[The original post is on my sci-fi blog: only a few sci-fi terms have beem modified/deleted below.]
Exactly why do these merchants, these pirates, these wealthy elites, these Dear Leaders, always want more?
More women… more followers… more worlds to own and control… more friends… more beautiful things… more guns… more!
Let’s dig in with North, and find out not only why they want more, but how free markets harness this drive for more for the improvement of all.
First, the enemy of the religion of More… contentment.
Paul wrote about contentment. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we have brought nothing into the world. Neither are we able to take out anything. Instead, let us be satisfied with food and clothing. Now those who want to become wealthy fall into temptation, into a trap. They fall into many foolish and harmful passions, and into whatever else makes people sink into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people who desire it have been mislead away from the faith and have pierced themselves with much grief” (I Timothy 6:6–10). With respect to ownership, we are be content with very little. This takes great spiritual maturity. It takes courage. So, with respect to how most men are motivated, Mises was correct. Most men are discontented. They strive to improve their conditions by becoming wealthier. This is the religion of mammon: more for me in history. The religion of “more” is inherently insatiable. Mises would have admitted this. That is because he based all human action on the concept of insatiability. That is to say, built his theory of human action on a theory of finitude striving to be infinite.
There are people who live this way: very cool characters! But not big wheels in most sci-fi stories.
More interesting, storywise, are the lunatics who break all sorts of laws in order to get anything and everything they want. Who fell for the original God Delusion, “to become as God.”
I single out Mises, not because he was unique in his outlook on human motivation, but because he was uniquely forthright. All humanistic economists begin with the contrast between the individual’s supposedly infinite desires in relation to a finite number of resources: infinite ends vs. limited means. They see ends and means in terms of the categories of infinite vs. finite. They are implicitly comparing man with God. This is the Adamic mistake: the original Adam and also Adam Smith. This is the desire to become God. This is manifested in economic theory in the concept of equilibrium, a conceptual model that rests on the idea of man’s action in a world without uncertainty. In other words, it is a world in which man is omniscient. This model is ultimately self-contradictory. It is therefore irrational. I have explained why in Chapter 54 of the Teacher’s Edition.
A “world without uncertainty” is the pagan dream. A dead dream now, as even they would admit… sorrowfully.
Covenant-breaking man does act from a sense of discontent. He is always pursuing more. He never has enough. This is the religion of mammon. It is insatiable. This is not to be the economic model for Christian economics. The fact that we are finite should not bother any Christian. The fact that the dominion covenant is eternal should also not bother any Christian. It was eternal for Adam and Eve. There will always be an unbridgeable discrepancy between man’s knowledge, power, and wealth when compared with God’s. This did not bother Adam until he recognized the meaning of the boundary around the forbidden tree. This boundary announced that he was not God. He did not understand good and evil in the way that God did. This bothered him. It was not supposed to bother him. It still bothers covenant-breaking man. It should not bother covenant-keeping man.
Human finitude has bothered more than one Emperor, as well.
Therefore, when we come to the question of purpose, the purpose is always theocentric. Covenant-keeping man’s purpose is to build the kingdom of God. This kingdom is corporate.
Our purpose is to build the kingdom of God.
Whine and bleat that things aren’t what we like them to be!
Adam Smith Steps into the Room
B. Individual Purposes and Corporate Benefits
Jesus made this clear: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). He also made this clear: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, King James Version). Other translations translate mammon as money or wealth. The word came into the Greek language by way of the Hebrew cognate language, Aramaic. From the context of Jesus’ words, this was a form of service that bordered on the religious. Jesus was speaking of mammon as if this were another god. I think the best assessment of the meaning of the word is this: more for me in history.
There is now competition in the world for dominion. Covenant-breakers and covenant-keepers have rival purposes. They serve rival kingdoms. Yet they both are driven by the desire to expand their dominion in history. Karl Marx said that the world is driven by class competition. He was incorrect. The world is driven by covenantal competition. This is the biblical worldview.
Marx was wrong in more than one way.
The great insight of Adam Smith was this: when acting to improve their individual conditions, people serve each other in the market. This mutual service increases a nation’s wealth, yet this was not the purpose of competing individuals in the marketplace. The purpose that drives an individual is the desire to improve his personal circumstances, not increase national wealth. Nevertheless, individual purpose and individual striving after personal goals have the beneficial result of increasing per capita wealth for other participants in the marketplace. Smith titled his book The Wealth of Nations, and it was correctly titled. The word “nations” was plural. It is not just that individual striving after wealth increases the wealth of those inside the geographical boundaries of one nation. Where there is free trade across national borders, individual striving after wealth increases wealth in more than one nation. All free market economists argue along these lines.
