2005-08-12

Why I am a Socialist, Monetarist Calvinist

Socialism: an ideology with the core belief that a society should exist in which popular collectives control the means of power, and therefore the means of production.

Monetarism: a set of views concerning the determination of national income and monetary economics. It focuses on the supply and demand for money as the primary means by which economic activity is regulated. Monetary theory focuses on money supply and on inflation as an effect of the supply of money being larger than the demand for money.

Calvinism: a system of Christian theology advanced by John Calvin, a Protestant Reformer in the 16th century, and further developed by his followers, associates and admirers. The term also refers to the doctrines and practices of the Reformed churches, of which Calvin was an early leader. Calvinism is perhaps best known for its doctrine of predestination, and its history is associated with some notable experiments in Christian theocracy.
Yes, believe it or not, I inhabit all three of these "isms" to some extent. It is not a trinitarian form of habitation, with a complete and total acceptance of all three ideologies - mainly because all three ideologies have competing ideas and contradict one another in many places.

The summaries I have given above are quotes from the opening paragraphs of their respective Wikipedia entires. I do not entirely agree with all of them.

Despite calling myself a "socialist" I do not advocate communism, and do not agree with the idea that "the workers own the means of production". Nevertheless, I do believe that a centralised government can bring about meaningful social change through government spending and resultant taxation - change that cannot be brought about through the natural activity of the marketplace.

Despite calling myself a "monetarist", I do not advocate Laissez-faire economic thinking. Less government control and less government intervention in the marketplace is not going to solve anything. As I have stated, the market cannot do certain things, and what it fails to do properly (or not at all), the government can do via spending and taxation. Nevertheless, I do believe that what the market does well it does brilliantly. Moreover, "market forces" are real and can be empirically analysed. It is important to recognise these behaviours rather than rail against them. Supply and demand are, essentially, the backbone of this thinking.

Despite calling myself a "Calvinist", I do not advocate any form of Theocracy. It is not the place of the church nor the Christian to impose Christian values upon a world that is without Christ. The only way man's soul can be changed is through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, working in the hearts of those who listen to the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God. By being a Calvinist, I see this world as a great gift from God, and that everything I own and achieve is not the result of my own hard work or talent, but an undeserved gift from Almighty God. Socialists believe in the ultimate goodness of mankind, and the only way to bring out this goodness is to provide them with a social framework that ensures that they are not directed towards evil. Monetarists and Libertarians also believe in the ultimate goodness of mankind, but argue that this goodness can only be brought about by removing any man-made intervention - whether good or bad - to ensure that they are free to evolve into what they truly are. Calvinists believe in Total depravity, which assumes that all mankind is spiritually dead and sinful and evil, are incapable of looking after themselves or saving themselves, and are instead totally reliant upon God's undeserved gifts to them.

So how do these three "isms" fit together?

The first thing they do is force me to be realistic about what they can achieve. Being a Calvinist forces me to be cynical about the human condition. This means that any utopian ends being promoted by either socialism or libertarianism can easily be discounted. Many Christians see socialism as a form of evil because it appears to offer a form of utopia aithout God - but that is not how I see it. These same Christians would then promote economic liberalism as being the only alternative without realising that they, too, are promoting a form of unattainable utopia that has no basis at an in the Scriptures.

The second thing they do is force me to examine the world objectively. Monetarism and Neo-liberal economics, for all their high ideals about personal freedom, do offer a realistic understanding of market forces as being patterns of communal economic behaviour rather than as some sort of "invention". Like the wind and the waves to a sailor, market forces can only be ignored to a person's peril. I hate certain socialists who rail against neo-liberal economics, arguing that market solutions are useless and the whole "system" should be changed. Yet socialism offers a great deal of objective evidence too. The world's richest nation, the United States, has a huge disparity between rich and poor. The fact that millions of Americans work 40 plus hours per week and are still living in poverty is an indictment of the system. Apart from anything else, it shows that those who promote neo-liberalism as a form of personal freedom are those who stand to gain the most, financially, out of it.

The third thing they do is act as a moderating force upon my political and economic thought. Monetarism and neo-liberalism act upon the needs and rights of the individual. Socialism acts upon the needs and rights of the community. Calvinism points to the total sovereignty of God and that we, as individuals and as a group, are indebted to God for our very existence. Therefore, I obviously take a "third way" between Socialism and Capitalism - but not because I am some namby-pamby compromiser who wants to make everyone happy, but because I can see the tense but interdependent relationship between individual and community, and between man as individual/group to the creator of man - God.

From the Osostrian School Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

2 comments:

Paul W said...

Neil, I find it ironic that people like us now sound anchronistic if we advocate the kinds of economic policies that made NZ and Australia two of the most prosperous countries in the world (sadly NZ lurched to the neo-liberal right in the 1980s and 1990s).

One Salient Oversight said...

Rogernomics - I know it well. Howard has been trying for years to go in that direction