Does the Bible Endorse Free Markets?

"The Bible doesn’t claim to favor any particular nation-based economic system . . . . But Scripture does seem to have a clear preference for the economic activities that underpin the free market." 

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Joel Shaffer's picture

I generally agree with this article with the premise that the Bible contains "an economy of free markets and entrepreneurship follows from the commands given by God, though sin has marred the business practices that we experience today."   However, to play devils advocate, I have also heard certain Christians claim Joseph's successful plan in saving Egypt from famine was more consistent with socialism/centralizing planning of economics than free-market capitalism.    

Bert Perry's picture

You could also argue that the infant church in Jerusalem, where people sold property to meet the needs of those in need, is a Biblical example of communalism, as is the example of Nehemiah requiring Hebrew slaves to be freed during the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  

But that said, what's really at stake in the argument is a couple of questions.  First of all, is the kind of top down administrative state advocated by progressives something that was even thinkable back in the day?  Rome has some little version of this with the majority of craftsmen (at least in the major cities) being slaves, but anything as comprehensive as the Health Insurance Deform Act (Obamacare) or full socialism would have been unthinkable.  So in terms of that, we're left in about the same position as the person who wonders whether the Bible authorizes him to use a car or computer--inferring from known facts.

And that noted, there's a second question that has a lot to do with modern progressivism; is it right to vote yourself a subsidy, or is that simply the covetousness that is prohibited in Exodus 20 and elsewhere?  You might guess that I am with Professor Walter Williams on that one.  It's covetousness.

Plus, as anyone who knows Roman history knows, bread and circuses (or health insurance, bread, cheese, butter,......and targeted IRS audits) has some very, very nasty results.  You get a nation of thieves instead of a nation of workers.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture


I have also heard that benevolent dictatorship is one of the best forms of government -- if your leader is Joseph, it's probably easy to live under that government, whereas most leaders won't be anything like that.  I'm reasonably certain that free-market economics, even with corrupt officials, would be more equitable than socialism/centralized planning under a repressive dictator.

Dave Barnhart