occasionally seen the fact that God owned the land as an argument against the ethics of property ownership. But as a counter, I would point out that God also owned the first born son of every family and these too had to be redeemed. In the case of both the firstborn and the land, there were historical reasons for setting these apart as "God's" in a special way. Tenth plague, conquest of Canaan, Christological foreshadowing, etc. 

But the deeper point I think was that everything is God's and we are all stewards. But the handling of land in this way doesn't form an argument against property ownership if we understand "ownership" clearly. As Christians we know that it's all really God's, but "ownership" is an expression of how our stewardship of particular items/property relates to other human beings. Something is "ours" when we have the right to do certain things with it that others do not have the right to do.

Beyond that, it gets complicated trying to draw hard and fast boundaries between "ownership" and other forms of exclusive rights. (For example, we call the relationship I have with my house "ownership," but in reality, I am slowly coming to own it as I pay back a giant loan to a lending institution that has the right to take it back if I fail to pay.)

When it comes to economic philosophy, though, all those details are distractions. In Marxist socialism, you do not have the right to prosper more than someone else through your own diligent efforts, and it is outmoded (or perhaps 'wrong') to own the means of production and hire other people to do the labor. As basic principles of relationship to property and work, these ideas are not compatible with Scripture.

Rolland McCune's picture

What may be missing in discussing the economics of the Mosaic system is the fact that Israel was a theocratic state that was upheld by numerous intrusions of divine miracles unlike any form of government before or since, until the Kingdom of God in the eschaton. The Law of Moses was the nation's constitution and legal instrument  for its internal polity as well as its foreign policy. It also established the official state religion and all that upheld it. E.g., the land produced twice as much in the sixth year before the sabbatical seventh year, and three times more in the 49th year before Jubilee. The nation's  general welfare, as well as an individual's, depended on obedience to the Covenant. Rainfall  and all agents of the state were divinely superintended and controlled. Direct revelation from God, while a last resort in various disputes, was available.  Economic freedom included the freedom to go broke. And on an on.

My understanding of all that is that the general economic tenor permitted and encouraged the maximum personal freedom within the constraints of the constitution. Translated into present governmental polity, it seems that without the miraculous intrusions of God, the ideal that we can hope for and pursue is a system of checks and balances, a separation of powers, and the like. These would tend to curb the depraved appetites and schemes that always arise to the fore.  A monarchy is by far the most effecient form of  government and economics, provided that the monarch is a mediator who is both a human being and God in the flesh.  Until the Kingdom political and economic equity must be flattened out among the hoi poloi as much as cosmetically possible. I.e., a form of capitalism.

Rolland McCune

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, so we can see a number of ways in which Israel's ancient government was not only unique but dramatically unique, with what we would tend to see today as supernatural intrusions into the mix on a pretty regular basis... unitl violations of the covenant produced greater and greater distance from the initial ideal.

Though there are some who seem to see a very simple transfer of economic ideas from OT Israel to modern nation-states (though they don't seem to notice how much cherry picking they're doing) it sounds like most of us here recognize that there is a good bit complexity--and opportunity for error--in the process, looking at what was unique and what was not, intended purposes, etc. (I continue to believe that a really potent handful of foundational ideas are clear enough to eliminate some popular modern approaches though)

Much agree too that there is never really been anything better than excellent king, and so there could be nothing better in the future than a perfect one!

GregH's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Much agree too that there is never really been anything better than excellent king, and so there could be nothing better in the future than a perfect one!

Sorry for the rabbit trail but I am curious. Maybe Israel had a few good kings. But in the history of Europe for example, has there ever been an excellent king? I guess comparatively yes, but after throwing out the powerless figurehead ones, has there ever been a king who respected the basic human rights his subjects, did not treat them like his property, did not send them into wars over his petty squabbles, and in general did not abuse his power?

I am not saying there were not. But I am not aware of any that would rate too highly by today's standards of human rights.

Bert Perry's picture

Loved Greg's question, and my answer is that we need to grade on a curve here.  Yes, most of the kings of Europe did spend a certain amount of time and treasure fighting wars, chasing mistresses, and the like.  But that said, they fought wars with a mercenary army, not conscripts, observed (with some notable exceptions like the 30 Years' War) some restraints on attacking noncombatants, and the tax rates were far lower back then.  The U.S. War of Independence got started over a 2% tax, for example. 

