The Threefold Cord of Western Wealth
There is a threefold cord that holds modern western civilization together. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “…a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” There are three important strands or pillars, if you will, that keep western nations standing taller and stronger than most other nations of the world with regard to wealth creation. These three strands balance one another in creating a time-tested system that generates social prosperity. They are capitalism, democracy and Christianity.
These three have worked together in harmony allowing Great Brittan and the United States of America, in particular, to outpace all other nations of the earth in the race to gain the world’s wealth. In primary form, here is how all three strands of this powerful cord have worked together:
Capitalism: This is the free market system that allows individual people to create and enjoy unlimited amounts of wealth by allowing for private ownership. Wealth is generated by business owners who sell their goods and services in the marketplace. Competition is promoted between all merchants and traders as they vie for the business of the consumer.
The ability of the consumer to purchase drives the system. The more consumers there are in the marketplace, the greater the profits for the business. But where do these consumers come from? In large part, they are the employees of the business owners, themselves, who receive a good enough wage from their employers to become legitimate consumers. Therefore, the entire system depends upon the distribution of wealth beyond the business owner’s hands and into the hands of the people who work for them. This creates a strong working class of people who have enough wealth to become consumers and create more profits for all business owners in the end.
The health and wellbeing of the working class (or middle class) is vital for capitalism to function. This is so for two reasons. First, there must be a large workforce to insure the growth potential of profitable businesses. Second, as earlier stated, working class people are the consumers who drive the system and make those businesses profitable. The entire system feeds on itself in this manner. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interests who live in this system to distribute wealth throughout society, creating a strong working class of people, rather than keeping wealth only in the hands of a few large business owners where a limited number of people can afford to buy the goods and services produced in the marketplace. This is where democratic government comes into play.
Democracy: Limited government in western democracies allows for the free flow of goods and services created by the capitalist system. Laws protecting private ownership drives ambition, hard work and ingenuity among those in the merchant class. For this reason, democratic governments are slow to be involved in the workings of the marketplace, choosing rather to allow the free markets to dictate the distribution of wealth through the natural means of doing business.
History has shown, however, that government does, on occasion, need to step in and regulate the marketplace when forces are at work creating great sums of wealth for those at the top of the socioeconomic scale without distributing it to the working class. Again, when the balance and stability that the working (or middle) class provides to a society disappears, it becomes top-heavy and topples over. One might consider the revolutions of France and the United States in such cases. This is why the antitrust laws espoused by President Teddy Roosevelt when the so-called “robber barons” threatened the wellbeing of American society in the early Twentieth Century were so important. Too much wealth and power at the top and not enough in the middle class of society threatened to topple the United States at the time. Most historians agree that the break up of these monopolies leveled the playing field and once again put the United States on a prosperous path. Wealth distribution was necessary in order to provide for a safer, more prosperous nation.
Government regulations that creating profit sharing help the working class receive respectable portions of the profit so they can become consumers in the marketplace and keep the economic cycle running. This is the vary thing that business owners need to keep their profits coming. The challenge that faces western democracies is striking the balance between the two parties. On the one hand, laws protecting the freedoms of business owners to create and keep more of their profits fuels competition, drives creativity and creates value for the consumer. On the other hand, laws that regulate business so that employees can share in those profits are necessary to promote a healthy working class of consumers who can afford to purchase goods and services in the first place. This is the ongoing tension that governments must keep in balance in order to make the system work smoothly.
Christianity: More than any other religion, Christianity has worked best alongside democracy and capitalism to create wealth. It has played a vital role in maintaining a three part harmony. It has served as a buffer between the markets and the government. Left by itself, the government of the people, by the people and for the people will be in constant conflict with an economic system that allows and promotes imbalances where certain people are allowed to get far ahead of the pack. This creates constant tension between the desires of the markets to make unchecked profits and government officials who feel pressured by their constituents to create laws that regulate those profits, forcibly redistributing wealth throughout the population. For western civilization, Protestant Christianity has provided the moral stability to keep the merchant class benevolent and working class peaceful.
Although they are many, here are five broad reasons why Christianity works well within the threefold cord of western civilization.
(1) Christianity’s focus on personal salvation also allows for personal betterment in most every social arena, including wealth. This strongly developed sense of self-worth works well for both the business owners who are looking to make profits, the employees who are looking for a better salary and for the consumers who are looking for the best values on products and services offered in the marketplace. One might even make a strong argument that personal vanity drives much of the market in western worlds.
(2) Christianity has a strong work ethic which promotes the necessary ingredients for the success of capitalism both on the business owner’s end and upon the employee’s end. It reinforces the idea that hard work will be rewarded by others if not by God, Himself. This work ethic has become a cornerstone of capitalism in western civilization.
(3) The ethics and morals that have been built into Christian theology, because of the various revivals throughout its history, have created a restraining force inside the hearts and minds of the people. This allows for greater freedoms that keep large spread chaos and corruption at bay. This Judeo-Christian ethic, as it is called, is the invisible, gravitational force that keeps personal freedom from becoming personal license. This is absolutely necessary in a free and democratic society that presents the amount of opportunities created by capitalism. Otherwise, the seeds of corruption spread everywhere from families to governments.
(4) Like other religions, Christianity provides a unifying force for the public. What makes Protestant Christianity, in particular, especially helpful is the fact that its unity owes no particular allegiance to any outside entity, i.e. the pope. Instead, the decentralization of Protestant Christianity allowed for greater nationalism among the masses. This is why the cross is often displayed alongside the nation’s flag. Both have equally inspiring power.
(5) Christianity’s emphasis on evangelism has historically energized national expansion and globalization. This religious fervor helped fuel the race for globalization by the nations of Europe from the 16th Century onward. It also accounted for much of the westward expansion in the early years of the United States of America.
Finally, we identified the three forces at work, more than any other, in western civilization that has made all of this possible – capitalism, democracy and Christianity.
By Mark W. Pfeifer
I put one more that matter or most central in western wealth .. for me is the strong relationship with Israel .. God chosen peoples that create a western Wealth standing taller and stronger than most other nations of the world with regard to wealth creation.