Excuse Me Professor, Was Jesus A Socialist? by Lawrence W. Reed

In today’s episode, Jason Hartman interviews Lawrence W. Reed, author of Was Jesus A Socialist? Lawrence interprets scriptures and explains how it teaches us to invest or magnify wealth. They clarify the term socialism. Jason and Lawrence also discuss The Great Depression and examine myths about how it started.

Announcer 0:01
This show is produced by the Hartman media company. For more information and links to all our great podcasts, visit Hartman media.com.

Announcer 0:12
Welcome to the American monetary associations podcast where we explore how monetary policy impacts the real lives of real people and the action steps necessary to preserve wealth and enhance one’s lifestyle.

Jason Hartman 0:28
It’s my pleasure to welcome Lawrence W. Reid. He is the former president of the foundation for economic education. Former President of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, editor of the best selling book, Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism. The author of a pamphlet entitled Great Myths of the Great Depression. Maybe we should talk about that one a little bit today to think it’s fitting for the times. But the new book, Was Jesus a socialist? Why this question is being asked again, and why the answer is almost always wrong. Lawrence, welcome. How are you?

Lawrence W. Reed 1:05
Hey, just terrific. Jason. Thanks for having me again. I appreciate it.

Jason Hartman 1:08
It’s good to have you. Good to have you. So socialism. What is socialism? I think there’s quite a bit of confusion about this. This word that is thrown around quite a bit, right?

Lawrence W. Reed 1:18
Oh, that’s right, is there’s even confusion among socialists themselves. There was a time decades ago when it was pretty exclusively thought to mean government ownership of the means of production. But everywhere that was tried, particularly in the communist world, it proved to be such a flop, that even many socialists said, Well, we don’t quite mean that let’s focus on something else. So sometimes by socialism, they mean, a welfare state. Other times, they mean, central planning by the economy by a handful of elites, or some combination thereof. But whatever definition you employ, it all comes down to a single word, and that is force, the use of force, socialism in every variety is not a list of recommendations or suggestions for the comment box. They are proposals to mandate or impose rules or regulations and sky high taxes on other people. And the motivations, of course, do vary. Some people just like the government in charge, and don’t care much about what the outcome is. Others think that government is the best way to deal with things like poverty. So many times socialists are very well meaning but they are woefully in error, when they suggest that it’s either a workable system, or a productive system, or one that Jesus Christ would have somehow supported.

Jason Hartman 2:44
Yeah, so the distinction between socialism and communism, though, socialism is not ownership of the means of production, per se, that would be communism, socialism would be sort of the less ugly little brother of communism, I would, the way I like to put it. But you know, the left always cites these examples of the Scandinavian paradise, right. And we’ve debunked that myth many times on the show. So maybe we don’t need to go into that too much. But what’s the difference between socialism and communism?

Lawrence W. Reed 3:13
Well, if you go back to Karl Marx, who really was the modern godfather of both systems, in his way of looking at things, he said, Well, socialism is sort of a waystation, along the way to the end of history, which would be communism worldwide. And by his way of thinking, socialism would be characterized by a dictatorship of the proletariat or the working class, as he put it, it would involve ownership by government, of the means of production, and the abolition of private property. And then communism, he thought would someday sort of magically appeared as a utopia of share and share alike and everybody getting pretty much the same from the production of the economy. And then at that point under communism, he said, the government itself would wither away, it wouldn’t be one at all, which is really absurd. And can you imagine people who accumulate such power, under socialism to be in charge of almost every aspect of life, and at some point, saying, everybody, well, we’re out of here, we’re just going to walk away from all this power that we have. He never explained how that was to happen. And of course, it’s a fanciful delusion from the word go.

Jason Hartman 4:28
So one of the things we hear from supporters of these ideas are Well, two things we hear from them, in addition to the Scandinavian myth, that I mentioned, is, number one, the former Soviet Union and other communist countries were not Marxist. They didn’t actually follow Marx’s writings. And I kind of agree with that, you know, if you read Das Kapital, which is, you know, pretty complex stuff. But you know, Marx, they didn’t really Do what he said it just became a big power grab. And communism, socialism, big government in any form is great for the insiders. The coin is Shantae love it. I mean, you know, who doesn’t love power and wealth and money? And so, you know, do what I say not what I do. You know, they’re they’re not living in a commune. So that’s one thing. But the other element of it is that it’s just generally never been done. Right. You know, like back to the Clintons say, you know, the criminals when they were in the White House, that always this idea was well, you know, I know it’s been tried before, but they just did it wrong. You know, we could do it better, we can do it. Right. You know, Obama would have said that. And listen, I’m not giving the republicans a pass either, because the republicans are just modern Democrats. That’s all they’re all big spenders. They’re all big government, you know, that’s not actually being partisan here when I say this, but the democrats lean more in that direction. So