It is also arguable that if we heeded our founding documents--including the Magna Carta, the 1688 Bill of Rights, and such--we would find our way back to such restraint.  In other words, the problem is not our system of government, but rather us--as Pogo would have said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

On Kings ... a quote. Not promoting this view but since the thread is going this direction it is of historical interest:

Denis Diderot

Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

Without knowing the full context (or even the veracity) of this quote, I see in it:

  • Kings were viewed by the author as oppressors of men
  • Ditto the Roman church
GregH's picture

Yes, I find it of interest that anyone would consider a monarchy a good thing considering the pathetic history of kings. Did God not warn Israel of that?

It just turns my stomach what happened during the monarchies of the middle ages and even later in Europe. It is easy to idealize that period when you look from the perspective of the nobles but ignore the plight of 99.9% of the population who lived in misery and was yet expected to drop everything at a moment's notice and go die for the king in some petty squabble. And yes, the Roman church was not any better.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's always a good idea to compare an option to the achievable alternatives. During the middle ages, there was nothing better on the table than monarchy.

As for the question, was there ever an excellent king? Well, it depends on which versions of history you believe. They say the victor is the one who writes the history. I'm not sure I believe that. But in any case, the idea that an excellent king is the ideal form of government doesn't really depend on historical examples of excellent kings. There are other lines of evidence.

For starters, a single decision maker is clearly more efficient than the parliamentary system or our hybrid here in the US, especially in a crisis. Then again, as the histories show (they seem to mostly agree on this functional point), a king is always somewhat dependent on the good graces of his top land-owning nobility, so the efficiency advantage is somewhat mitigated by that.

Another line of evidence would be the reasoning thinkers used in developing things like constitutional monarchies and eventually representative democracies. A huge part of the rationale was that kings were simply not virtuous enough to the job well without a good bit more accountability, advice, and restraint (there is also the whole social contract angle which doesn't really have much to do w/the king's competence or trustworthiness). So it follows that in the eyes of the innovators who gave us what we know as "democracy" today, if a king really could be good enough, the sort of reforms they advocated would not be necessary.

So we're talking about ideals here. 

Third line of evidence is that when Christ establishes His perfect reign on the earth, the structure He apparently chooses is monarchy. So it follows that to the degree a king can be "Christlike," he can rule well. Of course, we're all aware that the gap between the best mere human king and the coming King is... maybe "infinite" is not overstatement.

Still, it's not hard to see patterns in what made some kings better and worse than others. And I guess that could be a fourth line of evidence. If king A is 'better than' king B because he made wiser decisions, formed better alliances, treated his subjects better, etc. It's possible to extrapolate from that that "more of the good and less of the bad" would produce even better results.

GregH's picture

I have no problem saying that an excellent king would be efficient and possibly even the ultimate best form of government. But my point is that since western civilization has a horrific record on the matter over centuries, there is strong evidence that an excellent king is nothing more than wishful thinking and really as far-fetched an idea as any other, no matter how good it sounds. In other words, the whole idea is impossible because of human depravity and as a result, more democratic forms of governments work better.

In addition, the whole class structure that comes with a king (or at least all the kings of western civilization) makes the whole concept evil in my opinion.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I guess I don't see western civilization's record as all that horrific--if we compare it to the alternatives. Granted, all governments have been governments of sinners over other sinners and you have all the problems you'd expect to go with that.  But it was Western civilization that eventually gave us the modern variants of representative democracy we see now.... which are also horrific in their own way, but not so much when we look at the other options out there.

As for capitalism, though, it's an economic model, not a form of government, though it tends to correlate with freer governments because of the freedom it needs to thrive (notable exception is China, which continues to try to sort of use capitalism within the contraints of its political ideology).

What Marx and co. did was develop philosophy of human nature, society, and history that is very economics-focused and then advocate both an economic model and form of government structure to go with it. But if we look at how it has played out in history, you mostly have absolutist dictatorships or oligarchies that have tried to implement socialism. Then you have the European democracies that have kind of cherry picked socialist ideas and tried to use them (almost the reverse of what China's been doing), mostly to their own detriment.

Bert Perry's picture

.....in terms of sociology and theology, beyond the obvious "religion is the opiate of the masses", is that it assumes that an economic system can perfect the nature of man.  Kill the kulaks, but the proletariat will work hard and eventually everyone will be singing and reciting poetry in the streets.  No kidding.  

Capitalism, on the other hand, works because it uses the base nature of man--the deadly sin of greed, really--to drive good behavior in putting that greedy man to work in service to his neighbor.  Removing the profit motive really, really causes huge problems for this reason.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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