A Legacy of Freedom & Prosperity By Dr Marshall Foster
Americans are longing to give their children a legacy of freedom and prosperity. History clearly details the only proven plan for such a legacy. Sadly, the pages of history are filled with the stories of poverty and tyranny that have dominated virtually all civilizations for 5,000 years. The few exceptions have followed the only proven strategy to sustained wealth and economic growth.
America’s forebears were Biblicists. They understood that the pattern of economic failure began with the first covetous murder of Abel by Cain. They knew that as men progressively turned from their Creator, they looked to enrich themselves at the expense of others. The ancients soon discovered that rather than kill others to obtain wealth, they could, through force and deceit, make those individuals slaves or servants. They then could confiscate the wealth of the people in the name of the state or the will of their fickle deities.
The economic theory or practice of all ancient societies (except for the Hebrew Republic) was that of a forced big government bureaucracy or “command economy.” Professor and historian Rodney Stark defines command economies as those in the ancient or modern world in which “both markets and labor are commanded and coerced rather than allowed to function freely, and the exaction and consumption of wealth is the primary goal of the state.” These command economies operate in nations in which the government controls the peoples’ wealth. They lead people of all economic brackets to produce less and hide or hoard whatever wealth they have.
The command economies of the world kept virtually the entire human race in a near Stone Age standard of living for thousands of years. Even in the mighty Roman Empire the residents of Rome, most of whom were slaves, subsisted in poverty. They lived off of the crumbs of the booty plundered from the world by the Roman legions. Except for the elite few, the people never progressed beyond living in mud and stick shacks or tenements. No matter how productive one individual or family might become, their wealth was always subject to arbitrary confiscation by lawless rulers.
With the entrance of the Savior of the world and His life, words and transforming power the principles for religious, economic, and civil freedom were understood. These were the roots of Western Civilization and Christendom. Other nations of the world were held back from innovation, freedom and prosperity by constant tyranny. Their religions were often mystery cults that focused on the superiority of the past and deemphasized reason and progress.
In contrast, Biblical faith taught that each individual was created with infinite value and an immortal future. It taught that all individuals are to be treated equally before the law. Even Nietzsche, the father of modern atheism, had to admit that all human rights came from Christianity. Christianity was also future-orientated. It presented a reasoned and logical plan for economic progress and happiness. Only with the truth and power of the faith and its inerrant Word, could a governmental and economic system be developed that did not allow all the peoples’ wealth to be taken by the elite in power.
Nations without the rule of law and Christian economic principles have never been able to sustain a lasting economic renaissance. For example, in the 11th century in China, a strong privately owned iron industry developed in one province. Huge profits and high paying jobs resulted in the region. But when Chinese emperors realized that commoners were getting rich they said that this violated Confucian values and social tranquility which was built upon a rigid class structure. In their view, only royalty should possess wealth. So they declared the iron industry a state monopoly and the economy collapsed. The Chinese did not escape poverty until biblical free enterprise principles were initiated 1,000 years later in modern China – after the Communist leader Mao died. This same pattern of economic tyranny dominated all continents for 5,000 years until the rise of biblical economic truth.
By 1215, the people, nobles and clergy in England with the biblical view of free enterprise, private property and the limitations on civil power, created Magna Carta. With the base of English Common Law and the Ten Commandments, Steven Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote this landmark document of economic, civil, and religious liberty. This set the stage for the explosion of Christian free enterprise 400 years later in the Protestant Reformation.
Magna Carta in essence was a stand against the tax, spend and steal policies of out of control government (King John). It contained a long and detailed list of private property rights. It restricted taxes and import duties. It provided representatives to hold the government accountable to obey its provisions.
How does this brief economic history give us hope in our desperate situation today? It gives us tremendous hope because most Americans still have the biblical work ethic deeply embedded in their hearts through the heritage passed down to us by our ancestors.
Even today, most Americans know that it is wrong to steal private property and to turn over businesses and most decisions in life to unaccountable bureaucracies.
We have inherited the world’s greatest heritage of economic liberty. America has the heritage of all three of the freedoms necessary for prosperity – economic, civil and religious.
In our current crisis we must re-ignite the passion and conviction that our inheritance of Christian free enterprise and family ownership of property is a sacred trust before God, not just a personal preference or economic theory. We must be united in what Patrick Henry called the “holy cause of liberty” that is to be protected with our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. God’s honor, not just our personal wealth is at stake.
We still have the skeleton framework of a Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that calls us to stand against the yoke of tyranny. But do we have the resolve such as that of Joseph Warren, the great patriot physician and Christian, who led from the front at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775? He spoke of how, “Our fathers having nobly resolved never to wear the yoke of despotism, and seeing the European world, at the time, through indolence and cowardice, falling a prey to tyranny, bravely threw themselves upon the bosom of the ocean, determined to find a place in which they might enjoy their freedom, or perish in the glorious attempt.” Dr. Warren, covering the retreat of his men and out of ammunition, died with a bullet through his head in the final moments of the first great battle of the War of Independence.
Our liberties, as one of our founders said in a Connecticut newspaper, are “a sacred deposit which it would be treason against Heaven to betray.” May we study and learn this “sacred deposit,” apply it to our lives and share it with all who will listen. It is treason against heaven to do any less.
– Dr. Marshall Foster