Free Enterprise, Limited Government, and Natural Depravity
Religion & Liberty Online

Free Enterprise, Limited Government, and Natural Depravity

In his treatise on the state of social conditions in early 20th century Great Britain (What’s Wrong With The World), G.K. Chesterton wrote the following:

“It is the whole definition and dignity of man that in social matters we must actually find the cure before we find the disease.”

For the Christian attempting to live “in, but not of” the world, our proverbial North Star should be what God’s standards are, not the mess we’ve made of things here on earth. There are positive fundamentals of a biblical worldview we can (and should) affirm: mankind made in God’s image, “work” is our divinely appointed task, working is a noble thing, our dominion over the earth, etc. etc.

If such things are not your culture’s presuppositions, you will inevitably lose your way. And sadly, even in the context of a church body, many Christians have.

Lost their way, that is.

Sin is another reality. It pervades every aspect of our lives. From the biblical account of man’s fall in Genesis 3 to the moment you are reading this blog-post (and every second this side of Heaven), one cannot escape the clutches of our hereditary spiritual disease.

Here are some of the low-lights from the 3rd chapter of Genesis:

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

The section closes on something of a dour note:

23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

Not a very pretty picture. We have deception, pride, accusations, shame, guilt, punishment, the fate of all mankind, and the promise of redemption all rolled up into one less-than-700-words chapter of the Bible. There’s a lot to digest there. A lot to discuss.

In the limited remaining space of this post I will not even scratch the surface of all that sin means, entails, and implies.

So let me keep things simple: if sin did not exist, progressive liberalism, collectivism, socialism, and even communism would be appropriate options – as far as ideologies go – for a Christian to embrace.

Or as Ronald Reagan once put it: Socialism works in Heaven where they don’t need it, and in Hell where they’ve already got it.

Some might accuse me of contradicting myself in that I began this piece by stating that we must first assess our end-goal and then pursue figuring out how best to achieve it. So if Reagan’s quote is even tangentially accurate, shouldn’t we be aiming for some form of collectivism?

This is a fair, however misguided, question. Our end-goal isn’t a system of government or economy – it is God himself. Our eventual end-goal is to personally know our Maker, make Him known, and eventually spend eternity with Him. Our end-goal is not free health care or governing world bodies that will divvy up rich people’s money and redistribute it “equitably.”

Consider a few pieces of evidence against collectivistic rule and social engineering:

  • While on earth, and despite our fallen nature, we are to have dominion over the earth and subdue it. We should own things so that we can freely give them back to the One from whence they came.
  • Human beings are individually precious and unique, and our call to function as a member in the “body” is one of a freely submitted will for the purposes of honoring Christ (not the State)
  • The Tower of Babel and Israel’s demand for a king are, in my opinion, clear examples of God making His disdain for centralized power very clear.
  • Factor in that the creative and entrepreneurial tendencies in humans are actually the sparks of the Divine (in whose image we were created) flickering through the cloud of sinful smog which envelops mankind.

The list could go on for pages, but all I am trying to do here today is point out that if sin is a reality, and if our ultimate goal is to live out God’s word in every aspect of our lives, then we ought to be able to roundly reject much of Leftist socio-economic thought.

This doesn’t mean free market capitalism is flawless. It doesn’t mean that any Christian to the left of Milton Friedman is living in sin. But if, in trying to help a sick patient, the doctor refuses to eliminate cures that he knows (or should know) can never work, then it’s time to find a new doctor.

R.J. Moeller

R.J. Moeller is a writer and podcast host for the American Enterprise Institute's "Values & Capitalism" project. He's also a regular contributor at and Originally from Chicago, he currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he serves as a media consultant to nationally syndicated columnist and talk show host, Dennis Prager.