Saturday, October 21, 2006

God as Capitalist...

There are just so many signs that God has a bad business plan. Every time he moves to affirm that "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last," he scares away potential investors, loses market share, and pushes the most ambitious persons out of the firm. Elton Mayo may have built a kinder, gentler school of labor utitlization around the touchy-feely type of human relations (use compliments instead of threats, treat your workers well and they'll work for you, and all that), but you can't put the last first and the first last. The last are last for a reason--they're too stupid, or not sufficiently ruthless, or carrying too much baggage from prior exploitation or victimization. And if you don't put the first on top you're violating the natural order, setting up perverse incentives, and the evolution of better ideas, more efficient sorts of activities, and the creation of wealth.
These are just a few of the bad business practices that God, through Jesus, implements in the Gospels. But this isn't the enture story. Consider the strategies that God and Jesus don't practice that are part and parcel of every capitalistic enterprise. God not only does things guaranteed to frustrate economic rationality, God passes up other things that constitute good stewardship of economic resources and the production of value.
Consider, for example, the whole question of incentives. Contemporary capitalism lives in a world in which political entities offer incentives--tax breaks, subsidies, regulatory exemptions--to attract capitalist investment in one community rather than another. Illinois competes with Kentucky, the United States with Germany, Haiti with Honduras--while some people call corporate incentives a form of legal bribery, they're an important part oof what every good capitalist consideres in making investment decisions.
But not God. Not only does God seem decidedly lukewarm toward some traditional form of incentives (burnt offerings and sacrifices, for example), God doesn't seem attuned to locating where maximal return could be obtained. With all due respect to God's location team, choosing a backwater like Galilee as the site fo the incarnation, seems remakably short-sghted: doubtless the Romans would have offered a much more attractive package of temple construction, tax subsidies, and legal privileges were divinity to come in the form of the emperor(for real, not just in pagan terms) or some other imperial notable. But Galilee? Bad transportation infrastructure, far from religious markets, distant from suppliers, and not likely to jump from an ethnic/niche markey within Judaism to a worldwide commodity.
Michael L. Budde
"God Is Not a Capitalist"


bing said...

Great great book. Glad the group is still meeting and that you're working through "Resident Aliens." I just finished "After Christendom" last night. Good stuff.

Rachael said...

The discussion about God and the economy is a good one. How do we, as middle class Americans, help/hinder our neighbor by the decisions that we make? Our insistence on shopping at Wal-mart has world wide implications-- from the supply chain to the real estate market to land consumption to employee compensation. By sinking our stock portfolios into companies, we encourage their behavior both positively and negatively. Is the extra percentage point on the rate of return worth low wages and environmental ruin? If I’m honest, my nest egg is built on enticing corporations to fatten their bottom lines. How far does love of neighbor go? How can we get the folks we serve to see that their small, daily decisions matter?

At the moment, I’m in a quandary over a mixer. Yep, a mixer. My old one’s motor burned out, and I have my eye on a Kitchenaid—not just any Kitchenaid, but the top of the line model. I found it at a great price; however, it’s much more than I would normally pay for something like that. Do I need said mixer? No, of course not. I could save a lot buying something less and put the leftover funds into something/someone else. Yet, I make all of my own bread (cookies, cakes, etc.), and most everything I can from scratch. It takes a powerful motor to mix dough, and I’ve already hastened one mixer’s journey to the junkyard.

Brian said...

For the most part, I am less worried about how middle-class Americans help/hinder our neighbor, and am more concerned with how Christians help or hinder our neighbor.

So in your question about the mixer... my thought is go for the KitchenAid. It is more durable and does great work (we have one too). Sometimes you make the hard decisions and let it go... but now think about the use of your mixer. Are there ways for you to help feed the hungry with your mixer? Can your mixer become a signpost that the Kingdom of God is breaking here and now into this world? Even though the mixer is a product of a broken system (e.g. supply/demand, world-wide disparity of wages, worship of profits, etc.) can we subvert some of these items to the true end of our lives, life with the Trinity? I think there are.

Thanks for the great comment.


Rachael said...

Thanks for catching that I left out "Christian."

As for the mixer, I'm definately going for the Pro 600. Amazon lowered their price again. I can't decide if I want white, nickel pearl, or pearl metallic. has them listed at different price points depending on which link you click. Wierd.