OPINION: Llewellyn H. Rockwell - The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem

OPINION:  Llewellyn H. Rockwell - The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem

At the heart of the Christmas story rests some important lessons concerning free enterprise, government, and the role of wealth in society.

Let’s begin with one of the most famous phrases: "There’s no room at the inn." This phrase is often invoked as if it were a cruel and heartless dismissal of the tired travelers Joseph and Mary. Many renditions of the story conjure up images of the couple going from inn to inn only to have the owner barking at them to go away and slamming the door.

In fact, the inns were full to overflowing in the entire Holy Land because of the Roman emperor’s decree that everyone be counted and taxed. Inns are private businesses, and customers are their lifeblood. There would have been no reason to turn away this man of aristocratic lineage and his beautiful, expecting bride.

In any case, the second chapter of St. Luke doesn’t say that they were continually rejected at place after place. It tells of the charity of a single inn owner, perhaps the first person they encountered, who, after all, was a businessman. His inn was full, but he offered them what he had: the stable. There is no mention that the innkeeper charged the couple even one copper coin, though given his rights as a property owner, he certainly could have.

It’s remarkable, then, to think that when the Word was made flesh with the birth of Jesus, it was through the intercessory work of a private businessman. Without his assistance, the story would have been very different indeed. People complain about the "commercialization" of Christmas, but clearly commerce was there from the beginning, playing an essential and laudable role.

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A former congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, Llewellyn H. Rockwell is the founder and president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and editor of LewRockwell.com.  He is author of The Left, The Right and the StateSpeaking of Liberty (2010) and Against the Left:  A Rothbardian Libertarianism (2019).