Markets, God, and Morality

An enduring question in human history is —why do people consistently prefer government control? There is a clear sense in which people don’t like to make their own decisions because they don’t want the responsibility, but there’s also something to be said for this theory:

Finally, humans may be motivated to place their trust in processes that are (or at least seem to be) driven by agents rather than impersonal factors. This may be why there is a strong correlation between being scared of markets and being in favour of state interventions in the economy. One of the most widespread political assumptions in modern industrial societies is that “the government should do something about x”, where x can be any social or economic problem. Why do people trust the state? The state (in people’s intuitions, not in actual fact) has all the trappings of an agent. It is supposed to have knowledge, memories, intentions, strategies, etc. –Pascal Boyer

This is an interesting alternate thesis —that people prefer to trust other people, rather than abstractions, or rather abstract sets of rules.

What has this to do with Christianity and worldview?

Because Christianity adamantly mixes the concept of abstract rules with the concept of personality. In Christianity, God gives the law, but the law proceeds from the nature of God himself. Moral law, then, is both abstract (in that it stands outside a relationship), and personal (in that it proceeds from a person, God, with whom Christians expressly attempt to build a relationship). Christianity insists that relationships are based on rules (think of the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16); stepping outside those rules destroys the trust and communication lines necessary to maintain a relationship.

The end result is that Christians adamantly support the market because the market is based on the same concept as Christianity —a set of rules that rise above the personal, and yet support the personal because they rise above the personal. The market is an intuitive construct within the Christian worldview.

Modernism, including the liberal wing of Christian thought, prefers government over market because relationship trumps truth. Islam prefers government over markets because truth is (generally speaking) arbitrary. Allah has no attributes, so the only basis for law is what Allah declares to be moral today. Allah can change his mind tomorrow, shifting the entire basis of morality. Again, relationship trumps truth. Atheism prefers government over markets because the only “moral” rule in atheism is survival.

In the end, it’s no surprise that Christianity supports the market, and that as America —and the world— moves away from a Christian worldview, support for the market has waned, while support for government action has risen.

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