Industrialism vs. Biblical Agrarianism
Socialism and Capitalism are usually viewed as diametrically opposite economic theories, since they represent two irreconcilable views of property ownership. Socialism says that the state, as the representative of the people, should own the means of production; capitalism says that private entities ought to own it. There are other deep differences – political and philosophical; but this is the fundamental difference as it regards economics. But this common analysis blurs the fact that both of these systems are akin in that they are both forms of Industrialism.
Industrialism, in all its forms, is the irreconcilable enemy of biblical agrarianism, which is the economic system found in the Bible. Biblical Agrarianism is the just and humane system for the distribution of wealth according to the sovereign will of Almighty God. Its basic institutions are few and decentralized. The normal owner of property is neither the individual nor the state, but the family. The family holds the property and the primary means of production – the land – in stewardship under God, to be governed in its use by the revealed Word of God. Viewed in this way, the differences could not be more stark!
Industrialism is parasitism. It allows and encourages non-productive entities to grow until they over-burden and starve the productive entities. Bankers and industrialists or party bosses and petty officials – take your pick! I want neither.
A just society can only exist where parasitism is suppressed. This means that food and other necessary and useful commodities are produced by small, family-owned freeholds, who use their own products and sell the surplus locally. If any man will not work, he cannot become a legal parasite. He cannot become a usurer or an accomplice of usurers. He cannot become an appendage of a bloated and suffocating bureaucracy. He is forced to either work; or to become a beggar, and live like one. Or else he becomes a criminal – an open enemy of society, and is treated as such by the producers.
Secular and Christian principles of social order
These two systems competing for the control of technological society are both radically unbiblical and anti-Christian. That is because they are both secular systems, which take no account of the Word of God. Capitalism, which centralizes wealth in the hands of a few, is based on greed. Socialism, which confiscates the wealth of the few to distribute it among the many, is based on envy. Neither system would last a year if people and their rulers started obeying the whole of God’s Word.
The principle that must be basic to the Christian’s economic thinking is that all things come from God, that His ownership is absolute, and that men are only His stewards. Stewards must use their resources, relationships, opportunities and influence for the benefit of their Master, and for the good of all – not for themselves! God’s law distributes land and the means of production among the many by placing it in the hands of families.
The centralization of wealth and the centralized control of the land is to be prevented by the prohibition of usury, monopolism and extortion, backed up by courts of God-fearing men who will not take bribes. Usury is the great instrument by which the few have always come into possession of most of the land. Greedy men take advantage of farmers in hard times by lending necessities or money at usury, knowing that they have a sure bet, whether the farmer succeeds or fails. Only the outlawing of all forms of usury, such as we find in the Mosaic law can prevent this scenario and preserve land in the hands of families. It is also essential that the church becomes once again a living community that shares voluntarily and generously for the support of the weak, so that families in distress have a better alternative than the loan sharks.
God wills the distribution of wealth among faithful stewards – God-fearing people, so that they can shape society in a righteous way. The wicked are to be discouraged and weakened by temporal punishments and deprivations. The land, whence the means of subsistence and true wealth comes, is to be cultivated by independent families, who enjoy the fruits of their own labor. Commerce is thus reduced to a minimum, people are not compelled to accept anything they don’t value as a currency, the money supply need not be constantly expanded, and economic stability becomes possible.
The welfare state a disaster
The care of the poor, the sick, of widows and the elderly ought not to be the function of the state. As we have seen, the welfare state does a very poor job of this. The family is to take care of its own; and the church to assist those who have no family to support them. Thus, care-giving is personal, respectful and affectionate. Need it even be said that care-giving under the control of the state is impersonal, often disrespectful, lacking in the bond of real affection? Not only this; but it causes the greatest distress when people are removed from their families and the familiar surroundings of their own homes and placed in institutions who provide that care.
The answer of the capitalists has been to make care-giving an enterprise for profit. For example, even though hospitals do much good, the insurance companies do not pay for this care for nothing. They are profitable enterprises. And the government programs implemented for health care and welfare are, at least in part, motivated by political considerations, such as “buying votes”.
Socialism stands for free health care and the guarantee of work for all. But this is deceptive. If it is free, then who is paying for it? And is there enough money behind it to make it quality care? People who have live under socialism know that the pay for these workers is so low, that they supplement their income by demanding bribes for their services. Bribery is rife in socialist countries, as no one has any money except those favored by The Party. Thus the people are set at war with one another for the little that is available. People can’t afford adequate living space; and they have to stand in line to buy food; often reaching the front of the line only to find that there is nothing left of what they came to buy, because shortages of everything is the rule under socialism!
Both systems are unstable
Capitalism often brings about its own demise; for the social problems caused by the centralization of wealth eventually become so serious that they must be addressed by the state. For this reason, there is always a tendency in capitalistic countries for the state to adopt socialistic measures to solve these problems. The wealth of the capitalists, who still own the means of production, is set against these attempts to ameliorate the problems they have created. Soon, an uneasy truce is made between the state and the capitalists, called fascism. This is what we have in America today; although it seems that we are on the verge of a complete conversion to socialism.
Socialist states are also unstable. The people grow to hate the party, yet they have no power to rid themselves of it. They have neither voice nor vote. They have no money. And they have no weapons which would make revolution possible. Despite this, Socialism always fails because it cannot sustain itself economically. When this becomes obvious to the party bosses, it often resorts to “a little capitalism”, as Lenin put it, to stave off economic collapse. Russia did it; and China has now done it. This becomes the thin end of a wedge that allows the capitalists from other countries to exert influence in the socialist countries. A partnership is created between the Communist party bosses and the foreign bankers and industrialists who now begin to operate in the socialist country, that is not wholly unlike fascism. Thus, capitalist and socialist states tend to move toward fascism, which for this reason should not be viewed as the extreme right, but rather a compromise between capitalism and socialism, midway between the two. All three of these systems are humanistic attempts at a better social order than the biblical agrarian social order that they have destroyed.
Industrialism the enemy of the family
The worst part of all is that the technological society is hostile to the family, which is the original and most important social institution. The rights of husbands and fathers to rule their homes and their families have been almost completely abolished. Wives are empowered to divorce their husbands, and encouraged to be independent. Children do not learn to contribute to the welfare of their families by doing chores; for there are very few chores to do. They are consumers; not producers — an economic burden, rather than a blessing, to their parents. Their lives, as the lives of their mothers and fathers, are not in the home, or even centered around the home; but outside it. The home is a place to sleep, and little more. The family has become a shadow of its former self.
Man’s corporate rebellion against the Divine agrarian social order is the root of most of the ineradicable evils that plague the world today. The corruption of the state, the justice system, the educational system, the financial system are all owing to the society-wide rejection of biblical morality and law. If we don’t understand this, we will remain a part of the problem, and we cannot be a part of the solution.
Howard Douglas King
March 1, 2016
Revised January 12, 2019