“The magic of the market.”
It’s why I can spend time blogging, instead of plowing a field somewhere for a feudal lord, a powerful cleric, or for the Good of the People.
Smith’s insight was one of the most important intellectual breakthroughs in the history of man. For millennia, ethical leaders had disparaged the pursuit of individual gain. But Smith showed that, because of the effects of competition in the marketplace, many individuals are benefited. Competition within the framework of the market process is not destructive of the social order. On the contrary, it improves the wealth, knowledge, and way of life available to the masses as never before in history. This was done initially through mass production and price competition. Poor people who could never have afforded the luxury of several changes of clothes could now afford to buy mass-produced cotton clothing that could be easily washed and ironed. The mass production of cotton clothing was the first great breakthrough of the Industrial Revolution. It began in earnest in the final quarter of the eighteenth century. It transformed Great Britain and the North American English-speaking colonies, and then it soon transformed Western Europe.
A change of clothes, as the first core benefit. Gotta remember that!
The end of religious collectivism is probably the greater gain, though!
[…a little snippo, that I hope you will read at the original link anyways…]
Curses and Blessings
God imposed boundaries on men’s productivity that did not exist before the fall. These boundaries can be overcome by covenant-keeping. By honoring the ethical boundaries imposed by biblical law, mankind can roll back much of the curse that was imposed on mankind as a result of Adam’s violation of the ethical and judicial boundary around the forbidden tree. God imposed boundaries on man’s productivity because Adam and Eve had violated the judicial boundary that God had placed around His private property.
Pirates and thieves, in space and elsewhere, will disagree. And since they will not hear and obey, other means of education will be used.
It is therefore legitimate for people to adopt a purpose of gaining increased individual and family wealth. Because a God-honoring society establishes laws protecting property, men who live in such a society have valid ways of cooperating with each other in productive ventures. By seeking their personal self-interest through voluntary exchange, including the exchange of labor, they benefit society as a whole. They benefit other individuals by means of their own increased productivity. This is why the boundaries associated with the curse of the ground are not entirely curses. They promote cooperation, capital investment, and greater output per unit of resource input.
Wealthy families would like to focus on the phrase, “family wealth”.
The Strange, Yet Profitable, Peace Between Enemies
D. The Lawful Pursuit of Profit
I have written that there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of mammon. They are the kingdoms, respectively, of covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers.
Because of the free market social order, it is lawful for dedicated members of both kingdoms to pursue their own individual purposes of increasing their wealth. They do this through voluntary exchange. A small percentage of them do it by becoming entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are skilled at forecasting the future economic state of affairs, and then devising plans that may enable them to profit in the future by selling consumers what consumers want to buy at prices consumers are willing to pay. Profit is the positive sanction that paying consumers provide to those producers who have met consumer demand at prices consumers are willing to pay. Losses are the negative sanctions that customers impose on producers who have not met their specifications at prices they are willing to pay. They impose these sanctions simply by not purchasing the output of entrepreneurs who have failed to meet the standards required by paying customers.
When members of both kingdoms are successful in their pursuit of profit, this benefits the members of both kingdoms. I do not mean that the productive enterprises of members of one kingdom benefits only members of their own kingdoms. On the contrary, the increased productivity of members of one kingdom benefits members of the other kingdom. This is the great benefit of voluntary exchange. Adam Smith understood this in 1776. This was why he was an advocate of international free trade. He understood that citizens on each side of a national border benefit from the productivity of citizens on the other side of the border. Citizens on both sides of the border have an increased range of choice. There are more goods and services available because of the productivity of people on the other side of the border.
When murder is prohibited and theft is punished, both God’s people and (the smarter set of) God’s enemies benefit.
When there is a stable, predictable, and somewhat just legal order, Believing Christians and Fake Christians and Muslims and Jews and Atheists all benefit.
And the wealth, markets, and tax base of the entire society grows and grows. Something a large number of Ruling Families and Corporate Executives have noticed.
Same deal with the right to bear arms… the right to speak freely… to own your own land, that you use as you please… sound money and 100% reserve banking… more and cheaper technological tools… limited police authority and restricted government powers.