Free Market Economy or Socialism?

by Steve Ray on December 23, 2010

I was recently asked:
“Between a Socialist system of economics or a Free market Capitalist system, which is more Moral? Which system best represents a Christian view?

My short response:
The Catechism reflects the teaching of the Church by stating that a society should protect the right to private property and to free enterprise (CCC 2211, 2402). This is the basis of a free market system and the freedom and security of individual rights and the family. This of course does not preclude the proper use of taxation and social concern and care for the less fortunate. Socialism, though it often espouses high ideals, too often views the State as the ultimate owner of property and the individual can be taxed or their property confiscated at the will of the State.

Though the Church teaching the fair and equitable distribution of material things among peoples, it does not approve of rewarding sloth and punishing industrious enterprise to create wealth. God spoke through Moses who said, “God gives the power to make wealth” (Deut 8:17-18). Wealth is not an evil but a blessing and something that can be desired as a good and not an evil.

However, those who have wealth should share with those who are truly needy, not simply the poor who chose to be poor by lacking ambition, hard work or honesty. The Catechism clearly expresses the duty of the individual and the state to use property justly and to care for the less fortunate. The socialist system usually penalizes hard work and industry while rewarding the opposite.

Democracy and Free Enterprise without a Christian philosophical base can quickly become a system of greed and oppression; on the other hand, socialism becomes a system of greed and oppression and the government will always grow and grow and cater to those who it feeds.

So I am in favor of limited representative government to protect the individual and his rights, the family, private property and free enterprise. I am in favor of a free market capitalism that is tempered by charity and compassion with reasonable and limited governmental controls and protections.

The sinfulness and greed of Man makes this all difficult and a delicate balancing act. With a Christian consensus within a nation — as with the inception and beginnings of the United States — the goals are possible. But if there is a lack of moral and charitable consensus, the goals cannot be achieved and people are willing to give up their rights and freedoms bowing to a stronger government promising to insure peace and control and redistribution of wealth.

What do you think?

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