In this Circling Series we raise the issue again of why every red-blooded American should consider renaming capitalism. Of course, though we’ve already done it here, the word you might choose is not as important as understanding we have a very serious failure to communicate going on in America. It might just be a big part of the problem.
To any of you 50 or over we ask the question: Could you in 1990 ever have imagined the United States as radically “screwed up” as it appears to be now? We doubt it very seriously. (E.g., biological men being awarded medals in women’s competition?)
Deirdre McCloskey featured in the clip at top is one seriously smart lady. She has dedicated her entire career to figuring out what makes what we think of as “capitalism” tick. Above she explains where the word originated in the early 1800’s in Marxist speak, and she explains why it’s wrong as a central indicator of what makes humanity prosperous. (By the way, she does not support men participating in women’s athletic competition.)
Next, in her clip below, she explains one of the primary human characteristics that does make us prosperous: our creativity, our ability to innovate. Contrary to what they say in the Academy today, it’s not the ability to accumulate capital or produce profits, as such.
Any experienced Western business man knows exactly what she’s talking about. It’s often known by the word productivity (meaning a trend toward increasing innovation and efficiency, both requiring human consciousness and creativity).
In business this means producing a good or service in the right volume that meets human needs with the right level of quality at the right price in a way human beings will pay for in an arm’s length transaction. Our system is not about accumulating things (capital) or the means of exchange (money). Productivity increases to noticeable degrees when goods and services are produced this way in increasing volume at lower cost, which with competition usually lowers prices. The result? There is more of what the people want to go around for everyone. It’s a win – win for all; not a zero sum situation.
What Deirdre (we know she likes to be referred to this way by her friends) is saying is this only happens when humans are free to work (have permission and are encouraged to do so) and to innovate; to meet each others’ needs as “We the People” see fit.
She doesn’t say this exactly below, but planning works best when delegated to the lowest level in the company or bureaucracy to get the job done. In other words, planning needs to be balanced like any virtue, and too much planning from on high quickly defeats itself. All good business men know this; this is American business knowledge imparted at the 101 level. It’s what businesspersons learn from practical experience in today’s free economy.
Importantly, Deirdre renames capitalism “Innovism.” We wildly applaud her (we’re banging together on our shaking, fold-out aluminum grandstand) and have adopted her word when referring to our free market economic system only. Unfortunately, this is not what Marxists are referring to when they use the word capitalism. They mean the economy and the entire corrupt, oppressive system that supports it, as we outlined at length last time.
Continued Bad Linguistic Mojo
In Renaming Capitalism I, we tried to explain why Christians and Marxists talk past each other when they refer to capitalism. Christians are referring to a free economic system they think is good, and Marxists are referring to an epoch of time that includes a social-political-economy that is maybe necessary (prior to the socialist revolution), but is truly bad.
To answer the question posed above (How did America get so screwed up since about 1990?): If history shows that socialism and communism wherever attempted has failed and spectacularly, then the only way America could have gotten this lost since the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991) is because too many good Americans have stayed out of the public square allowing a very small, angry, and vocal minority of closet Marxists to dominate our institutions, while using unclear language placing themselves at an extreme disadvantage in making their 100% bullet proof points.
This is what’s called letting the enemy set the agenda.
Obviously, this must stop, or we get what we deserve.
With this in mind, below we take another shot at explaining why the Christian and Marxist worldviews are utterly incompatible, and why all Christians and human secularists who are ok with a modern Christian world should change the way they express themselves and go back into the public square to stand proudly to deliver the truth.
Before proceeding, we should note that when we say “Christians” we mean all Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians, in addition to Jews who gave us the religious foundation upon which the West rests. Many Muslims will also agree, but the role of freedom in Islamic society remains less settled.
So, below we touch on each fundamental pillar of worldview mentioned numerous times in the past to elaborate on serious, irreconcilable differences between Christianity and Marxism. Marxists are right about one thing: Our economic system is bound up in our entire social construct based on Western worldview.
Both Christians and Marxists believe in Truth, though Marxist Truth is much more limited and dangerous. Christians believe in the natural and supernatural reality; Marxists believe only in natural reality, originally calling it “scientific materialism.”
Christians believe in God, specifically a personal Creator and Sustainer God of History (particularly in every moment, like, especially, Now). Marxists do not believe in God or the supernatural or arguably even the “mindful.” Most Marxists see Mind and “mindfulness” is an illusion. It’s just systems in the brain or rocks banging together with a sprinkle of smaller, faster moving rocks called “energy.”
