Tuesday, January 22, 2013

McDurmon on "Markets"

Joel McDurmon, author of The Bible and War in America and Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice, has recently released another comprehensive, easy-to-digest strategy for implementing a Biblical worldview. The title and purpose of this unique book is self-explanatory, and is called Restoring America One County at a Time. Here McDurmon presents a thorough and thoughtful treatise which, as the back cover reveals, focuses "on practical steps, local solutions, personal sacrifice, and a multi-generational vision." So far I have devoured 244 pages of this 400-plus page book, and when I finally finished his chapter on "Markets" I couldn't help but quote a lengthy excerpt from it because I found it to be somewhat of a missing link among arguments presented by critics and advocates of modern-day "Capitalism."

McDurmon is one of those authors that you either love or hate. He's either loved or hated because he writes in such a logical, biblical manner that the reader knows his overall argument is either absolutely right or dead wrong. There isn't much wiggle room for neutrality. He will challenge your presuppositions about education, welfare, local government, state government, taxation, money and banking, "free" markets, court systems, foreign and domestic war, the military, and executive power. And yet, he doesn't do so like a bull in a china shop, leaving you with an overwhelming mess of worldview-pieces to pick up on your own. In this book he actually provides a step-by-step program for reform that can and will work if implemented with thoughtfulness and consideration of what's really going on in the world around us.

This brings me to the lengthy quote I mentioned before, which I would like to post below. The post below is stripped from 232 pages of previous context, and so I don't expect the entirety of it to sink in to every reader. But it is explicit enough to demonstrate a fascinating misunderstanding among "liberals" and "conservatives" today who have some opinion about the "free" market. When discussing the history of big "conservative" business at the turn of the 19th-20th century, McDurmon notes:
    The Big financiers -- J. P. Morgan & Co., etc. -- would not give up their quests for total domination simply because they could not win fairly in a free marketplace. They had no qualms at all about turning to government intervention and regulation. Thus, in the period immediately following the failed merger movement -- the beginning of the twentieth century -- we saw a rise in Progressive government domination. Indeed, "The dominant fact of American Political life at the beginning of this century [20th] was that big business led the struggle for the federal regulation of the economy."1 So we return to our earlier statement about covetousness and greed armed with the guns of government. Big business interests simply have used the government coercion as a means of gaining a market advantage forcing out smaller competitors.
    And the big business was not shy about admitting their agenda clearly. For example, J. P. Morgan owned the agricultural machine company International Harvester. After Teddy Roosevelt established the Bureau of Corporations -- designed allegedly to investigate and expose any monopolistic powers on the part of big corporations -- IH came under suspicion and an investigation was ordered. The matter was a joke, for IH already had a back-room deal with the administration that an informal warning would give time to correct any "illegal" activity in the meantime. Indeed, IH's lawyer told the administration that the company welcomed exposure showing actual losses on the Company's behalf, "for then they would have just ground for raising American prices."2  The Company was quite serious, and it raised prices with sanction from the Federal Bureau's reports "to prevent attacks from less friendly parties, and as a general shield."3
     Noticeable also in this respect were the massive railroad companies. Not only had they used "federal and local governments for subsidies and land grants" from early on, but "railroads themselves had been the leading advocates of extended federal legislation after 1887."4 Indeed, the railroads wanted to use Federal authority to guarantee their pooling agreements and thus free them from the disruptive pressures and temptations of the market.5
    What has been said so far is a large part of the reason it is such a joke when modern leftists rail against free market principles as the historical cause of inequality, class warfare, and all our economic woes. There has been very little "free market" to begin with; this country hasn't had free markets very often at all, historically speaking. And the "capitalism" of the big bank-government collusion that we have today is hardly free-market capitalism. It's rigged state capitalism, which is to say it's socialistic to a large degree.

And then, a few paragraphs later, McDurmon begins a ten-page long explanation of how to put "free" back into free markets. I really admire his pastoral candidness in the opening words of this section. He writes:
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to freedom is rocky, uphill, and lined with thieves lying in wait. The path to restore freedom in markets and even to arrive at a totally free marketplace is the straight and narrow way indeed. Traveling it to its end will require personal integrity, fortitude, sacrifice, patience, and endurance. It will require these qualities in society -- not just a few scattered individuals.
In simple terms, the road to free markets requires a personal and society-wide return to the principles that headed up this chapter: non-violence to a person's life or private property and enforcement of contracts. We must personally embrace these principles, and structure our lives, work, and businesses accordingly. More importantly, we have to maintain this discipline: we must absolutely refuse to depart from God's laws even when it is more profitable, more convenient, and more socially acceptable to do so. We won't have a moral leg to stand on until we practice fiscal integrity ourselves. We can't demand of society what we are unwilling to abide by ourselves. The model here is the Messiah, of whom David said in Psalm 15: 
                              O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
                              Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
                              He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
                              and speaks truth in his heart;
                              who does not slander with his tongue
                              and does no evil to his neighbor,
                              nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
                              in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
                              but who honors those who fear the Lord;
                              who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
                              who does not put out his money at interest
                              and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
                              He who does these things shall never be moved.6

1  Cited from Kolko, Triumph of Conservatism, 57-58
2.  Ibid., 119-120
3.  Ibid., 120
4.  Ibid. 59
5.  Cited from Stephen Skowronek, Building a new American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877-1920 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 129.
6. Joel McDurmon, Restoring America One County at a Time: How Our Freedom Was Lost And How We Get It Back (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision Inc.,  2012), pp. 232-235

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