Recently, a co-worker asked me to settle a political debate: should the government have the right to retroactively add stipulations on how a company given bailout funds can spend those bailout funds?

My gut instinct was no, but only because government regulators would step in and have a howling fit if banks wanted to add stipulations to loans to citizens after the papers had already been signed. Consistency, you know.

Actually, my gut instinct was to howl that the companies should give the money back and face the music with their stockholders. That should be the cold hard reality of this beast we call capitalism.

Aside from the bailouts being idiotic economics, you can’t claim to have an aim of keeping capitalism alive by acting like a fascist. That’s right — I’ve invoked the F-bomb, but choosing to save some failing banks instead of all failing banks is fascism, not socialism. Look it up — it’s called cartelism, and it’s one of the chief means a fascist government uses to exert control over the economy. They favor one business over another, rendering competition pointless.

The Obama administration, I think, will exploit the ability to retroactively add stipulations. But before Republicans get too giddy about the ability to legitimately call the Obama administration fascists, they need to remember that it was the Bush administration that pushed the bailouts.

But all of this has had me thinking about what a Christian economic worldview should be. Capitalism is basically godless, and Socialism is a response that believes God’s abundance is not enough. Capitalism’s underlying philosophy is, “By my hands, I succeed, and by my hands, I fail;” Socialism says, “I will be God for you.”

Capitalism at its logical extreme believes that the individual can become God, and thus has devastating economic consequences when it is revealed that Wall Street is not only not God, but in its effort to become so has convinced the entire world economy to move into a creative but nuclear house of cards that requires Wall Street to be the chief cornerstone. Oops.

Socialism always fails because it believes that it can build the government until it reaches to the heavens, and then they will be like gods. But God didn’t let the builders at Babel succeed, either.

So I guess my personal economics are shaped by the Jubilee economics of the Old Testament (you can’t exploit someone without debt), but held in the context of the reality of the Church. Despite what modern polemicists may say, the Church in Acts 4 wasn’t a commune, but it sure wasn’t capitalism.

Applying that is the hard part, I guess.