The following are excerpts from Jesse Smith’s third place essay titled “Foundations for a Free Capitalistic Republic”:

Historically, we Americans have inherited a free Republic from our founding fathers wherein a limited government insures that an individual’s life, liberty, and private property are protected from criminals under a fairly static rule of law, the Constitution. The founders had in mind a decentralized government with very few tasks. In a republic the written rule of law, not the arbitrary rule of man, is the final supreme authority. All citizens, government included, are equal under law. Thus, government has no special privileges to force citizens to pay for national healthcare, public education, welfare, subsidies and foreign wars protecting non-taxpaying foreigners. Our present reality shows how this heritage of freedom and capitalism is being squandered by each consecutive generation. Today, Americans unwittingly see nothing unjust about the Nanny State. Government supposedly exists to sustain and advance the nation rather than protect individuals under law.

In John W. Robbins’ collection of essays, Freedom and Capitalism, he soberly admits that constitutionalists, libertarians, and conservatives fail to reverse the trend toward socialism and lawless government because their attempts “have not been based on any sound understanding of the philosophical and theological pre-conditions for freedom and civilization” (353). For Robbins, neither the popular conservative nostalgia for tradition, nor the libertarian cry for natural inalienable rights will have any lasting result in the cause of freedom. Economic arguments asserting the material benefits of capitalism are incapable of laying epistemological and ethical foundations for a free republic. He boldly and systematically shows that the preconditions for a free society are nothing other than Biblical Christianity.

In this essay, I will argue alongside Robbins that Christianity is a complete philosophy with its own unique epistemology and ethic and is therefore not silent on matters of politics and economics. Not only is it comprehensive, but it is also TRUE because it is derived from Truth Himself—its first proposition being that the Bible is the Word of God. Robbins thoroughly shows how philosophical blunders like empiricism, naturalism, and utilitarianism are logical fallacies in theory and dangerous absurdities in practice. Christianity sustains freedom and capitalism with principles like human depravity, the primacy of the individual, and God’s sovereignty. To the extent in which we abandon these theological underpinnings of western civilization, we lose our ability to develop a structured society where the individual can safely prosper in freedom by being treated as an end rather than a means of the State.

If Christianity is treated as a system of truth, it should not be surprising, as Robbins argues, that it is very possible to deduce economic principles and political norms from God’s precepts. Indeed, without the Bible, we have no real bases for government at all. In Romans 13 Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that God establishes governments for the punishment of evildoers. Anarchists believe government power comes from the inherently violent threats of its police force. This may be true. But while violence is power, it cannot establish government authority, its raison d’être. Believing that all authority comes from God, Paul did not believe in anarchy, and neither did he encourage socialism. Commenting on Paul’s command that he who does not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), Robbins says, “As a good economist, Paul knew that there is always plenty of work to be done. Paul says that there is no duty to support anyone who can work and does not. The Bible knows nothing of either legal or moral entitlements to the property of another, simply because one needs help” (286). With just a few verses we already see the legitimacy of limited government deduced from Scripture.

While the Ten Commandments establish a Republic in which all people are equally bound by a static and reliable rule of law, leftist ideologies establish unfair societies where the law is relative to the everchanging, arbitrary will of the governing elite. For example, in the United States a person could wake up one day to a new law that redistributes his wealth to other persons to whom the law does not apply. Still, some argue that governments should not be restrained by the rule of law, but instead should work toward the “greatest good” regardless of the means. Robbins quickly reveals the failure of this utilitarian idea by pointing out the absurd task of calculating the greatest pleasure for the greatest number. Furthermore, utilitarianism has been used to “justify all sorts of (at the time) politically correct murders and depredations in the twentieth century” (26). Secular utilitarian language of the “greater good” is antithetical to God’s Ten Commandments, which were written in stone to create a free Republic and bring justice to every individual (including judges), regardless of a case’s bearing on society.

Republicanism rests on the dichotomy between two major assumptions: 1) Individuals are created by God as individuals whose essence, dignity, and personal responsibility are not conditioned by groups; and 2) Individuals cannot be trusted with power. Robbins shows how the first assumption comes from the clear individualism pervasive in the Bible and the second comes from the Biblical theme of man’s depravity. In the forward to Freedom and Capitalism, we read that all groups (families, churches, nations) are secondary to God’s original creation of a single individual, Adam, who is a single image of God. In further support of individualism, salvation is a one-person-at-a-time work of the Holy Spirit (13). While Christianity elevates the individual above the group, it also maintains a sobering suspicion of all individuals because all are dead in trespasses and sins. This especially protestant principle was a key ingredient of our founding fathers’ worldview. “The idea that the human nature could be transformed in the future was something quite foreign to the founders; they lived, fortunately for us, before the time of Marx and Darwin…. Because they regarded men as incorrigible, the founders distrusted any aggregation of political power” (63). Collectivists of all stripes replace the two Biblical principles with the assumptions that individuals gain identity and responsibility only in the context of a community, and all people are inherently good. This makes it seem less immoral and impossible for the State to use individuals as means for advancing a utopia.

Unlike Christianity, other worldviews are incoherent because they base their knowledge on man’s ability to discover truth wholly without revelation via rationalism or empiricism and thus fail to defend or attack freedom and capitalism. As we have seen above, capitalism is in part based on the moral law against stealing and coveting another’s private property. But morality can only be derived from God’s revealed law. Robbins discusses how some defenders of freedom, like John Locke, commit the naturalistic fallacy by trying to base moral precepts on empirical facts derived from nature. According to natural law, we are obliged not to harm and steal from people because by nature we are all equal and independent. Robbins corrects the fallacy. “If the premises of an argument are descriptive (as in Locke’s statement), the conclusion must be descriptive. Ought cannot be derived from is.” He takes the point further, “Natural law, being unwritten, is very much a wax nose that can be used to justify any conclusion one prefers” (27). It is no wonder that “enlightened” moderns have enslaved each other in various forms of lawless governments. The state of nature can be used to justify anything. Hitler based his eugenics program on evolution.

Robbins’ main concern is for us to see the epistemological errors at the heart of the breakdown of free societies. For instance, the theory of natural law has led to a second fallacy that unwittingly makes a system of justice impossible—the theory of inalienable rights. Although our Declaration of Independence claims inalienable rights are self-evident (derived from nature, not the Bible) they are incompatible with criminal law, as Robbins shows. “If a human being possesses an inalienable right to life, then it is wrong to execute a murderer—murderers have rights to life, too” (261). By reducing the natural rights theory to an absurdity, we see how it is much safer and consistent to base our freedoms on the imputed rights of the Ten Commandments. For example, “Thou shalt not kill” imputes to me the right to life. While some may call this philosophical hair splitting, Robbins stays true to his conviction that error in philosophy has physical consequences. “The notion of human rights, logically developed, excludes justice, which is precisely why the Supreme Court made the murderous decision it did in January 1973” (261).

Robbins persuasively shows how no other system of truth can furnish the sustaining principles of freedom and capitalism other than Biblical Christianity with its emphasis on private property and principles of human depravity, the primacy of the individual, and God’s sovereignty. The fruit of a civilization that abandons the Word of God is by no means hidden. The list of 20th century deviations from the Biblical principles of a free republic is long and horrible. To the modern mind, the old conservative language of “republic,” “enumerated powers,” “liberty,” “private property” and “static rule of law” is archaic. If our heritage of capitalism and freedom are to once again restore prosperity, dignity and justice to the individual, the Gospel of Christ must be preached and believed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only then will Biblical propositions free minds.