Education, Education and the Marketplace

Market-Driven Education: The role of private enterprise in education

The following has been lifted from my PhD dissertation, and slightly edited for this blog site.  I continue to give thought to some of my earlier ideas, and welcome feedback as I continue to refine them.

Question 141. of the The Larger (Westminster) Catechism asks, “What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?” The given answer is, ‘Thou shalt not steal!’ Many of the duties relate to the acquisition of private property through the diligent conducting of legal and legitimate business in the market place:

  1. The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to every one (sic.) his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary law-suits, and suretiship, or other like engagements; and an endeavour by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own (Wilkinson, 1976 [1646], pp. 225-227).

Jesus spoke much about the importance of conducting business in a godly way, and soundly condemned laziness, indolence and improvidence:

He also who had received the one talent[1] came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You know that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:24-30).

A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas[2], and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come[3]’. But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. … Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief[4]; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap where you did not sow. He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest: And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me’” (Luke 19:12-27).

The Apostle Paul also spoke of the importance of godly labour as a Christian man’s duty, and the evils of idleness and dependence upon others for sustenance, when a man is able-bodied:

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother (II Thessalonians 3:6-15).

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs (mind your own business, KJV), and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one (I Thessalonians 4:9-12).

It is legitimate to offer one’s skills and knowledge for sale in the marketplace, along with one’s labour. Therefore, most people under God should be paid for passing on their knowledge and skills to others in a fair market contractual arrangement. In this sense, education is a free-market commodity. If there is a demand for a specific skill, and/or element of knowledge, then those who have legally and legitimately acquired or created such should, in turn, have the right to pass such skill, and/or knowledge, on to others for a negotiated and agreed upon price. This is a free market decision, and should not be regulated by governments, [other than governments do have an obligation to ensure that the weights and measures that are being used in the market place are accurate (Leviticus 19:36[5])[6]]. In this context, many people have the opportunity to be teachers, and most people have the opportunity to be students.

The market place will set its own value on skills and knowledge. Those who are enterprising, entrepreneurial, and enthusiastic will do well. Those who are lazy, sloppy and/or dull-witted will not do so well. However, hunger will spur such on to do better (Proverbs 19:15[7]).

[1] Quite contrary to the insistence by some Bible teachers, that this refers to abilities that God has gifted us with (our talents), a talent is a unit of monetary reckoning equivalent to 75 pounds or 34 kilograms (Dennis et. al., 2001, p. 2751).

[2] A minas was about three months’ wages for a labourer (Dennis et. al., 2001, p. 1997).

[3] Despite the insistence by pietists that engaging in business affairs is unspiritual, here Jesus is insisting that engaging in business is a normal part of the spiritual life; spiritual life is real, practical, and anchored to concerns of this world, as well as it is in heaven.

[4] Strongs Concordance, Gk 4676: sŏudariŏn; a sudarium (sweat-cloth), i.e. towel (for wiping the perspiration from the face, or binding the face of a corpse). The man’s sin was that he ‘retired’, as indicated by the fact that the mina was buried in his sweat cloth, a cloth used to wipe the sweat from his brow when working. Retirement is like embracing death. Godly men never retire, they continue their labours for the Lord until He calls them home; they do not excuse themselves from the Lord’s work.

[5] Leviticus 19:36 “You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

[6] Gary North, commenting on this verse, writes: “The State is required by God to enforce His standards. The free market social order – a development that has its origins in the twin doctrines of personal responsibility and self-government – requires civil government as a legitimate court of appeal. But the bulk of law enforcement has to be individual: “Every man his own policeman.” No other concept of law enforcement will suffice if a society is not to become a society of informants and secret police. Secondarily, law enforcement must be associative: market competition. Buyers and sellers determine the degree of acceptable fluctuation around agreed-upon standards. Only in the third stage is law enforcement to become civil. Here, the standards are to be much more precise, much more rigid, and much more predictable. Representative cases – legal precedents – are to become guidelines for self-government and voluntary associative government” (North, 1994, pp. 321-322).

Rushdoony (2005) writes: “We show our reverence for the triune God in the way we treat our elders, all strangers or foreigners, and all men with whom we have commercial transactions or monetary dealings (p. 249).

[7] Proverbs 19:15 “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.”

References

North, G. (1994). Leviticus: An Economic Commentary. Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics.

Rushdoony, R. J. (2005). Leviticus (Vol. III). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.

Wilkinson, H. et al. (1976 [1646]). The Confession of Faith The Larger and Shorter Catechisms with the Scripture Proofs at Large Together with the Sum of Saving Knowledge (Contained in the Holy Scriptures, and Held Forth in the Said Confession and Catechisms,) and Practical Use Thereof; Covenants, National and Solemn League; Acknowledgement of Sins, and Engagement to Duties; Directories for Publick and Family Worship; Form of Church Government, etc. of Publick Authority in the Church of Scotland; with Acts of Assembly and Parliament, Relative to, and Approbative of, the Same; with the Special Words of the Proof-Passages Printed in Italic Type. Inverness, Scotland: The Publications Committee of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

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2 thoughts on “Market-Driven Education: The role of private enterprise in education

  1. Pingback: The State and the Family in Relation to Education | lanceaboxeducationresearch

  2. Well formulated. The 10 commandments, Jesus’ teachings and the apostle’s teachings makes it clear that love for God and man is to be the standard and driving force behind any activity at home, in society and the market place. The individual including business personnel have a responsibility to interact with all sectors of society, working with, for their good, that is for the good of the community and society they are part of. This glorifies God. However, man cannot do this by himself, God himself has to be centre and so we are infused with his presence and power, filled with his Spirit. That ensures unity and resistance against evil forces and corruption and degradation. We don’t have to look far to see that nations, governments, business and private enterprise and the individuals that constitute them are confronted with choosing whose side they are on and the ensuing battles that rage tell us grimly the consequences.

    For the sake of peace, harmony and love, let us turn to God and his Kingdom. There are no alternatives. Let God be exalted and praised. Let us be obedient to his call for life and joy.

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