This post first appeared in January of 2008. You can view the original here.
* * * * *
I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering…selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.
–Dr. Suess’s The Lorax
I am, generally speaking, in favor of a free market. I am sure this comes across in my writing. I know I was hard on Hazlitt when it came to technology, but this doesn’t mean I think there should be laws prohibiting technology. I simply think families and businessmen alike would be served well by a heavy dose of wisdom when approaching such things.
Let me begin at the beginning. Did you know that Jamestown was a socialist settlement? If the little village proved anything, it was that socialism doesn’t work even on a small scale.
So we here in America learned early on that the only way to encourage hard work is to let a family reap the benefits of it. I have always considered this biblical, an acknowledgement of the basic law of sowing and reaping. The Bible says that if a man refuses to provide for his own household, he has denied the faith and this is worse than being an unbeliever. Perhaps more direct is the idea that the early church was given a rule: If a man does not work, let him not eat.
Now, we all know that the Bible has plenty of verses concerning the care of the poor. So all I can conclude by reading these verses is that it also encourages individual responsibility.
Like Dr. Seuss, the unrestrained marketplace frightens me a bit. Especially now that this refers not to individual freedom as much as it does to the freedom of huge, faceless, global corporations–corporations that are impossible for Little Old Me to hold accountable if they do something wrong.
This is why we all sigh as we sit by and watch large companies redefine marriage, rename Christmas, or push abortion and birth control and publically-funded daycare. If we think the politicians are the only ones molding culture on the large scale, we forget that some companies can pass a “tolerance policy,” and these companies might have more employees than some of the smaller states have citizens.
And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
I think we all are a little uncomfortable with how big many companies have gotten. And we know intuitively that this means they are outside of our control. Why is it that I can’t seem to find a toy for my children that isn’t made in China, a communist nation that forces abortion on its women? Why is it that I feel I must buy second-hand clothing or make it myself if I wish to be certain that it wasn’t made by a slave? Why is it that we find that all the food and cough syrup and toothpaste that have been contaminated, either on purpose or simply through carelessness are made who knows where by who knows what company, and there is no real way for the consumer, or even our government, to hold these people accountable?
This, my friends, is the reason why I long for the days of small-town business. Free market? Yes! Absolutely! The unfettered marketplace, but on a small scale, where, if the local shoemaker forced his wife to have an abortion, we could drive our wagon one town over in protest. The individual is incapable of holding a global economy accountable.
In The Lorax, the Once-ler was environmentally irresponsible. He poisoned the pond and the sky. He chased all of the animals out of the area. He cut down every last Truffula Tree. And this is another fear we all have concerning unfettered big business.
We fear that there is a real Paul Bunyan out there, who really would cut down the last tree in creation.
And I think that is perhaps a good place to end. Back in the Garden of Eden, before everything went wrong, man was commanded to have dominion over the earth, which is quite different from destroying it utterly. Taking dominion, or part of the process of taking dominion, is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate. (My husband writes about this in his book.) My point here is simple:
Jesus is the answer.
I don’t mean to be trite, but a free economy can only be good and pure and virtuous when it is full of redeemed, sanctified participants. The more participants that are being perfected daily, the better the economy will be. Which is why it is backwards to talk about fixing the economy. Many problems of our day, including the economy, are solved first by solving the problems of the heart.
Our culture is post-Christian, meaning that non-Christians are no longer as influenced by Christianity as they once were. And this has an impact on everything, including how businessmen act within a “free market.” (Not that our market is free, for it is not, and liberals in both parties, but especially the one with a name starting with D, would love a chance to bind it up even more.) If we are not guided by clean consciences and a thirst for what is good and true and beautiful, we will be guided by vice, and uninhibited vice is just as scary as socialism.
Get the (almost) weekly digest!
Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.