FORT WORTH—“We’re deciding in this election what kind of country we’re going to be, whether it’s France or the United States,” warned Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard D. Land in his Sept. 6 address to a luncheon gathering at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. After addressing the intersection of “Theological Truth and Economic Theory” and the implications on the upcoming election, Land urged participants, “Be an informed voter and vote your values, your beliefs, your convictions.”
As a featured guest for The Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, he reminded the audience of the essential truth of the fallen nature of man, referring to Jeremiah 17:9 and Romans 3:23. “Selfishness is a reality, not a virtue,” he insisted.
With that biblical foundation in mind, Land said Marxism and socialism will not work. “If man is what the Bible says he is, the vast majority of men and women are not going to work according to their abilities and receive according to their need. The reality is that unless people get to keep a significant portion of their labor, they’re not going to work as hard as they would otherwise.”
In contrast, Land said, “Capitalism works best at producing wealth because it is most in accord with the biblical truth about man’s nature,” offering modern China and India as examples.
Furthermore, human sinfulness can also corrupt laissez-faire capitalism, he said. Recalling Lord Acton’s warning in 1887 that “all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Land said that with no external controls, unfettered capitalism would exploit workers and seek to monopolize markets. All men are sinners and fallen human beings, he emphasized, including capitalists, labor union leaders, government officials and regulators.
Land recalled that America’s federal government system was put together by men who believed in human sinfulness and wanted to put a check on the power of government by developing a system of checks and balances in the three branches of government revolving around the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. “Our system works best when those three are in equilibrium with each other.”
Similarly, capital, labor and government coexist with the law of supply and demand in a regulated, balanced capitalist system, he explained.
Warning of the “generational theft” by which “we are stealing our children’s and grandchildren’s future,” Land said their future is threatened by the process of foreclosure. Unless this is reversed quickly, it will guarantee they’ll have a lower standard of living, he added.
He contrasted collectivism and individualism as two competing philosophies of government, then spoke of three instances where government developed policies which transformed the nation for good:
- The Homestead Act allowed “people who were born not with a silver spoon or even a spoon” to head west and “put sweat and blood equity” into homesteading the land. “Did they build it?” he asked, answering, “Yes, but the government gave them the opportunity.”
- Land grant colleges were established as the government provided land for states to develop universities.
- The G.I. Bill offered a means of saying thanks to veterans, giving them an opportunity to buy a house and go to college. Growing up in a Houston neighborhood where streets were named Bastogne, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Pershing and Doolittle, Land said, “You didn’t ask, ‘What did your daddy do?’ You asked, ‘What branch was your daddy in?”
Land said, “Young men who had served their country had the opportunity to be the first persons in their families to go to college and that investment in human capital transformed us. It was the economic engine that drove incredible prosperity in the last half of the 20th century and they earned it.”
Repeating comments from the preface of his book “The Divided States of America,” he closed by saying, “What we have right now in this country is a full-fledged debate between those who want to remake America and those who want to restore America. Many who took that wrong turn in the mid-’60s, when we began to emphasize rights and privileges at the expense of obligations and responsibility, now understand the consequences and want to restore an America that is different than what we have now.”