Christians believe God, i.e., our personal god, created the world and intervenes in human history and sustains nature. This is called grace. All of existence is a miracle in that sense. Human beings are the highest beings in nature, for reasons touched on here and in other posts, and do best with a close relationship to God. Man’s first priority is his or her relationship with God. Marxists believe man is the measure of all things and completely self-determining and reliant. Until the final stage of history, communism, ruling man’s first priority has been and is orienting power to protect the wealth of the oppressors over the oppressed. There is really only one miracle to Marxists: After humanity has finished being completely oppressive toward humanity for all of recorded time, the system communism suddenly creates utopia, and we live happily ever after. Nice.
Christians believe the world had a beginning, and human history progresses in a linear fashion rather than cyclically. “Progress” is a matter of definition (that Truth and Christianity define) and can go backwards in severe ways for very long periods of time, as well as forwards, at any time based on human free will, in tandem with God’s grace. Christians do recognize an end time. In contrast, classical Marxism recognized evolution but wasn’t so sure about any “beginning.” They definitely believe in clearly defined stages of human history. Marxism certainly does not officially recognize free will. Classical Marxists believe humans primarily define themselves in relation to the “means of production.” However, since history proved that to be stupid early in the 20th Century, they now define themselves in relation to ones identity in class, race, sex, religion, or nationality. Whatever works in the political moment. In other words, they shot gun the drivers of history to cover all possible bases. By the way, Marxist individuals are helpless and can do nothing about history, unless they join the Party and follow it and its leaders – eventually the Dictator, Big Brother, but only after years of social democracy and brilliant social planning. In that sense they are correct: History under government ownership inevitably leads to absurdly misguided autocracy or dictatorship.
Again, Christians believe God created the world – meaning all of the known universe – and made it good. We human beings are the one that create the most evil. In any case, there certainly wouldn’t be any evil in the world without us because humans are the only known creatures who perceive it. How could rocks banging together enthused by smaller energetic rocks create evil? No way. That doesn’t mean the world is not a very dangerous place. Christians believe the world is a true, good, and beautiful place designed by God for humanity to create its own narrative through our relation to an Omni-Good God, if we decide on that direction. God made us free in every way to hurl insults at the All Powerful Lord about how He/She/It/Whatever designed the world, but that’s generally viewed by anyone who reads the Bible to be a waste of time. It’s good enough that God is here with us helping and suffering, as He deems necessary. Marxists believe the world is chaotic, meaningless, purposeless, completely hostile, and doomed for sure without the Party running the show. Now, as the scientific evidence of a Creator grows, Marxists can feel better that there might be infinite worlds or universes, though no evidence of such exists, out there that are similarly meaningless and hostile as this one. But man will figure it out as we move though inevitable entropy and certain doom. Why doom? All those little energy rocks will eventually dissipate across all the universes, and all lights will go out. This is sad, presumably because it could happen just as we’re enjoying our Communist utopia(s).
Christians believe men and women are created in the image of God (of course, Imago Dei). We are homo religiosi yearning for God who will not rest until we find God. We are free as mini-creators. We are conscious, good, knowing, powerful, and beautiful, thanks to God, but not God; thus we have “issues.” In any case, our primary focus should be on God. Secondarily, we are created as male or female (see Genesis), and our key relations are to be found there in creating just like God did and does (children and lives). We are called to live in families and are free to choose our vocation(s). Again, we are called to be as much like God as possible, and the Family is the primary social institution over the state. If the state goes off the reservation, human should organize a new one. The past, present, and future are always connected, and we are the stewards of our inheritance from the Bible, which continues with the Holy Spirt today, just as it did before the first day. In contrast, Marxists believe human beings are economic animals now trapped by identities; we are simply cogs in the machine of history. Marxists generally don’t like family. Somehow a system will pop up one day (we are always getting close, if we would just follow the elite leader(s)), and all will be made well and very soon. Just revolution and/or a bit more government and taxes. “We Marxists can do it. We Marxists are optimistic human realists. We know history in its historical stages. Trust us.”
Here we see the primary and irreconcilable conflict between the Christian “Creator God Narrative” and the Marxist “Man God Narrative.” Who you gonna call from the foxhole when surrounded or in the hospital when facing the end? Ordinary, regular people like us (you and me) worldwide know the answer. We don’t adopt an “enchanted world” mentality. It is as real as a heart attack and placed forever in us.
