Russell Moore’s Pragmatic Critique of Socialism Does More Harm than Good
Russell Moore gave his position on socialism. Here’s the video.
Moore’s presentation is instructive. From the beginning, the ERLC president dismisses anyone who doesn’t affirm the moral propriety of government safety nets as being “extreme anarcho-libertarians.” In so doing, he conveys surprising disrespect to a viewpoint common among America’s Founding Fathers and common to a great number of Moore’s own constituents today.
Russell Moore does not speak truly about what socialism is.
- Contra Moore, a government safety net is socialistic.
- Social security is socialistic.
- Medicare is socialistic.
- And — roll your eyes if you must— The Tennessee Valley Authority is socialistic.
To the degree that the state oversees programs and/or transfers for special individuals or groups based on “need,” you have socialism.
Dr. Moore does not see this.
He argues socialism only exists when the state “controls the means of production.” What he does not see is that to control distribution is eventually to control production. This fact is understood by glancing at the American healthcare industry and education industry. In this country, which tiny fraction of our economy does the state not already control? Or at least regulate to a degree unseen even in the mixed economies of Europe?
Russell Moore calls himself a convinced capitalist, but something is missing. Does a convinced capitalist buy into the economic myth that the recent widening of income inequality in the US is due to free market capitalism? Does a convinced capitalist buy into the moral myth that sometimes inequality — as such — can be unjust?
Moore thinks the Christian scripture does not mandate a particular economic system. But what he omits is that the scripture does rule out 100% socialistic systems. And it does rule out semi-socialistic systems such as what the US has become (see here and here).
Dr. Moore rightly acknowledges that private property and individual rights are biblical. While we can appreciate Moore’s correct reading of scripture, his reading is general enough to be useless. Thus he avoids the ire of the political moderates and leftists he is often seen legitimizing and praising. Do Moore or his fans understand the meaning of private property and individual rights? Likely not.
The second half of the video is a little better.
But Moore’s foundational error shows throughout. He seems to think the problem with socialism is that it is “an ideology, rather than a prudential understanding of the way the world works.” To translate: “Socialism is wrong because it names its principles — Follow me instead.”
Moore stands ready to tell us the kind of laws there should be. He appeals to…
- Prudence? Whose?
- Human flourishing? Are there limits on what means may be appropriate toward your ends?
- Human dignity? As determined by the state theologians?
Moore’s best attempt at thinking in principle stumbles into a refrain of: “What works?” Socialists in possession of a moral ideal have rarely considered such questions a threat.
To the extent that Moore’s approach can be given a description, he is a functioning pragmatist in theologian’s clothing. Moore does toss out the notion that socialism is based on an unbiblical view of human nature. But he offers no explanation. Which part of the socialistic view is wrong? For what reason? What is it about human nature that dictates each person should have rights?
Moore’s only substantiated critique against socialism is the historical fact that whenever it has been tried, people have died. Socialism doesn’t work; true. But unless you show why it doesn’t work, you are leaving far too much room for variants and degrees of the same poison.
Moore’s main critique of capitalism — blank. That some versions of capitalism allow for the creation and sale of pornography? That capitalism allows for income inequality? From these critiques would he seek to justify today’s entitlement state?
Moore would advocate for “reforms” within capitalistic systems. His viewers rightly wonder what kind? Could it be that in Moore’s mind, our system today is strong capitalism, and that the prudent way forward is a kinder, gentler capitalism?
What kind of reforms does Russell Moore have in mind?
Will it be reforms of the kind he conceded would be called “intrusive,” by some, but “generous” by others?
How much should we expand government handouts, in your view? By what principle? How much of one family’s sustenance will the state theologians see fit to redistribute?
Russell Moore is not creating a third way. He is creating cover for the soft, Christian left. His motive can be understood from the following observations:
- Moore left open that (even in 2019) he might consider Donald Trump as included among the “authoritarian, brutal, right-wing dictators around the world.”
- Moore made a not-so-subtle comparison between Donald Trump’s populism and Adolf Hitler’s populism.
- Moore showed an equal revulsion against the far left and the far right, setting up a moral equivalence between the perpetrators of bloodshed and the advocates of economic liberty.
The middle of the road is where Russell Moore wants to be. But if anyone hasn’t noticed, today’s middle of the road is radically socialistic compared with past conceptions of a “middle of the road.”
Of highest concern, Russell Moore seems not to be able to explain *why* socialism leads to bloodshed.
Is it because it comes from an ideology? Meaning: from a defined, integrated set of principles about the ends we ought to pursue?
No, Russell Moore, it is not true that a person can hold to any sort of political thought, be it right or wrong, and still trust in Christ. Not across time. Not if he is being conformed to the mind of Christ.
The right way forward is not to continue in the game of studied ambiguity so characteristic of this type of leader. Instead, allow men to use their own minds, unchained. Allow each man to work and to keep the fruit of his own labor.
What of taxes?
Adherents to the teaching of Christ will understand his argument that taxes, even unjust taxes, are still to be paid. We pay so as not to unnecessarily give offense to the unbeliever. We do this in light of our heavenly mission (see Matthew 17:27).
Contra Russell Moore, no man — or state — ought to place involuntary financial obligations upon the life of another man. By Christ’s teaching, the children are free (Matthew 17:26).
Christ has said what a man does and does not owe his fellow man. Why can’t Russell Moore say the same?
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