Abundance is the enemy of capitalism…


Today I’m going back to the subject of capitalism being the antithesis of Christianity… I read a blog comment that made me understand something that I’ve been trying to get into words for a while now. It is probably related to my never-finished series about Christianity and capitalism, although I wasn’t planning to write on that topic right now. The blog post was called ‘Is Capitalism Un-Biblical’ by Christian Piatt. I do believe it is, but there wasn’t that much in the post that was very new to me although it was not a bad read at all. The question itself is very ‘duh’ to me, I’ve never believed that capitalism was compatible with Christianity in the first place, and I’ve never trusted it more than the atrocity that communism became in the 20th century either. But there was a comment by someone called ‘belovedspear’ that made me connect some dots:

A peculiarity of capitalism is that abundance–those times when creation pours out God’s bounty–is a disaster. Take this year’s corn harvest, for example. It’s been a bumper year, with tremendous yields. That means wreck and ruin for farmers, whose crops won’t sell for enough to pay off the debt-loads on their half-million dollar harvesters. We human beings are such strange, strange creatures.

Christianity sees abundance as a part of shalom, or a very holistic state of peace with God, and everyone and everything else. Part of that shalom is an economy of abundance, in which everyone has enough.

Our current system (that I call ‘capitalism’ here by lack of a better name) built on ‘the logic of the market’ does the opposite. not only is ‘scarcity’ the basic idea behind it, but it also has the worst way imaginable to handle abundance. The idea that everyone has enough is actually destructive to the capitalism that we have today.

A very big evil is that if we do have abundance, the market goes bad, like the commenter describes. If farmers produce too much of something, what one would expect is that either it would be stored in some way for years of less produce (think about the biblical story of Joseph) or distributed to those who need it, or used for something else or… So that that abundance can be shared as a blessing.

Nope, abundance is a curse for the market and sharing would be a sin…

So what we actually do is to destroy it because the market demands so.

Perfectly good fruit, milk, crops, whatever, is destroyed every year here in the EU because of technicalities about price and markets. And all the while other people are dying of hunger on the same planet.

And we call ourselves civilised people and think that we’re so much smarter and better than the people before us…

I’ve always seen this as evil. I’ve only never before today made the connection with exactly how antithetical all of this is to the biblical idea of abundance.

Anyway, destroying anything that is good because of market technicalities is ridiculous, anti-christ (and anti-humanist) and more than very bad logic. It’s idolatry. The value of the goods is less important than the ideological idols of ‘the market’;  and its supposed rules which become more important than anything. And so everything else needs to be sacrificed because of these abstract rules that only exist in the realm of the abstract and the ideological, and will only manifest themselves in the real world if we believe in them and want them to be true…

The idea that anything should be destroyed because the market ‘demands it’ is an abomination, and a sign that all this worship of this all-important market entity is not compatible with commons sense or Christianity. It is idolatry of the worst sort!

No matter how much people you quote and how much theories you make to defend this weird evil, it won’t fly. It’s dangerous nonsense, as dangerous, destructive and irrational as the idea that whatever god wants to have human sacrificed. Destroying good things because ‘the market needs it’ is a a sacrifice, and an insult to creation and humanity. And one of the signs that we are not smarter than people in any other time who had lots of other dumb ideas…

But on the other hand, the geocentric Ptolemaic cosmology has never hurt or starved anyone… A lot of the ‘unscientific’ ‘superstitions’ are completely harmless, while this kind of nonsense destroys good things, and human lives.

What do you people think?

shalom

Bram

 

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7 responses to “Abundance is the enemy of capitalism…

  1. Anyone who would destroy food is crazy. I do not really see any association this would have on a true free market system. In a free market supply and demand should exist with fair competition always welcome to the marketplace.

  2. Bram,

    Thanks for posting this; it’s very thought-provoking, and I’d like to dig into it more. One of the problems with almost all “liberal” thought that I’ve encountered is a seeming opposition to abundance. Sometimes this is explicit, as in certain kinds of primitivism, and sometimes it simply seems to be implied.

    This has been my main reason for feeling more like a “conservative”, despite holding very progressive views. I’ve always felt that the essence of conservatism and orthodoxy is an affirmation of the goodness of abundance.

    So, perhaps you can change my mind. 🙂

    I’d like to understand the role you see for abundance in the teachings of Jesus, and I’d like to know what an alternative system that embraced abundance would look like.

    Love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • Good question. But first I need to point to a cultural/linguistic problem. What you call ‘conservative’ is ‘liberal’ to me. American conservatism is built on ‘conserving’ the oldschool enlightenment liberalism of your founding fathers, and our liberals are much more in line with it than our ‘conservative’ Christian-democrats or socialist (social-democrats) here in Belgium. Liberal and socialist (let alone green) are the opposite here, and it’s the liberal party that, besides being completely anti-religious, is the group that is most obsessed with ‘the free market’ and capitalism.

      That said, abundance is built on ‘enough’, and then going to ‘the cup that overfloweth’ so that enough can be shared with everybody. The thing that seems to go against abundance is that some people learn to have ‘enough’ in very simple things, just as Paul and Silas found freedom while locked in prison, singing hymns and being more free than the prison guard himself. So there’s a component of not being tied to the material if we live close to God.

      Side note: that shouldn’t be exagerrated, matter matters, we are not gnostics who deem matter worthless or Easterns who think that the material worls is just maja, illusion. Jesus became flesh and blood and taught us to share wine and bread.

      The problep with capitalism is that it is built on scarcity and competition, and endless growth. Endless growth is both an illusion and very unsustainable, and it will never be achieved under economics of ‘enough’ and ‘abundance’. If everyone just had enough capitalism would be impossible. And if we have too much of something we do not at all treat it as abundance to enjoy and share, but as a problem and we destroy it because ‘the market’ (like people are doing here this with the pears that Russia won’t buy because of economic sanctions against the EU).

      This is blasphemy against the Creator and makes ‘the economy’/’the market’ into an idol to whom perfect good stuff is sacrificed for abstract reasons. Everthing in creation that is good should be seen as ‘good’ and treated with respect, irregardless of ‘the market’. Creation is intrinsically good.

    • Also, I would not mix what you call ‘conservative’ with orthodox Christianity. The current pope for example is orthodox, not especially progressive and not liberal at all when it comes to a Christian view of economics.

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