The holiday season is a time for rest, relaxation and celebration with family and friends. It is for looking back with thanksgiving and looking forward with resolution. For me it is also for catching up on a year’s worth of reading in a desperate attempt to meet my reading goal from the last New Year’s resolutions!
In looking back on some important books that I have read, some seem to be very appropriate for this season. If you will be joining me in marathon reading this holiday season, here are a few suggestions best read before we move into the New Year:
1. “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
Last Christmas, I shared some thoughts about how critics of the free market who use this tale to bemoan the alleged oppressiveness of capitalism are actually missing some very interesting free-market principles.
Firstly, Dickens never condemns capitalism, decries the success of business owners, nor denounces the trading by which they amassed their wealth. The only criticism Dickens makes, in a move of astounding literary focus, is that Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley were not generous in their earned success…
Secondly, Dickens seems to go out of his way to point out the inadequacies of government anti-poverty programs…
Lastly, Dickens takes a relatively narrow view of community. The New Ebenezer did not set forth to save all of England, but he took care of those needy people whom he encountered every day. Biblically speaking, he loved his neighbor…
These ideas not only changed the way I read Dickens, but also revolutionized the way I thought about charity. I would highly recommend reading the rest of the blog post and then reading or re-reading “A Christmas Carol,” with an eye toward these free-market principles.
2. “How Then Should We Work?” By Hugh Whelchel
The folks at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics are friends of the Values & Capitalism family, so it is only appropriate to include them in our holiday season.
Their work integrating a biblical understanding of vocation with an accessible knowledge of free-market economics is a valuable asset for Christians struggling in their vocation–be they full-time employees, students, mothers, etc.
Whelchel effectively argues that one of modern Christianity’s greatest missed opportunities is found in our failure to see our work beyond the church walls as a full expression of our ministry. The compartmentalization of our lives into sacred and secular has distorted our understanding and robbed us of seeing the meaning of our daily experiences. As Elise Amyx recently noted, this message fills the void in an issue that concerns every person, but for which the Church has shown up empty handed.
For too many people, the workplace is merely a place of work. It is where one goes to do something one does not enjoy, but which one does begrudgingly in exchange for a paycheck. As the old saying goes: We live to work and we work to live. But the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics is reminding us that these two words are not so distinct. A wiser saying would be: We live to serve and we serve with excellence. In this view, the ends of our actions are people, not rewards, though the rewards necessarily follow.
For almost all of us, as we begin to think about what resolutions we will make about our careers for 2013, this guide to thinking biblically about these things is invaluable.
3. “The Road to Freedom” by Arthur Brooks
If you haven’t already read AEI president Arthur Brooks’s newest book, released earlier this year, it is one not to miss. The book is an anthem, a rallying cry for free-market patriots. Its description says:
Only free enterprise encourages and allows each of us to define our destiny and earn our success. Only free enterprise encourages true fairness based on merit and opportunity. And free enterprise is the only system that can lift up the vulnerable and those who have fallen on hard times by the millions—by rewarding entrepreneurship and encouraging charity.
These three principles—earned success, true fairness and helping those in need—are the foundation of the moral case for free enterprise.
This book is more timely now than ever, as many of us are picking ourselves up after a devastating defeat on election day. My reaction was, “I am choosing to feel the pain of losing an opportunity for free-market policies, and to really let it sink in that Barack Obama succeeded in his goal of ‘fundamentally transforming’ our country.”
This book reminds us to be thankful for freedoms we do enjoy. It encourages us to continue to be charitable in our own lives. And it should help us take heart, as we move into another year of debate and conversation, that we stand on moral ground in making the case for free enterprise.