Capitalism (not Jesus) is the reason for the season

You all should know by now about the growing split on the Right between the free marketeers and old style conservatives who believe in values other than the commercial.

This was dramatically demonstrated by the stand taken by conservative religious figures George Pell and Peter Jensen over Howard's IR laws. (A very good piece on Jensen and his politics and values is in the latest 'Monthly' by Andrew West. )

But did you see this gem on 17 December in 'The Australian' by columnist Caroline Overington? Basing herself on material from the Ayn Rand Institute she calls for more profits and presents at Christmas.


Her article sounds like it is oriented to an American readership but there is no mistaking her desire that commercial values should prevail over religious values. George and Peter, please take note:

'I think Christmas should be much more commercial,' says Overington.

She goes on:

'Indeed, I'm in lock-step with American writer Leonard Peikoff (founder of the Ayn Rand Institute), who made the case in 1995 that Christmas should be a time to celebrate the success of capitalism.

In an essay since republished many times, Peikoff argued that Christmas as we celebrate it today is a 19th-century American invention. He said post-Civil War America was the "happiest nation in history" and the result was "the desire to celebrate, to revel in the goods and pleasures of life on earth".

"Christmas (which was not a federal holiday until 1870) became the leading American outlet for this feeling," he wrote. Then came the big developments of

19th-century capitalism, with new inventions to make life more comfortable and exciting, and the rise of entrepreneurs "who understood that the way to make a profit was to produce something good and sell it to a mass market. For the first time, the giving of gifts became a major feature of Christmas."

'Santa Claus is also "thoroughly American". Peikoff argued that it was New Yorkers who came up with the idea "that Santa travels on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, comes down the chimney, stuffs toys in the kids' stockings, then goes back to the North Pole".

'His point, however, was that capitalism had done a lot of good for those who have embraced it, and so Christmas should be a "guiltless, egoistic, pro-reason, commercial celebration". He went so far as to say Christ should be dropped from the occasion. That's ridiculous, obviously. Jesus is the reason for the season, as the church banners say.

'At Hillsong in outer Sydney - Australia's fastest growing, most dynamic church - they understand this, which is why they had both Jesus and Santa at this year's Christmas spectacular.

'But Christmas is no time to get all parsimonious, especially if you have children. It's a time to celebrate. In Australia, as in all successful, capitalist democracies, that means just one thing: get out and spend.

Here endeth the lesson!