21 August 2010

You Cannot Multiply Wealth by Dividing It

Here's a quote given the comments of my previous post on Socialism. After reading and pondering it just a bit, I think it's worth more than just comment status and so I'm putting "up front" in its own post. Thanks to DRG for posting it.

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.  What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.  When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.  You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

The late Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931 - 2005


  1. I, for one, am an advocate (in theory) of socialism on a micro scale. This conclusion, I have reached on the basis of natural and the revealed Law (ie. helping our neighbor in every need). Of course this presumes many factors that are external to the economic structure in place.

    Historically, when cities were nearly autonomous entities, a form of socialism was of great benefit to the society as a whole. This was seen in Leipzig when Luther helped the city council establish the community chest (a model which was copied/adapted throughout Germany). At the same time this system was balanced by a sense of vocation and virtue (to the extent that sinners are 'virtuous').

    All this is to say that Socialism in and of itself is no more evil or good than other economic systems such as Capitalism (which itself uses a vice, greed, as its engine... just read John Locke).

  2. “It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”

    -Thomas Sowell

  3. Matt,

    The difference between Socialism and the Christian charity of which you write is pretty simple. The one is forced upon the citizenry while the other flows from a willingness to help the neighbor in need. I would maintain that the giving and charity - the community taking care of its own - evident in the book of Acts (e.g. Acts 4:32-37) is far different than the Socialism that flows from Marx and Lenin. People willingly helping their needy neighbors, even with the limits we sinners have in our virtue, works far better than the imposed, government-directed model of Socialism (which leads to Communism). Besides that, we ought to learn from history: Socialism/Communism has a miserable track record. But Christian charity, even imperfectly practiced, has lasted for centuries.

  4. Pr. Asburry,

    You make good points here.

    The difference between socialism and charity is significant. The lives of many hardline-advocates of socialism prove this point in their daily lives as many of them seem to place heavy burdens on others while their own lifestyles seem to demonstrate that they do not wish to touch such "charity", "compassion", and "individual powerlessness" with a single finger. One rarely finds a communitarian who proactively surrenders all of his earthly possessions and freedom of choice in order to set the example for the rest of us.

    You can at least respect the honest socialist who voluntarily practices what he wishes to force on others... but those are few and far between.

  5. Randy,
    You are right, and that is a significant distinction. Though coercion may be a proper action for those who have been placed into a position of authority: Parents not only coerce their children to eat their peas (no matter how disgusting they are), they also coerce older brothers to help their younger sister, mow the lawn, and do all sorts of chores that a boy would not freely and willingly do.

    We are greedy creatures by our sinful nature. As much as I know that my neighbor could use my help, I am far more interested (often times) in that new power tool or electronic gizmo (ironic how some even have a forbidden fruit with a bite taken out of it as their logo). As tough as it will be, come 12 days from now when I send that quarterly check in, I am thankful that, in theory some of that will be going to help my neighbor in need. At the same time, I won't be thankful for the wasteful actions of congress/government bureaucracies.

    Going back to the historical example of Leisnig (not Leipzig as I previously stated), not only generosity but coercion filled the common chest. However, it is most definitely not prudent to simply suggest 16th century city policies be adopted completely in our context, but I still would contend that at the most local level, it is incumbent upon our elected officials (be they mayors, city aldermen, etc) to address the needs of the poor in the best way possible, be it encouraging charity or if that is not sufficient, checking the greed of their citizens via taxation, etc (or some third way which my tired mind is not capable of thinking of).