Christians believe in the moral structure God gave man in the Bible and in our experience with all of God’s history. Morality is what free Christians do in all their relations with others and what they try to implement in all their systems and culture, wanting to preserve the opportunity for freedom for others in pursuit of truth – just like God did for humanity in the beginning. Being human means following the seven virtues and avoiding evil and the corresponding seven vices. We cannot summarize morality here, but morality to Christians is true and just as hard as those little Marxist rocks. On the other hand, Marxists believe that there is no morality except the one Karl Marx as God said we should adopt, which has the benefits of helping the oppressed, as he and subsequent elite Marxists define them, along with free sex. It turns out to be a pseudo-Christian morality favoring the useful underdogs of the moment, except when they want to Cancel or Murder you or all in your class or identity (or identities if blessed with intersectionality). One Ubermensch is enough; imagine a whole Party of them. That’s what we see developing in America today.
We’ve already hinted strongly at this one. Christians avoid politics except when necessary (“Render unto Caesar . . .”), and their religion doesn’t necessarily support one type of government over another. It’s whatever the group of Christians placing God first agree to. They might want a king or queen, emperor, or Senate. They might want a small group of Judges. They might want a republic, pure democracy, or limited democracy. But notice the main point is “they,” made up of persons. Most important, Christians believe in the human dignity of every person. The first institution outside the individual is the family, where thanks to God, human love is most easily maximized. Furthermore, through history since Genesis, where the Christian narrative begins, human beings have shown they are consistently flawed or worse. As a result, concentrations of power in governments are quite necessary (to protect the people from organized, corrupt, or even evil humans on the outside and inside), while also being dangerous (commonly in the long run, government uses ultimate military or police power against good people). Given these considerations, Christians in modernity have favored republics or limited democracies to govern public life. We have evolved to this. Over the course of human history, they’ve also gotten to the system of monogamous marriage as the best system for private life, but that’s a separate story. We have developed many key cultural and moral institutions in between, like churches, universities, and charities. All are vital. In contrast, Marxists believe central government is the first priority as the General Will (read: Man God) of the people; all else is secondary and subordinate. All associations, family, institutions, culture, everything. Marxist government with the Man God and the correct Marxist System can design you and your life any way it so desires. Look how well they did with the Soviet Man, though Marxism has never been tried well. Ha. Of course, Marxism is a very good revolutionary ideology, but a terrible governing one. The reason is that Marxists always talk democracy, but just after the revolution or in the long run deliver dictatorship and eventually death in spirit and in life. In other words, Marxists talk contradictory nonsense to suite their own political purposes.
Indeed, this is perhaps the only way their theory consistently matches their deeds.
Returning to the Garden
Deirdre McCloskey has written volumes about how Christianity shaped modernity and how “bourgeois” values formed Christian liberal society. She believes that is the key to prosperity, though non-Christians have learned how to copy various systems, products, and services.
Christianity began with Christ, His disciples, Paul, and the Gospels during the First Century A.D. In contrast, Marx developed Marxism copying Hegel and removing God in the early 1800’s after Christianity had already created all major elements of modernity. Another terrific Praxis Circle Contributor, Charles Mathewes, explains below one of the key ways St. Augustine made his amazing contribution to Christianity back around the turn of the Fourth Century. Most of his views are just as valid today as then. Effectively, he presents a renaming opportunity.
If we want our good and free world to last, we better be clear about how we talk about it. And if the “last best hope,” America, doesn’t get it right, who will?
One could say one’s worldview defined in language becomes ideology, and that it’s a matter of word meaning, importance, and association. While words like God, truth, grace, and love are among the most important Christian words, Christian time and its “lifeworld” is arguably best defined in English by the words Creator, creature, creativity, creation. These are among the best words offering broad agreement across religious and political groups who support the West.
We are called to be as much like God as possible to make the world a better place now. To create, construct, sustain, and even destroy within our world, as needed to achieve God’s Will. To do and sacrifice for others. This is creastruction.
In the light of Truth, all ideology burns away. It is the truly revolutionary worldview, and history has proven it and continues to do so. On our current course we are destroying the radical and universal nature of Christian equality and freedom. It needs preserving.
The fundamental difference between Christianity and Marxism?
To badly mix metaphors: “With Marxism, we are talking about cut flowers in a greenhouse of glass ceilings.”
We’re nearing Easter.
No, only Christ places us in the Garden where we found Him, three days later.
Anyone can see that.