A friend used to join me for walks along the beautiful California coastline. During one such outing, I suggested to my friend, a liberal theologian, that there were good and bad souls on both sides of America’s great political divide, and that surely there were legitimate distinctions between ‘right’ and ‘left’ that had nothing to do with notions of right and wrong. He nodded in apparent agreement, which encouraged me to ask what he saw as the most basic distinction, free of moral judgment, between conservatives and liberals.
He considered my query and then told me he favored liberalism because it was more consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. And yes, my jaw did drop, for it was as though he’d not heard my question at all. Or perhaps he did, but determined to ignore the point of it, relying instead on the false, fall-back notion that liberals are morally superior to conservatives. There is a well-known proverb.
Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.
Once a man has eaten the fish that’s given to him, he’ll likely return for another. If you keep giving him free fishes, and throw in some day-old bread, that man will become dependent upon you. And if you act so as to increase that man’s dependence, eventually you will be able to control him. Our federal government, with its administrative appendages and liberal enablers, has become skilled at handing out what appear to be free loaves and fishes. The hidden reality is that, ultimately, none of what they hand out is free. Americans pay for the government’s loaves and fishes, increasingly, with their surrender of personal liberties.
Conservatives (including some Republicans), take a different approach. We want to teach people how to catch their own fish and bake their own bread. Do that for someone, and you’ve gone a long way toward making them independent. They likely won’t return to you looking for a handout, but will, instead, go about catching more fish and baking more bread, tending their garden and raising their children, and perhaps encouraging others to do the same.
Bearing this in mind, I humbly suggest that capitalism, despite its inherent inequities, is the most egalitarian means yet devised to create wealth and opportunity, and to broadly improve the quality of human life; that democracy, despite its inefficiencies, is the most effective approach yet devised to promote human freedom and self-determination; and that capitalism and democracy are morally and inextricably linked. I proffer this, free of charge, to liberal theologians everywhere.