Lawrence W. Reed 5:57
This is one of the many problems with socialists they never own up to their, the outcomes of their own handiwork. Can you imagine if somebody said of the Hitler or Mussolini regimes, but Well, that wasn’t true fascism? Maybe we’ll get it right the next time. In every case, or what is attempted as socialism or full blown communism does result in in havoc and destruction and all the logical predictable outcomes you would expect when you concentrate power? At some point socialists have to ask themselves, maybe there’s something wrong with the theory, if we try it hundreds of different times with hundreds and 1000s of different people. And it always ends up in disaster. At some point, they have to go back to the the ivory tower theoretical concepts, and recognize that they’re flawed from the start. And, and all these disasters were entirely predictable.

Jason Hartman 6:52
So you’re saying they have done it, right?

Lawrence W. Reed 6:56
Well, they have, they’ve carried socialism to its logical conclusions in each case. And what the socialists often say, you know, was wrong was that, well, they didn’t, they shouldn’t have used so much force. They shouldn’t have buddied up people. They shouldn’t have confiscated all this stuff. Well, that’s what people do when you give them massive power. You know, socialists do not yet recognize the eternal truth of what Lord Acton famously told us, and that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So what they need to do is jettison the theory and quit trying to make an unworkable delusion somehow work.

Jason Hartman 7:34
Okay. So when we look at this in a religious context store, really a historical context. It’s not a religious context at all, actually. But we’ll we’ll use a religious figure as an example because a lot of people would say that this particular party was charitable. He was a redistributionist. He didn’t like the money changers, and you know who I’m gonna say it’s Jesus. Right? So Wasn’t he a socialist?

Lawrence W. Reed 7:59
No, not at all. It’s like, I don’t think the terms socialists or even capitalists apply. Because, you know, they didn’t even exist for another 1800 years after Jesus’s crucifixion, right.

Jason Hartman 8:12
But just because the word wasn’t invented, doesn’t mean the concept didn’t occur, right.

Lawrence W. Reed 8:18
Steer clear using those terms, simply because it would tend then to define Jesus in a way that shortchanges who he was and what he really had to say. The question is, would Jesus have supported or did he support the ethics of a socialist system such as forcible redistribution or central planning or government ownership of the means of production? There’s nothing in any of his words in the entire New Testament that would suggest that he was endorsing any of those things. He was interested in what was going on in your heart. He had never once advocated the use of political force or concentrated power to rob Peter to pay Paul. And he cautioned his parables and other teachings against the worship of wealth. You’re right. You mentioned a moment ago that he drove the money changers from the temple. But, you know, he never drove one from a bank or a marketplace. We drove them from God’s house. It was an inappropriate venue for what they were doing. For the same reason. If you showed up at a funeral, and with a kazoo and started playing Happy days are here again, there are people who may love kazoos, they’re gonna ask you to leave.

Jason Hartman 9:32
Right? Okay, that’s that’s a good clarification on that. So was he, I mean, there’s a difference between charity and government forced redistribution of resources. So, you would say that Jesus was charitable, right?

Lawrence W. Reed 9:48
Oh, yeah. So he encouraged charity. He encouraged people from their own resources and through their own free will, to help others around them who may have needs. He told the parable of the Good Samaritan To the man who was walking along the road came upon another who was beaten and robbed. And what did the Good Samaritan do? He chose to help the man with his own resources and of his own free choice. If he had said to the man, oh, well, there must be a government program for you, or ACA later, just contact your social worker, we would not know him today as the Good Samaritan, we would probably think of him as the good for nothing Samaritan.

Jason Hartman 10:26
So what can scripture teach us about investing about money about business?

Lawrence W. Reed 10:32
Well, first of all, I think the notion of magnifying the wealth of increasing the wealth of society and doing it, because that’s the way you personally can get ahead by serving others, producing things of value is very much endorsed by the words of Jesus and the New Testament. It is parable of the talents, he tells the story of three men, another man is leaving his estate for a time and he interests these three men with a portion of his wealth. By the way, the initial distribution was not equal for the egalitarians in the audience. And later, the man comes back to find out what happened to the wealthy and trusted these guys worth it. As Jesus tells the story, the first man says, Well, I have no more than what you gave me. I kept it safe. I buried it in the backyard. Jesus ridicules hear me. He says, What? in so many words, he says, You don’t let you didn’t magnify it in any way? Well, that’s terrible. The second guy says, oh, you’ll be happy with me, I doubled or tripled it because I invested. And he gets praise. And the third guy who says I did even better than that, he gets the most praise from Jesus in this parable, who then goes on to say, I’m going to take the money from the first guy and give it to this third guy because he knows how to invest and how to be an entrepreneur.

