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Friday, October 5, 2012

How Capitalism Leads to Callousness

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24 NIV).

I have heard recently of a businessman who has become very successful. He has several homes and all the material goods required to make his life overflowing with possessions. Yet this same businessman rails at the fact that he wishes to hire people at $9.00 an hour, yet finds them reluctant to work at this less than living wage. He has come to see his own wealth as completely justified, while sharing it with other essential producers of wealth would be an outrage.

In my view it is clear that capitalism's tendency to filter wealth to the relatively few is hurtful to everybody, most especially those who acquire it. What is the mechanism that helps generate such callousness?

I know the man referred to and am aware that he was raised in a home where the Christian values of sharing and generosity were taught and demonstrated. Fundamentally, I know he appreciates that selfishness and greed are not good. Thus, on a primary level, his view of personal wealth is conflicted and disturbing to him. A state of denial as a defense thus comes into play. An “I earned every penny” psychological stance and a “circle the wagons” mentality serve to rationalize, justify, and legitimize his disproportionate earnings to himself and others whose complicity with this fiction he anxiously yearns for. In other words, feeling that his position is assailable and indefensible, he seeks and finds psychological defense and resolution in an ideological stance that would enshrine selfishness and greed within a shroud of rectitude. Capitalism as an ideology is shared by other devotees who similarly seek to justify basic unfairness and greed and earnestly seek solace from like-minded friends. Natural allies in this fiction are wealthy investors, professionals, and those of inheritance. They come to fancy themselves as the primary wealth creators. A key motto of this religion is “life is unfair, get used to it.” In other words, justice and fairness are not to be actively pursued or even thought about and the status quo, however remote from the kingdom of God, is to be accepted.

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