Can Christians Be Capitalists? by A K Whitehead
For reasons of space, we have to be very concise in this article. By Christian we mean people who put Christ first in their lives as their guiding principle. These are not those who call themselves Christians but who live independently of Body of Christ.
What Is A Capitalist A capitalist is one who owns capital. From an economics perspective capital is not money or finance. Capital is what is used to produce goods or services: machinery, tools, equipment, etc. It used to be said that distinctive feature of a capitalist is that he can wait, in distinction from a worker who cannot wait because what he acquires from his work is what he needs to live from week-to- week or month-to-month.
Labout And Capital To be a capitalist, therefore, one must have means to wait. Mainly this is because goods and services all come into being only through some process of production. And such processes inevitably involve time and therefore waiting. This is initial source of capitalists market power, and inherent cause of labour's market weakness. One sees this power struggle in every industrial dispute, especially when it engages ultimate strategy of strike, when called by labour, or lockout, when called by capitalists.
Capitalists And Markets There is another aspect attached to waiting which is central to question we are discussing. How do capitalists behave within a competitive market environment?
Behaviour is considerably determined by market. His basic objective is to survive. What does his survival depend on? Profits. Without profits he will not continue into long run.
On what do profits depend? There are many parts to this answer, but principle components are efficiency and establishing a market advantage. The latter, in turn, depends on out-thinking and out-performing competitors. That means producing at a high quality level or, what amounts to same thing, a lower real price level.
This takes us to real nub of question we are addressing. Where markets are highly competitive, out-performing competitors is difficult. So long term survival is difficult because every organisation will be pressured into using same most, efficient technology and prices will be competed to levels which produce relatively low levels of profit.
No-one likes this kind of situation because it is constantly threatening to long term objective of survival. Yet, conditions of uncertainty are norm. And market capitalists do not like uncertainty. They have always and will always attempt to reduce uncertainty. They do that by, one way or another, getting rid of competition. It is a remarkable paradox that greatest argument in favour of a market system, its competitiveness, is one thing which market participants spend their time trying to get rid of.