Jason Hartman 11:50
So the scripture would want you to manage resources well, and to increase them.

Lawrence W. Reed 11:59
That’s right. That’s part of our calling to be good stewards of creation. There’s nothing in the words of Jesus that says he’s, he was interested in dividing up a shrinking pie. He was interested in baking a bigger one. I’ve heard people say, Well, what about the loaves and the fishes when he fed five? Well,

Jason Hartman 12:17
I was just going to ask you that.

Lawrence W. Reed 12:19
Well, I mean, somehow that’s sometimes thought of as a case for socialism. Well as the Bible records, he turned to fill up one of his disciples and said, Where are we going to buy the food that we need to feed these people. And the next verse actually says, he asked, Jesus actually knew what he was going to do. He was just testing fillable. Well, then he did what he was going to do, which he didn’t say to the disciples, there was a rich community nearby, or a grocery store wants you guys to go raid those places, and bring as much of the loot over here. So we can feed this, this crowd. Instead, he used to,

Jason Hartman 12:55
So he wouldn’t have endorsed setting up chairs, or chop or whatever. It’s

Lawrence W. Reed 13:02
He uses his unique power to magnify wealth without pilfering a crumb from anybody.

Jason Hartman 13:07
Right. Talk to us a little bit about the Great Depression, you’re a student of that, you say that there are some big myths that have come out of the Great Depression. And, you know, I would have liked to talk to you about this 12 years ago during the Great Recession. But now, we’re in pretty strange times again, and you know, there’s so much government in central bank intervention, and it’s just sort of hard to know what’s going to happen in terms of the overall picture. But I do know, in some micro things, exactly what’s going to happen. And a lot of my predictions are already coming true. But yeah, what can we learn from the great depression? And what were some of the myths? And by the way, I should mention, last night, interestingly, I just watched The Grapes of Wrath movie. So I just watched it last night. I just, you know, I read that book in high school, as part of English Lit, and it was interesting to watch it last night.

Lawrence W. Reed 14:00
I see why you have a great depression on your mind.

Jason Hartman 14:02
Yeah, I do.

Lawrence W. Reed 14:03
Well, there are so many lessons to be learned from the experience of the 1920s and 30s. And they usually are just the opposite of what most kids are taught in high school these days. They’re taught typically that well, it was the free market or capitalism that failed us, the stock market that focus all and drag the economy into depression. And then Franklin Roosevelt saved us with all of his various socialistic type interventions. Just the opposite is actually the case. The culprit in the start of the Depression was actually the Federal Reserve, just as it was the culprit in the start of the 2008 2009 recession. You had a period in the 20s of about five years of massive expansion of money and credit, dirt, cheap interest rates, that are giving rise to the so called roaring 20s. That was a bubble that was fostered by this easy money that the Fed was cranking out. Then in late 2008, early 2009, the Fed reversed itself began jacking up interest rates. It did that dramatically for the next almost three years. And it printed the balloon and we collapsed into a recession first. But by the middle of 1930 months after the big stock crash in the fall of 2009, we still didn’t have a depression yet. We only had a recession with unemployment less than 9%. And the stock market had regained half of the ground we’ve had lost since the collapse the previous fall. What took us from a recession into a depression in the middle of 1930 was the Smoot Hawley tariff, in which President Herbert Hoover and the republican congress with the support of some Democrats, raised tariffs to an all time high and virtually closed the borders, it ignited a worldwide trade war, prices plummeted and markets dried up. farmers in particular were hurt because so much of what they produce was being sold overseas. And then two years later, Hoover’s still in the White House, before Franklin Roosevelt was elected, they doubled the income tax, they raised the top rate from 24 to 65%. in one fell swoop, which took a depression and made an even deeper one. And then rose Roosevelt came in March of 33, with his own bag of tricks, and then Yup, promoting the depression by another seven years with all the interventions that he imposed, including hikes and taxes and destruction of crops and cattle, and price controls on American industry.

Jason Hartman 16:36
Okay, so so you’re critical of Roosevelt. But was he really that bad? I mean, compared to today, his government programs, those were make work programs are at least the gist of it. And the key word there is work for the past 60 years, maybe, or 50. We’ve been paying people to stay at home and do nothing but watch TV. I mean, it’s pathetic what we’ve got now. So I don’t know, Roosevelt looks like the guy that had the right idea to me. I mean, listen, if we’re going to do you know, government handouts, it let’s at least build some highways or something, right?

