Most, with good reason, misremember the quotation. In entirety:
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. —1 Timothy 6:10
And since we have that much, it does no harm to recall the words immediately before: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
Paul was speaking of the actions of individual men, but he could just have easily meant conglomerations—now corporations, entities which are at once alive, incorporate, and yet not alive. Which, it will be noticed, are the same words we use to describe zombies, the undead. Money itself, and the act of accumulating it, is harmless, neutral; but the love of it, and the concomitant lust for ever greater piles, is the start of pain.
It is here that my sympathies with the Left are strongest. Like them, I dislike the word “capitalism”: a society based on businesses amassing “capital” to create “products” which “consumers” consume. We are content to let these ugly, distasteful words define the foundation of our society?
It’s still worse. Corporations, and those people that temporarily imbue them with life, constantly swear allegiance to stock holders, not to society. They will sell just about anything that boosts the bottom line: televised wrestling, rap music, a movie in which Captain America is “not a flag-waver” (they must consider foreign audiences), “Wonder” bread (it’s a wonder it’s called bread), “designer” jeans, and on and on.
The Left sees all this and, taking the part of the Russian KGB officer from a Cold War spy flick, says “Americans are decadent.” These are fightin’ words, and are what forces some of the Right to say, “It’s not so!” Well, it is so. The charges are true.
Only they’re not true for all. But even if they were, it does not follow that the standard solution of the Left, government proscription, should be implemented. What the Left does not see is that deep inside their ideal of removing freedom and replacing it with top-down rule, lies the same tendencies of the right: to create and to have “consumers” consume. Corporations would still churn, but instead of figuring out for themselves what to produce, a mousy bureaucrat in a windowless office hundreds of miles away would decide for them.
As proof of the Left’s same-mindedness, we have their official organ giving us an article recently “on what makes consumers happy.” Not people, mind, but consumers. They Left knows no other vocabulary but the Right’s. Incidentally, the Times discovered—though they didn’t say so—that “consumers” are happiest when not consuming.
Central control does not work because those at the top are just as fallible and prone to ignorance, bad taste, and idiocy as those in charge at the local level, only centralized leaders are less likely to acknowledge their failings. Instead of lots of different mistakes spread all over in capitalism, proscription (a.k.a. socialism) insures that everybody everywhere makes the same mistakes, with the added benefit that the possibly of innovation is removed. Capitalism at least can make many people happy, but socialism, aiming to make The People happy, insures that only party leaders are.
And neither of these systems fix the fundamental problem, which is the decreasing understanding on what it means to live the good life. Which is to say, we now feel the effects of lack of a classical education.
This is hardly the first time this lack has been noticed. Russell Kirk wrote of it in 1957 in, of all places, Fortune magazine. Even then, Kirk said that businessmen were “largely ignorant of the humanities, which, in a word, comprise that body of great literature that records the wisdom of the ages, and in recording it instructs us in the nature of man. ”
It was about then that colleges began emphasizing the practical and eschewing the eternal. This had consequences. Kirk:
A people can live upon their moral and intellectual capital for a long time. Yet eventually, unless the capital is replenished, they arrive at cultural bankruptcy. The intellectual and political and industrial leaders of the older generation die, and their places are not filled….The result of such bankruptcy is a society of meaninglessness, or a social revolution that brings up radical and unscrupulous talents to turn society inside out.
People awake to the arguments of the Left and see their force. But in doing so, in lacking a fund of historical knowledge upon which to draw, they fall prey to the false dichotomy that “It’s either capitalism or socialism.”
But Paul taught us there is a third way, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly canâ€™t carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Update I’ve been away from the computer all day during which time the spam filter rank amok. All comments lost have been restored. Spam has been increasing dramatically of late (as have hits, and the two go together). I’ll work on it. Apologies to those who thought their comments lost.