Democrat representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York recently imitated President Biden by whispering a secret into the microphone that “most people don’t really know what capitalism is.” She added:
“Most people don’t even know what socialism is. But most people are not capitalists, because they don’t have capitalist money. They’re not billionaires.
“Do you think people should die because they can’t afford insulin? Do you think that fossil fuel CEOs should decide whether the planet gets set on fire? Me neither.”
AOC is right that most U.S. citizens don’t know what capitalism or socialism is and we can thank government financed public education for that massive ignorance. But neither does AOC understand capitalism, despite her economics degree during which her professors tried to explain it to her.
Based on her whisper, she seems to assume that capitalism is what capitalists do and people are capitalists only if they are billionaires. That is a modern Marxist definition of capitalism. But allowing Marxists to define capitalism is like asking atheists to define Christianity. One reason that people are confused about capitalism is that Marxists like AOC fabricate false definitions to confound people. To confuse and exploit others is one of their tactics.
So, what is capitalism? Many capitalists assume it is a system of government developed by the great Adam Smith and expounded in his classic book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith gave the clearest expression of that system at the time in his book, but as he admits, he got the principles of his system of natural liberty from the Dutch. The Dutch received them from theologians associated with the University of Salamanca, Spain, during the Reformation, who distilled them from the Bible.
The main principle of capitalism is the right of individuals to life, liberty and property. All other principles flow from those rights. For instance, government cannot violate those rights and it must be limited to punishing those who violate the rights of others, including the state. The state must treat all citizens equally. It will give no preferences to the nobility nor any race.
Property is the heart of capitalism. The eighth of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus chapter 20 says, “You shall not steal.” The positive version would be, “You shall respect the property of others.” It sanctifies private property. Theologians often argue that private property doesn’t exist because God owns everything. It’s true that God can take whatever he wants without stealing because everything belongs to him. But the command to not steal doesn’t apply to our relationship to God. It applies to our relationship with other human beings. We can’t take the property of others any more than we can claim something belongs to us and not to God.
The ninth and tenth commandments reinforce the prohibition of theft by barring even the desire for the property of others. They read, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Property rights require that the owner be free to buy and sell his property as he wishes. So, markets must be free except for the prohibitions of theft and fraud. For without them, property doesn’t exist. For a more complete explanation of capitalism, see my book God is a Capitalist: Markets from Moses to Marx.
Most people think the U.S. is capitalist today, but it’s not. It’s closer to fascism-lite. For reasons, see this article: The U.S. is not Capitalist.
AOC doesn’t want Christians to know that modern socialism came from atheists in the early 1800s in France (Henri de Saint-Simon, not Karl Marx) who insisted, contrary to the Bible, that property was the greatest evil of mankind because it made good people to turn bad. The original socialists believed they could perfect human nature by ridding the world of property. They intended socialism to be anti-Christian in every way, including morals. Socialism elevates envy to a virtue.
If AOC were honest, she would allow capitalists to define capitalism, not Marxists. Then U.S. citizens wouldn’t be as confused as she is.
Roger D. McKinney lives in Broken Arrow, OK with his wife, Jeanie. He has three children and six grandchildren. He earned an M.A. in economics from the University of Oklahoma and B.A.s from the University of Tulsa and Baptist Bible College. He has written two books, Financial Bull Riding and God is a Capitalist: Markets from Moses to Marx, and articles for the Affluent Christian Investor, the Foundation for Economic Education, The Mises Institute, the American Institute for Economic Research and Townhall Finance. Previous articles can be found at facebook.com/thechristiancapitalist. He is a conservative Baptist and promoter of the Austrian school of economics.