WHILE A LOT OF attention is being
paid to evangelical Christian extremism, far less is directed
towards an equally dangerous religious sect - the practitioners
of evangelical economic extremism.
Although the latter faith is not often regarded as an actual
religion, it has far more in common with evangelism than it does
with rational intellectual inquiry or thoughtful academic analysis.
Along with the Christian extremists, the economic evangelists
share an arrogant certainty, single factor fetishism, missionary
mania, belief in intelligent design, an unlimited desire to impose
their myths on others, and a rhetoric that is only meaningful
if you already accept their premises. Their arguments are largely
based on iconic folkloric texts and ignore the true variety of
human existence and its communities and families. And they both
speak in tongues, which they consider a good thing. The big difference
is that while the Christian bible has the money changers being
chased out of the temple, the free market bible wants them back
One sect blasphemes its namesake
by practicing such unchristian traits as bigotry, intolerance,
and aggression. The other mocks its namesake by fostering an
economy that is free only to those who manipulate or steal from
In the end, both share an extraordinary
narcissism with one putting their own salvation before everything
else, the other doing the same with their own power and fiscal
There are, of course, plenty
of nice economists just as there are plenty of good Christians.
The former practice their faith for the betterment of society
just as good Christians practice love, charity, and forgiveness.
They use their faith as a guide for themselves rather than as
a weapon against others.
Increasingly, however, both Christians
and economists have been tarnished by roving bands of heretical
Talibanic bullies who have left the sanctuary of church and classroom
to enforce their narrow and mean will upon the land. The one
would have us believe that abortion and gay marriage are more
important than housing, health and a breathable environment;
the other that salvation lies in letting the robber barons do
just what they want.
And as their false doctrine has
caused countless suffering to others, these false prophets have
gained status and wealth, an issue so profoundly raised by Ray
Stevens in his epic work "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex":
Would Jesus be political
if He came back to earth?
Have His second home in
Palm Springs, yeah, and try
to hide His worth?
Take money, from those
poor folks, when He comes
For twenty five years, while
one sect has increasingly controlled what we watch and read and
how we mate, the other has helped create an ever more monopolized
economy, indifferent to either conscience or consumer. One believes
that their particular God and Jesus reveal all truths. The other
says it's the market and money that does it.
In fact, it is hard to imagine
a free market in a real world, and certainly not in Washington
where 35,000 corporate lobbyists work hard to make sure the market
is anything but free, as the politicians they have indentured
and the media they have fooled prattle endlessly about said market's
Although free market advocates
parade themselves as - and often appear to be - highly intelligent
people, they are either exceptionally deluded or are perpetrating
a massive fraud. As Robert Kuttner has pointed out, "There
is at the core of the celebration of markets a relentless tautology.
If we begin, by assumption, with the premise that nearly everything
can be understood as a market and that markets optimize outcomes,
then everything else leads back to the same conclusion -- marketize!
If, in the event a particular market doesn't optimize, there
is only one possible inference: it must be insufficiently marketlike.
This epistemological sleight of hand is an astonishing blend
that blurs the descriptive with the normative. It is a no-fail
system for guaranteeing that theory trumps evidence."
In fact, any moderately observant
person, not brainwashed by a quarter century of contrary missionary
zeal, would notice that in addition to money, humans are affected
by such things as community, religion, family, friends, social
ambition, politics, virtue, and psychological faults and strengths.
In short, the market driven society is just another form of false
salvation being foisted on the unwary citizen, in this case by
the Elmer Gantries of rightwing economics.
As with various forms of religious
excess, the media has played a deeply enabling role. From the
moment the Jerry Falwells of free markets - Thatcher and Reagan
- commenced their con, the media bought into it with hardly a
scintilla of skepticism. To this day one can easily assume from
the media that there is a constitutional amendment guaranteeing
a free market.
The damage evangelical economics
has done of the country has been stunning, ranging from the extreme
monopolization of American business to the disintegration of
our language into a collection of corporate cliches. It has destroyed
pensions, made decent healthcare and housing ever more difficult,
and threatened social security. And yet none dare call these
tyrants bullies, fools or liars.
In the end, it may be argued
that all promises of salvation are false, but if a Christian
evangelist and a market missionary should happen to ring your
door at the same time, go with Jesus. Even the most extreme Christian
advocate will at least offer you food, shelter, and warmth. The
free marketer will leave you dying in the gutter, and standing
over your last gasps, proudly tell you that the market was right