By Dr. Marvin Jones
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) were energized by the Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy. The DSA’s website boasts that they are “the largest socialist organization in the United States.” Sanders’ political platform was supported by the DSA as he was in basic agreement with the largest socialist organization in America. The first plank in Sanders’ platform that attracted the support of the DSA was wealth inequality. The Sanders’ campaign had a “class struggle” emphasis that may sound very familiar to those acquainted with the history of political ideas.
Karl Marx and Marxism
Sanders embraced the teachings of two men who made Communism popular: Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. These men published their Communist Manifesto in 1848. In this work, they traced the history of society in economic terms that pitted wealthy elites against the working classes.
The common worker already had centuries of feudal and aristocratic privilege working against him. Now he had the new Bourgeoisie owners of production keeping him down. The workers were ranked into differing categories from small shop owners to slaves. The workers, termed the Proletariat, had nothing but their own labor to sell. The industry owners were wealthy and were termed the Bourgeoisie. These two groups struggled with one another. The Proletariat arose from the medieval serfs, whereas the Bourgeoisie were the new industrialists, largely funded by the land owning aristocrats as well as other industrialists.
The theme of the Communist Manifesto is the equality of the worker with the employer. For equality to happen, the workers must form unions that control the actual business that sustains their employment. Ownership of businesses and property would be transferred from the Bourgeoisie (Capitalist) to the society of unions. The result would be a shared business or shared property in effect diminishing private industry and private ownership of all property.
Democratic Socialists and Marxism
The political platform of the DSA advocates the same procedures as Marxism. The DSA website has an article that answers the question: “What is Democratic Socialism?” The article sets forth their agenda. “We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.” The statement is typical of Marxism. Moving away from capitalism and private ownership to a cooperative or union that owns or shares ownership of the company is nothing less than a Marxists agenda.
Socialism and the Economy
Economically, Democratic Socialists are continuing the Communist agenda of Marx and Engels. Even though the DSA denounces dictatorial practices, their claim invalidates itself with forced ownership of private property. The redistribution of property against the will of the owner is dictatorial by practice (who the dictator “is” remains to be seen). Their emphasis on shared ownership, either by cooperatives or government, is the same as the Communist, totalitarian, approach.
It is easy to imagine what the impact on the market would be if such a person ever gains political power in America. Business will be regulated by excessive governmental requirements that diminish profit. Industry, as a whole, will succumb to regulation, whether it is owned by cooperatives or by the state. The end result will be that the former free market economy will become a command and control economy.
Jesus, Capitalism, and Democratic Socialism
Examples of Capitalism that are fair to the employer and employee are the parables of Jesus. The parable of the rich fool (Luke 12: 16-21) is a warning for the employer who gathers wealth and does not recognize that the source of that wealth is God. The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) reveals that the wealth of the owner is distributed to the employee to invest in the market. Three men are given the responsibility to use sources for potential gain. The two wise investors are rewarded, not on the basis of profit motive but on the bases of company loyalty and obedience to the employer. The one who failed to invest was chastised because his fear motivated the action of disobedience.
The laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16) were treated fairly and given their wages. Those who worked longer in the vineyard complained that their employment was unfair by comparing their wage with the workers who worked least and were paid the same wage. The Lord states that fairness was accomplished when the wages were paid (to all) regardless of individual arrangements with other employees. The word of the employer was upheld as honest and generous.
These parables teach lessons that are incumbent on a free market. They are predicated upon private ownership and an economy that allows production. The expectations of the vineyard owner can only be realized if the market is free from excessive political control. The rich fool is depicted as greedy for not honoring the Lord or the employee. The parable of the talents must have a market that produces investment opportunities.
Contrasting the free market (Capitalism) with the controlled market (Socialism) demonstrates stark realities that are polar opposite of Jesus’ teachings. The controlled market discourages investment. In a controlled market economy the parables of Jesus do not make sense. Again, the parables of Jesus support the free market system.
The Christian must realize that a socialist controlled market will not produce the desired economic or social effects that the Democratic Socialists of America believe they can achieve. Socialism, like Marxism, requires a command and control market which is nothing less than oppressive. The Christian must understand the dangers of an economic system that denies ownership and stewardship as these are the blessings of God to His people.
The challenge that Christians must embrace is economic responsibility in the free market. Christian responsibility denies the accumulation of wealth that hurts the poor and impoverished. However, the value of a free market means that Christians are free to support ministries that engage the poor, the homeless, and society at large.