Kenny Rogers and the First Edition did a song back when I was a young man titled “Tell It All.” The song said, “…tell it all before we fall, tell it all.” We live in a world of half-truths, where people give half-baked answers that become slogans that are then oft repeated and believed by ill-informed folk.
I have heard and read of many people in our country who, as they speak for or against various policies, make those with opposing viewpoints sound like scary, un-American enemies of our country, or worse, of God Himself. We must “tell it all,” especially religious people.
One of my colleagues, a fellow Montgomery County Baptist in North Carolina, accused me of being a liberal and a socialist. He apologized somewhat for the name-calling, but he believed it was necessary to warn folk of my evil philosophy.
The truth is that there is no country anywhere on this planet that does not have some socialist programs, and there can be no successful country that does not allow capitalist policies. The trick is to strike the right balance to provide necessary goods and services to people.
If you can read this, you are a beneficiary of the government’s socialist policies that require you to be provided an education. There are people hired by the government to teach all of its citizens. With the problems inherent in all systems, this one works rather well.
If you drive or walk to work, you did so on a road or sidewalk that was made possible by the government’s levying of taxes. The more successful the capitalist, the more he benefits from this particular government program. Imagine if we were all responsible for the portion of the road in front of our homes with no one who required us to maintain it. Just think how the quality of the road would vary.
How horrible our towns and cities would be if everyone was responsible for his own water and sewage system. Our cities would be cesspools. America has the most powerful military in the world, and it is run by the government and paid for by taxes. In our country, senior citizens are a part of the most prosperous segment of the population. Take away Social Security and Medicare and that group would quickly go from richest to poorest.
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Most services that work well are the result of government working with industry. Roads are mandated and paid for by government, but they are primarily built by paving companies. If the government had to keep people available all the time to build roads, even when there was no work to do, the cost of building roads would be prohibitive.
School buildings are not built by the government but by contractors. I would not buy a car built by Congress, but I doubt any of us would feel comfortable buying a car unless the government set some safety and emission standards. And, of course, vehicles would be of no use at all unless governments maintained the roads.
I know that banking needs to be a free enterprise, but as we have all witnessed, when investment banks are not regulated, they end up having to be, at least for a time, socialized. None of us really trusts the banks, for without the government guaranteeing our deposits, many of us would have our money hidden in our sheets or freezers.
Cell phones are wonderful products that would never have been created by governments, but their unregulated status makes them expensive to own. I have a cell phone that does not work in my driveway, and I am under the shadow of two cell towers in a town of 1,700 people. If the phone companies were made to share towers, there would be maximum bars available everywhere. We could buy any phone we want and then buy the service from our favorite provider.
The health insurance debate in our country needs to happen. Health coverage costs too much the way it is now, and many have no coverage at all. Regulations must be made on companies and government as well.
I am among the first to say that government does not always get it right. Sometimes it does things that are stupid and evil. The same must be said for business. The Wall Street bankers and insurance companies in America have created a worldwide crisis so that world governments have had to intervene to try and control the damage.
Our government should have known that this crisis was coming, but some folk in our country give a god-like allegiance to capitalism. Socialism and capitalism are tools to create goods and services. Like all individuals, all institutions are sinners. The two deadly sins of greed and pride are so powerful that all governments and all enterprises must be constantly monitored or they will be ravaged by the destructive power of sin.
Most of us are quick to say that we want to do what is right and look after our neighbors. When we witness the failure of business or government, we should not give up on either, but we must “tell it all” concerning the powers that prevent us from being whom we want to be and make us into persons or institutions that we would never chose to be. The Apostle Paul describes a similar struggle within him and calls it “sin.” (Romans 7:19)
We must “tell it all” so that we can begin to strip away the labels that divide us. Perhaps then we can join together in our common desire to care for the “least of these” and find ways to make the basic necessities of life available to all God’s children.
Larry Wilson is pastor of First Baptist Church in Biscoe, N.C.