Why Trade Is A Form Of Obedience To God

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Posted: Apr 17, 2018 10:48 AM
Why Trade Is A Form Of Obedience To God

Author William Bernstein in his book, A Splendid Exchange, which delivers an extensive look at the history of trade and its direct impact on prosperity, writes that the “wealth of the modern world was underpinned by the development of property rights, rule of law, capital market mechanisms, and scientific rationalism.” Bernstein explains that “[t]he failure of the communist experiment and the current wealth and poverty of individual nations testify to the power of these critical institutions.”[1]

John Locke clearly articulates that property rights are of divine providence. He also explains that the demand for productivity from one’s property is driven by a free-market, not a collectivist society, nor demands of any government; and that the free-market drives the growth of industry. A free-market (also free-trade), as eloquently described by Murray Rothbard, is “the motive power for specialization and exchange [is] simply that each party to an exchange (which is necessarily two-party and two-commodity) benefits (or at least expects to benefit) from the exchange; otherwise the trade would not take place.”[2]

The great economist Ludwig von Mises eloquently states that “unhampered [von Mises is directly inferring to noninterventionism by government or a central authority] entrepreneurial activity leads to great productivity, that is, to be a better provision of the customers.”[3] In short: serving your fellow man. Commerce creates man’s desire for industry, which creates capitalism.  Locke views this process as obedience towards God. He explains:

"For I ask, what would a man value ten thousand or an hundred thousand acres of excellent land, ready cultivated, and well stocked too, with cattle, in the middle of the inland parts of America, where he had no hopes of commerce with other parts of the world, to draw money to him by the sale of the products?

…Find out something that hath the use and value of money amongst his neighbours, you shall see the same man will begin presently to enlarge his possessions."[4]

Even the great Roman jurist, Marcus Tullius Cicero, spoke of the absolute criticalness of property rights for the stability of the Roman Republic and excoriates the redistribution of property. Cicero argues that redistributive laws are “seditious, dangerous, and violently unjust” notes Dr. Eric Nelson. Cicero concludes by asking, “[T]o rob one man of what belongs to him and give it to another man what does not belong to him?” Also comparing confiscation and redistribution of private property as worse than a plague, Cicero states, “that everyone shall have what belongs to him and that private citizens suffer no invasion of their property rights by act of the state.”[5]

Property rights is key to the American economic philosophy and behavior, because it has been historically recognized as a necessary component of a sound and stable economy. This philosophy and practice has its foundation built upon Scripture and history.

[1] William J. Bernstein, 2008, A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World, (New York, NY: Grove Press), p. 15.

[2] Murray N. Rothbard, 2006 (originally published in 1995), Economic Thought Before Adam Smith: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Vol. 1, (Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute), p. 442.

[3] Ludwig von Mises, Richard M. Ebeling, ed., 2012, “The Economic System of Interventionism (July 31, 1930),” Selected Writings of Ludwig von Mises, Vol 1, (Liberty Fund: Indianapolis, IN), p. 307.

[4] John Locke, 1982, ed. Richard Cox (originally published in 1690), Second Treatise of Government, “Book V: Of Property, Sec. 48-49,” (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc.), p. 30.

[5] Eric Nelson, 2010, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), pp. 60-61.