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Acton Roundtable 2: Marxism, Utopianism, Environmentalism

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“Environmentalism, Marxism, Utopianism,” Part 2 of a recent Acton roundtable discussion, is now available. Michael Miller leads a discussion with Samuel Gregg, Jordan Ballor and Anielka Munkel about environmentalism, Marxism, liberation, theology, Christian syncretism, Utopianism and one of Michael’s favorite topics, Alexis de Tocqueville. Check out Acton’s YouTube page here.

Jonathan Witt


  • fundamentalist

    Interesting roundtable. Thanks! Though I wish the guys had let the really attractive lady from Nicaragua speak more.

    Why isn’t the gospel message more appealing to people than the Marxist one? I think they came closest to nailing the discussion near the end. The problem isn’t just intellectual; it’s also spiritual. Jesus said that the way of truth is narrow and few people find it. His parable of the sower and the seed shows that most people care more about their immediate circumstances than they care about the truth. Paul is the harshest, though he quotes OT prophets. Paul wrote that mankind does not want the truth; it wants to be fooled. We suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

    And the problem goes back to the commandment “Thou shalt not covet.” Mankind has a strong inclination to covet and envy other people’s possessions. Marxism elevates covetousness and envy to virtues.

    So add together the natural tendency to covet, to suppress the truth, and to be focused on our immediate circumstances and you have a strong case for Marxism.

    That’s why I have begun to see capitalism as a flash in the pan of history. The circumstances of its birth were unique and not likely to be repeated. In the 16th century the Dutch Republic had the unique experience of being a republic instead of a democracy (the will of the masses was ignored) and the political leadership were a particular type of Christian, Erasmian. Calvinists were a majority among the people, but not the political leadership (see Jonathan Israel’s “The Dutch Republic”). And the leading Christian thought at the time came from the School of Salamanca, Spain, which was pro-property and free market. Thanks to Lessius, the political leadership implemented the economic thinking of the Scholastics, which were unpopular with the people because the Calvinists opposed them. The Calvinists wanted to replicate Calvin’s Geneva with heavy state control of the economy.

    Dutch Capitalism spread to England through the Glorious Revolution. Again, the leadership forced it on the people against their will. There was a lot of opposition from the Anglican and Protestant churches. It spread to the US through the Dutch settlers, and the abundance of land kept the masses from opposing it.

    But what happened in Europe and the US when Christianity began to decline in the late 19th century, especially with the rise of “liberal” Christianity in the form of German “higher” criticism? As traditional Christianity waned, restraint of envy also diminished and people turned to Marxism for “salvation.” And at the same time the push for greater democracy and less republicanism gained steam. In the US, support for capitalism has weakened as traditional Christianity declined and the nation became more democratic. And with the rise in democracy, the Supreme Court abandoned honest interpretation of the Constitution in favor of prevailing sentiment, that is, even more democracy. The Court was supposed to limit the spread of democracy in favor of the rule of law, but is became a traitor.

    Democracy is the enemy of capitalism because envy prevents the majority of people from accepting the outcomes of capitalism.

  • fundamentalist

    PS, This issue ties in with the themes of the book “Culture Matters” and with the findings of the New Institutional School of economics. In brief, institutions determine economic development, but culture determines institutions. What determines culture? Religion. Capitalism is the institutions created by the culture of traditional Christianity. As people abandon traditional Christianity, the institutions change toward pagan democracy and the economcy changes.