Economics

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.

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Myths of Materialism

(From the archives. Originally posted in June of 2011 as “Materialism: It’s Probably Not What You Think.”)

Ask most people to describe materialism and you’ll hear references to big screen TVs, computers, SUVs, big houses and overpaid CEOs. A few might mention “consumerism” and “greed.” Most would agree with the idea that materialism has been a major obstacle to relieving world poverty. Some would say it’s the cause of that poverty.

Four myths of materialism

But what if materialism isn’t really what most people think? We could fall prey to materialism unawares or reject good ideas we have misidentified as materialism. In seeking to help the poor, we could waste our efforts opposing what really contributes little to the poverty problem.

So what is materialism? I’ll pursue a definition by countering four popular myths.

Myth 1: Material things are not important.

A widespread attitude, especially among Christians, is that materialism involves attaching value and importance to material things—and that these things are not truly important.

But wouldn’t that make God the first materialist?

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