Skip to main content
Published on 12 May 2021

Is it human nature or systematic failure?

In the third and fourth centuries there appeared a movement of religious hermits and devotees, who in the pursuit of holiness, took to living in the desert, most significantly in Wadi El Natrun, Egypt. The story goes that one day a devotee troubled by lust removed himself from all human companionship, yet the lust continued. After ever greater measures to eliminate his lust to no avail he decided to bury himself - with no connection to the outside world but a tube through which food would be deposited. After years in his subterrainean chastity he emerged, grieved that even within the grave his lust found a way to reach him.

No matter the state regulation or economic system, and no matter the socio-economic, environmental or moral cost, some of us will always find a way get what we want.

The offshoring of moral and social responsibility during the Atlantic slave trade demonstrates that state involvement in setting out market regulation to limit poor practice only gets us so far.

Human nature has shown itself to be extraordinarily innovative and determined to achieve our goals no matter the barrier. While this resolve is an evolutionary asset, it's also a dark reality of our nature that we would sometimes rather ignore, blame upon influencing factors, or mitigate through restrictions.

Contrary to Marx’s fear, long before the emergence of capitalism the willingness to oppress and exploit people and planet to maximise and privatised returns was widespread and industrialised.

Consider almost all empires from Mayans to Benin, Mongol, Roman and early British; all predated modern capitalism, yet were significantly motivated by the maximisation of financial, resource and power.

Capitalism isn't the issue...

Furthermore, consider this description found in Habakkuk 2:4-5: 'See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright - but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness - indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave, and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the people.'

Timothy 6:10 explores the distinction between righteous and unrighteous in this regard when he writes:

'For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.'

Capital is not the issue. The unbridled love of capital is - the type of love for money and wealth that causes oppression, exploitation, and complete self-interest.

Capitalism is not the issue, greed is.

Read parts 1 and 3 in the series

Continuous economic growth: part 3

Just as we can be prone to greed, so too we are capable of great generosity