PROFIT AND LOSS
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all (I Cor.12:4-6).
The fourth principle of a Biblical covenant is the principle of judgment-punishment, also called the principle of sanctions. God is the final judge. In the field of economics, the principle is best illustrated by the principle of consumer sovereignty, meaning the buyer’s authority to make an offer. In economic affairs in a free market, the consumers, acting as competitive bidders in a giant auction, select economic winners and losers from among competing sellers. With their spending, they reward some producers and penalize others. They exclude some producers from business by driving them into bankruptcy. In short, consumers judge, and they judge in terms of what they want, not what producers want them to want: products, prices, terms of payment, and so forth.
Everyone has their tastes and desires, which vary among individuals. Some people will eat the fat off the bacon, and some won’t. I can assure you about a certain choice you need to make, “This is the best way to go,” but there is a very good chance you’ll disagree with me. These things exemplify the differences amongst people.
To try and change these differences among people is a very difficult undertaking indeed, and probably not worth even beginning. One of the good things about the free-market (and there are many) is that “one size doesn’t fit all.” There is no need to fit into some pre-ordained straitjacket, because the free-market is sufficiently flexible to cater to all the tastes of individuals in a society. Some people will want the “Budget-Special,” others will want to go up-market, and some just haven’t even thought about it.
Socialists have never liked the free-market. They believe it contains some inherent injustices, and that they have a legitimate role in regulating society and national economies, and implicitly telling people what they should believe, and what to do. They think people need to be changed, and that governments should do it. This means they assume power over people’s decisions. The socialist says, “We have decided that this is what’s best for you,” and if you happen to have a differing opinion on the matter, you will have to live with it, at least until the next election.
This is always wasteful, inefficient, greatly frustrating and impinges on people’s freedoms. Vast numbers of bureaucrats have to be employed as the servants of the socialist politicians to do their bidding, and much of the time the bureaucrats have little understanding of what people really do want. Why should they be bothered? They are isolated from the market-place, which is prevented from bringing positive and negative sanctions against them. As long as the politicians have little idea what is really happening, the bureaucrat keeps his job. He can be an absolute disaster, yet it makes no difference.
Every bureaucracy sees itself as the answer to all possible problems. Instead of the free workings of the people, of the market-place, of the churches, families, and institutions of a society, a bureaucracy sees all solutions in terms of bureaucratic action and control. In terms of this, nothing is more dangerous to a bureaucracy than freedom, and the ideas of a bureaucracy and a free people are mutually contradictory.
The fact that individuals can make choices for themselves in a free society doesn’t mean those choices will be the correct ones. People always make mistakes. But the free-market gives them the dignity and responsibility of making those choices, without the imposition of some person in Parliament or a bureaucrat’s office saying, “This is what’s best for you.”
As people grow in responsibility, maturity and self-control, they have every reason to say to their political leaders, “Give us freedom. Remove the bureaucratic control. Let us do what we want to do, without some bureaucratic clown telling us what to do, or we’ll vote you out.”
The principles undergirding the Biblical principle of the division of labour in a free market economy are these:
1. No society can operate without judges.
2. In economic affairs, either consumers are the judges or State officials are.
3. The Trinity is at the same time one and many, unity and diversity.
4. The church is a unified body having many members who possess unique gifts.
5. The church can achieve as a unit what its individual members could never achieve as individuals.
6. The free market is an institutional arrangement which brings together many participants.
7. They can achieve together what they could never achieve as individuals.
8. Sinners cooperate in the market because it is in their self interest to do so, even when they hate each other. This increases peace.
9. The division of labour overcomes scarcity, including the scarcity of accurate knowledge.
10. Cost accounting is the integrating device by which producers make economic judgments.
11. Consumers “vote by spending” in a free market.
12. Consumers are sovereign in a free market; they serve as the judges.
13. A market open to new competitors, stable money, and profit and loss: these are the trio that grants sovereign control to consumers.
14. When consumers voluntarily vote to elect politicians who promise to steal from others, they place themselves in slavery.
15. Under socialism, self-serving bureaucrats would inherit the earth, if God were to allow socialism to continue.