Socialism Is Evil
In a recent blog post I urged the biblical basis for the spirituality of the church. One of the points I made is that while the church does not meddle in civil government, it most certainly may speak against social evils. Christians and pastors can and should speak out on evils such as racism, government sponsored torture, or, in this case, socialism.
I bring up socialism because I have noticed that it is becoming fashionable for Christians to denounce capitalism and laud socialism as a more biblical alternative. I get how this happens. Under capitalism, sin wreaks its usual havoc and the system is blamed for the injustice common to fallen human society. There are biblical principles that seem to push back against capitalism - such as concern for the well-being of others - which really should be addressed to how people use the system rather than the system itself. To be sure, capitalism itself provides no tonic for the disease of sin. Moreover, Christians should be discerning enough to scorn the adolescent egotism of Ayn Rand-style capitalism and realize the need for government intervention against capitalistic abuses. But in reacting against these, Christians should also have enough discernment not to endorse a system so inherently evil as socialism.
So, biblically speaking, why is socialism evil? Let me suggest three reasons:
1. Because socialism is a system based on stealing;
2. Because socialism is an anti-work system; and
3. Because socialism concentrates the power to do evil.
Let's look at each of these briefly:
1. Because socialism is a system based on stealing. The whole point of socialism is for the government to seize control of private property, mainly involving the proceeds of peoples' work, in order to give it to others. (Note the compulsory aspect of socialism, which so differs from voluntary forms of communalism.) This activity is the very thing pronounced as evil by the 8th Commandment: "You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15). Throughout the Bible it is assumed that individuals have responsibility and authority over the property in their possession. For instance, even when Peter was accusing Ananias of being greedy and dishonest, the apostle admitted the man's right to dispose of his personal property (Acts 5:4). While there is a legitimate basis for government taxation, the simple taking of one's possessions in order to give them to others is not one of them. Socialism is evil because it inherently involves stealing.
2. Because socialism is an anti-work system. Socialism promises to give a blessed life for free. Today, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders promises to give free education, free health care, and free vacation time, etc. (Of course, since government does not create wealth, these things are only free as the money to give them is taken from others.) As I listen to Senator Sanders, I wonder what incentive there would be to work hard. Why would I put myself through the ordeal of discipline, sacrifice, and sweat, much less risk-taking business endeavors, if I can have a wonderful life without working for it? In contrast to the ethos of socialism, the Bible is explicitly pro-work. Paul writes: "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need" (Eph. 4:28). Here, the apostle not only urges selflessness with one's possession, but explicitly denounces the socialist ethos. "Work!" the Bible says (2 Thess. 3:10). And on the basis of your own work you should provide for your needs and you should voluntary support the church and others in need.
3. Because socialism concentrates the power to do evil. The Bible's concern about human sinfulness (and its general approach of de-centralizing power) argues strongly against socialism. Under capitalism, the individual has discretion to dispose of his or her wealth, which in some cases involves vast resources. This may be done virtuously or sinfully depending on the character of the individual owner. Under socialism, however, a small number of government masters has control over almost all of the resources of the entire society. Unless one believes that politicians are inherently more virtuous than private citizens (and where one would get such an idea is a mystery to me), then this concentration of power is certain to work extraordinary amounts of evil. Under capitalism, access to scarce resources is determined by how much money one has, and one's money generally reflects the market's value on his or her work contributions. This will sometimes seem unfair, depending on one's perspective. But under socialism, access to scarce resources is based on government favor. This structure virtually reduces the society to slavery, eventually impoverishes everyone, and unfailingly promotes a culture of corruption.
For these biblically-based reasons, I would urge Christians to refrain from giving praise (and political support) to socialism and candidates who promote it. Alongside the Bible are the lessons of history. To students of such arcane history as the 20th Century, the prospect of socialism is chilling. There is a reason why some Americans want to erect a wall to keep illegal immigrants out, whereas socialist countries have built their walls to keep people in. Socialism is a nightmare to those who actually experience it, whereas capitalism is deemed a paradise - without Christ, a false, materialistic paradise, to be sure - to those trying to get in.
Capitalism does not offer salvation: only Jesus can deliver us from our sins. Socialism, on the other hand, is a manifestly evil system from which we should pray to be delivered.