President Barack Obama’s rhetoric shows that politically liberal Christians differ from politically conservative ones not only in policy proposals but in the understanding of human nature that leads to those proposals.
Let’s think the best of our president. Let’s suggest that his frequent vilification of corporate presidents flying around on private jets—he attacked them six times in a June 29 press conference—is more than a political appeal to class envy.
Let’s say he thinks private jet tax breaks are unfair because he is philosophically committed to equality. Since President Obama has emphasized that “creating jobs” is Job No. 1 for him, let’s think the best of him and assume he believes that taking away special treatment for corporate presidents will help the unemployed get back to work.
If those assumptions are correct, we should treat the White House occupant not with paranoia but with pity. He’s showing a lack of both business experience and biblical understanding. He and other liberals are showing that they don’t understand original sin.
People without business experience might think entrepreneurship is easy. President Obama should at least scan “I, Pencil: My Family Tree,” an essay written by Leonard Read in 1958. Read explains what it takes to make even a simple writing tool: Its components include cedar, lacquer, graphite, ferrule, pumice, wax, and glue—and huge numbers of people must be at work before the final product emerges.
The reality of social entropy is that enterprise doesn’t just happen, since without consistent effort, things fall apart. Time is money: If “creating jobs” is really Job No. 1 for President Obama, he should want business leaders to have as much time as possible to make more money, because they’ll do that by expanding production, and that normally means employing more people.
Job-creating business leaders are public servants, and if a corporate jet saves them time, not only the company but the United States will benefit. I should also point out that thoughtful Christians in business work long hours primarily because they know God wants them to use the talents He gave them to create an environment in which employees can use their talents.
You may think this talk of public-servant executives and altruistic Christians is all kerfuffle. You may think corporate jets are just perks for fat cats. If you are thinking that, and if you’re right, I have two words for you: So what?
Here is where original sin comes in. If men were angels, remuneration wouldn’t matter as long as an executive’s family simply had a roof over its head and enough to eat. But the impact of original sin is that money talks. Dollars, and maybe private planes, keep executives at the plow when they’d rather be golfing. It’s a small price to pay for those who build businesses that create jobs.
Why are we in a renewed recession? Liberals seem surprised when they reduce incentives and see reduced entrepreneurship. Those who study the Bible aren’t surprised: Might as well face it, we are naturally selfish. Economist Adam Smith knew from the Bible and his own observation that we should not rely on the public-spiritedness of bakers to give us fresh bread every day: They will supply our needs only if we pay them.
Liberals who don’t acknowledge this are patsies for socialist appeals that claim tax increases won’t affect productivity. But listen to this internet wail from one executive: “I already had to lay off 8 percent of my workforce when they passed Obamacare. My accountant could not solve the problem any other way. A tax hike only means laying off more people.”
Hmm. Liberals might say this businessman should joyfully accept a reduced income, and so should other highly compensated people. Maybe they should—but most won’t. Instead of demonizing potential heroes of industry, Washington should get out of the way and let more people get rich while making some others not so poor.
Do corporations receive a special tax break for private planes? Who cares? Unemployed Americans need jobs, and President Obama isn’t going to produce them by giving speeches—but he can discourage those who can otherwise create jobs. Are many executives selfish? So what? Let’s drop the rhetoric and focus on jobs. Employment trumps envy.
Marvin Olasky is the editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine.
Publication date: September 14, 2011