I have always believed that there is a God. I grew up in a family with strong Norwegian Lutheran roots on my mother’s side. My grandmother was a victim of polio and lost at least three children, but she had an infectious spirit that seemed to inspire everyone she met. I know that she prayed for me, and a faithful God kept pursuing me after I was drawn into the ways of this world. It took a serious health problem in my mid-thirties to prompt me to seek Jesus. At that moment, the “peace that passes all understanding” came to me, and I accepted Christ’s leadership in my life. Moreover, God sent a couple of mentors into my life to help me learn and trust God’s word.
Like most believers, I have come to rely on Biblical guidance and faith to make decisions. In the workplace, that translates into being a good employee—work hard, respect your supervisors, do everything with honesty, never cut corners, and be constructive in dealings with others. Once I became a manager, my walk with God was helping me to be honest in feedback to employees, but also to make sure that they were being built up and getting full credit for their contributions.
Growing up, I never ventured too far from my home in Northeast (more appropriately, Nord’east) Minneapolis but I had a yearning to see the world. I wasn’t a very good student in high school, and I realized that I did not have the skills to use my hands to make a living as my father did. Once I got to college, what was I going to do? First, I studied hard and found that I was capable of being a much better student than I had demonstrated up to that point. Moreover, I discovered that I really enjoyed learning, especially in quantitative areas. I designated international relations to be my major as a way to become involved in policymaking and to see the world in the process. I needed to take a course in economics for that major and liked it so much that I just had to take more. In fact, I liked it so much, I switched my major to economics. That may have been the end of seeing the world, but I was learning tools that were proving to be so helpful in unlocking the world around me. I was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Foundation fellowship for graduate study and was accepted into the Ph.D. program in economics at the University of Chicago. Little did I know at the time that I would be studying under Nobel Prize winners, such as Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Theodore Schultz, and Robert Fogel. There was continuing excitement on the Chicago campus as frontiers of knowledge were being knocked down in every direction. From there, I began to teach economics at Macalester College in St. Paul as a way of fulfilling my commitment under the fellowship. After I fulfilled that commitment, the desire to do more research and apply my economics knowledge to real-live policy issues had become very strong, and I headed off to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C. The Board, at that time, was becoming a premier research organization, and I was able to combine research with tackling the major policy challenges of the day. Ironically, my work at the Board opened doors to provide technical assistance to central banks around the globe. I was able to work in China, Russia, Hungary, Angola, Iraq, Uganda, and elsewhere. All of these have been socialist systems of one sort or another. Blessed again!
It was early in my career at the Board that I gave my life to Christ. And I came to realize that my discipleship did not interfere with my career. My new determination to seek the truth in every endeavor instead of advancing some other agenda coincided with the interests of the organization. Also, I found that being a good and responsive colleague and spending time mentoring and guiding new employees was appreciated.
So, I had my faith and I studied the Bible daily. And I had my work and I continued to expand the use of economics in understanding the workings of the economic world. Faith was here — and work was there. My knowledge of economics had given me a deep appreciation for the workings of a market (capitalist) economic system. But my faith told me that we, as individuals, need to care for others and to reach out to them in a time of need.
But as I came to see God’s hand at work elsewhere—such as in the cosmos and the genome—I also started to see an underlying order in the economic world. Could God care about economics? Of course, because God created us with certain needs and appetites and God cares about everything. Could God find favor in an economic system based on people pursuing their self-interest? Doesn’t God instead favor a socialistic system because it is supposed to provide for the needs of every person and treat everyone the same? With my experiences, I had come to learn that there is a huge disconnect between the socialist ideal and the actual socialist experience. On careful inspection, there are good reasons for the difference. Socialist systems short-circuit the workings of prices (the Invisible Hand) in coordinating production and in distribution, and the heavy involvement of government in daily lives stifles personal freedom, initiative, and creativity and invites widespread corruption. The evidence is unmistakable. Certainly, this is not in keeping with God’s plan. You might think that I just cobbled together parts of the Bible to support my view, but that is not so.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, some candidates for President of the United States were espousing socialism for our nation (so-called democratic socialism). While that has happened before, these ideas never got much traction. This time, however, there was a lot more interest. People began to ask my opinion of some of the policies being espoused. In the course of preparing a presentation for a session at a Ratio Christi National Apologetics Symposium, I decided to systematically examine the teachings of the Bible on the pillars of any economic system—who owns the property, who decides what gets produced, how does it get produced, and how is it distributed among individuals? In the course of this examination, it became clear that the teachings of the Bible are most consistent with a market-based (capitalist) system. But that does not mean that God condones all of the outcomes of a market-based system just like God does not condone all the actions of people in the Bible. The Bible is very clear that caring for those in need is a personal responsibility to be undertaken voluntarily and cheerfully.
America, it seems, has become blinded to the failings of socialism. If American voters ignore the mistakes of the past, there will be much regret, and it will be very hard to go back. It seems like a critical time for voters to be better informed. I got busy and the book—Capitalism Versus Socialism: What Does the Bible Have to Say?—is now written and published. You can purchase the book in electronic or print form through Amazon. Christian publishers saw this topic as too controversial, so I invested my own money in this venture. Any profits will go to Ratio Christi.
Conclusions? I think that people need to think for themselves. What is a capitalist system? How about a socialist system? What about communism and fascism? What has worked in the world? What hasn’t worked? And what does the Bible have to say? I have tried to provide sufficient background for readers to answer those questions. For me, I believe that I have a firm answer grounded in Biblical scripture and economic principles.
What do you think?