Justice: The Only Proper Foundation for Capitalism — (A Response to an Article by Wayne Grudem on The Gospel Coalition)
The following is my response to Wayne Grudem’s recent article at TGC, Is Gaining Profit From Someone Else’s Work Exploitation?
A Great Article, But…
This is a great article, in that it demonstrates the glorious nature of wealth creation (and therefore life-enhancement) in a Capitalist system, while demonstrating some great Biblical principles which support such wealth-creation — however the article seems to ground the ‘goodness’ of this employer-employee relationship (and implicitly, of Capitalism in general) in ‘love for the other person’, which has dangerous implications if carried out consistently (see the Marxist-sympathizing comments in the comment section for examples).
The Only Proper Foundation
While love for others certainly ought to be a strong driving motive of the Christian in all things, it should not (and cannot) be the foundation for the goodness of Capitalism (the system Grudem is implicitly defending above). The only proper foundation (Biblical or otherwise) for Capitalism is: Justice. The primary reason it is right and good for an employer to hire and profit from employees is because such profit is just. Every form of capital poured into the business — from the massive intellectual efforts of design, the long (often years) of toil in bringing the dream of the business into reality, the enormous up-front costs to begin the business (usually requiring a large amount of debt on the owner’s part), to the ongoing stress of a multitude of extraordinary responsibilities to keep the business running and growing — all of it is paid by the owner (or ‘employer’), and therefore every single last aspect of the business — including the material which the employees put together, the tools with which they do so, the training programs they received to learn how to do it properly, the air-conditioning or heat they enjoy in the building while doing their work, the running water, the restrooms, the snacks (if provided), etc… — all belong to the ‘employer’. None of it rightfully (i.e. justly) belongs to the employee, apart from what the employer freely offers to the employee, and the employee freely accepts (i.e. wages).
To imply that the employee is somehow entitled to the profit, or to more than what is offered by the employer, is not wrong primarily because it is ‘unloving’ toward the other person. It is wrong primarily because it is horribly unjust. It is the attempt to extort the employer’s property (which he has every just right to own) from him, on some shaky grounds that the employee isn’t getting treated ‘fairly’ — but what is fairness? Is it not a synonym for justice? And isn’t justice simply each party receiving what is due? Is not the property of the employer due to the employer? What then is due to the employee, other than that which the employer has promised to give in exchange for his work? According to justice (i.e “fairness”): Nothing.
Getting at the Root
Justice — the rightful ownership of one’s own property, and the strict upholding of contracts made between various parties (i.e. wage agreements) — is the only proper foundation for the employer-employee relationship, and for Capitalism, in general. However, if Christians truly wish to dispel ‘Marxist theory’, they must ultimately dispel the moral foundation of Marxism: altruism (the morality of death), and come to grips with the glorious fact that God is a God of ultimate personal gain, and that He created a people who should be about the business of maximizing rational, long-term, earth-transforming, ever-expanding, overflowing-in-love, personal gain!