Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is American Capitalism a Religious Construct?

As a country that preaches the political doctrine of the separation of church and state, is American-style capitalism for all intents and purposes nothing more than a religious construct?


By: Ringo Bones


Maybe this debate started back when then President Nixon took America off the Gold Standard, and the line “In God We Trust” on the greenback means that the value of America’s money is backed by the nation’s ability to wage war at a moments notice. Or did the debate started with the extensive news coverage of American ├╝ber-Tele-Evangelists. Especially their material excesses during the latter days of the Reagan Administration that gave non-Americans – especially adherents of Liberation Theology – that American-style capitalism and it’s unbridled pursuit of material wealth is for all intents and purposes a religious construct that took the Protestant Work Ethic to it’s logical greedy end. Which is the mother of all ironies indeed, given that America’s Founding Fathers insisted in a strict separation of church and state as stipulated by the nation’s constitution.

How American capitalism got to this point could be blamed on the scores of Republican presidents that came long after Abraham Lincoln. By this time, the Republican Party doctrine was used by their elected presidents – either by accident or intent – to subtly shape established canonical Christian doctrine to fulfill their ideological aims. The most recent case in point is the Bush Administration’s unlawful – under International Law – invasion of the sovereign country of Iraq in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. But can the Republican Party’s obsession of a God-construct they already manipulated for decades to suit their ideological and material goals be blamed for America’s current economic crisis? Maybe, but first, let’s examine the faith-based origins of the Protestant Work Ethic - which seems for all intents and purposes the “Rock” in which American-style capitalism is based.

Many scholars and historians cite John Calvin as the father of Western – make that American-style – capitalism using the doctrine of the Protestant Work Ethic as its cornerstone. Calvinism – the ideology founded by John Calvin as it is later known – also made possible the establishment of an independent Dutch state in the late 16th Century. Even though the Dutch nation – then and now – never fully embraced John Calvin’s somewhat stoic religious ideology. As some Dutch settlers decided to move to America, most of them probably embraced capitalism hook line and sinker when they established their business interests in Manhattan, thus laying the foundation of a Protestant work Ethic that would later drive Wall Street as it is famously known today. With the doctrine that preaches that idle hands are the devil’s own playground; an individual’s productive employment became part of the established Christian canonical definition of morality and of God’s Grace.

In this day and age, the University of Geneva purportedly became the current heir of Calvinism – albeit only in an academic capacity – according to the more recent subsequent scores of dean emeritus. Given the way Calvinism blended itself seamlessly with canonical concepts of Christian piety, how come it haven’t “exactly” gained undisputed global universal appeal?

Probably due to the European “Empire Builders” who trailed Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan failing to established a pan-global Papist / Anglo-Saxon Protestant monoculture during the crucial periods of the Golden Age of Exploration. Add to that the increasing acceptance of moral constructs that developed independently from the Christian West, thus relegating Calvinism as a quaint antiquated moralist ideology in an increasingly egalitarian global community.

Calvinism’s current holdout in corporate America could be seen as a fluke, given that a lot has happened since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. People of non-White ethnicity need not “necessary” – albeit in more enlightened workplaces – emulate their White Anglo-Saxon Protestant overlords to gain upward mobility in corporate America. Unfortunately, some still backward thinking parts of America still think that successful capitalism should be ruled by precepts established by John Calvin and the Anglo-Saxon Protestant construct of Jesus Christ.