Lawrence W. Reed 17:15
Well, yeah, that’s better than just paying people to do nothing, most of the time. And so in that sense, yeah, you can say FDR wasn’t, here’s the programs work, maybe as bad as some that we have today. But those programs were at Best Short term lifelines. For a lot of people, and they really didn’t stimulate recovery from a depressed economy. In some respects, they actually, because of the spending, and the higher taxes and the borrowing that they required, they actually prevented the kind of adjustment that could have ended the depression in a year or two. But he did a lot of direct harm to he actually, when he ran in 1932, he ran against Hoover for, among other things, raising taxes. But then once he got elected, he raised them even higher. And at one point, Roosevelt proposed a 100% income tax rate on all incomes over $25,000. And he imposed by executive order until Congress rescinded it.

Jason Hartman 18:11
I mean, what could have possibly been that? I mean, so that was based on a tax schedule, obviously, right? Not everybody would pay 100% income tax

Lawrence W. Reed 18:21
No. Only on incomes over 25,000, which in today’s dollars, might be 10 times. But he wanted every penny, of what you earn over that amount.

Jason Hartman 18:32
So I guess his I mean, how can you even float an argument like that? That’s so absurd? What was his argument that well, these people that are making over $25,000 a year already have so much money stashed away, they can just live on that?

Lawrence W. Reed 18:46
Yeah, he had a for the better part of three full terms in office, he had a constant stream of invective aimed at wealthy people, even though he was one himself. So he appealed to the very left wing of his own party, which today wouldn’t find that very radical at all. So you know, and I think, to the really left wing socialist type of, of democrat that FDR was appealing to at the time, they don’t really care what the economic effect is, of swiping as much as you can get from wealthy people, I think they’d be for it. Even if the government took the money and dumped it into the Pacific, because it’s more appealing to them to punish somebody. They get excited about, you know, ruining the necks of the rich people than they do actually helping others with the money they steal. That says something about their, their core ethics and what’s really going on in their heart and the envy that I think has shaped their political mentality. It’s a shame, but that’s what Roosevelt was appealing to.

Jason Hartman 19:48
Sure. Well, you know, as Obama said, You didn’t build that.

Lawrence W. Reed 19:52
Yeah, that’s another reason I’ve ever built. Nothing. Yet he tells entrepreneurs who risked everything thing and endure all the hassles that come their way from government. And he tells them you didn’t build that, somebody else did. It was ridiculous.

Jason Hartman 20:10
Very interesting. Well, Lawrence, wrap it up for us. So with just any closing comments and give out your website,

Lawrence W. Reed 20:16
Okay? I’ll just say, Jason that no society that has ever lost its character has kept its liberty. We didn’t talk much fun character today. But I think you would probably agree that it’s pretty important stuff. And that’s what concerns me these days more than anything else, when a people begin to lose their respect for the lives and property and the choices of others, when they expect government to do what they should be doing themselves. When they are no longer intellectually humble or patient or honest or courageous. They’re putting in the hands of would be tyrants. And that’s the way so many places have lost.

Jason Hartman 20:54
Actually, let me just throw one more in there for you. It is just really disconcerting today, there seems to be a complete lack. Well, two things. Where do I start? Number one, total lack of understanding of history. And number two, a complete lack of critical thinking skills. Yes, it is absolutely shocking to me how there’s just no critical thinking skill anymore. I mean, you see it all the time on social media. It’s really scary.

Lawrence W. Reed 21:22
Well said. It’s everywhere. And it’s it’ll be the death of the country if that doesn’t turn around. So you can’t expect government which educates 90% of the American k 12. Children, you can’t expect the government to teach either liberty or character. It never does. Never has. So my website, for those who are interested is Lawrence, that’s spelled with a W. L a w r e n c e. Middle initial W. Last name, Reed. R double E d. LawrenceWReed.com. Or you can visit our organization’s website, fee. fee.org.

Jason Hartman 21:57
Excellent. Lawrence, thanks so much for joining us.

Lawrence W. Reed 21:59
My pleasure. Thank you, Jason.

Jason Hartman 22:06
Thank you so much for listening. Please be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss any episodes. Be sure to check out this shows specific website and our general website heart and Mediacom for appropriate disclaimers and Terms of Service. Remember that guest opinions are their own. And if you require specific legal or tax advice, or advice and any other specialized area, please consult an appropriate professional. And we also very much appreciate you reviewing the show. Please go to iTunes or Stitcher Radio or whatever platform you’re using and write a review for the show we would very much appreciate that. And be sure to make it official and subscribe so you do not miss any episodes. We look forward to seeing you on the next episode.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks