The claim that Jesus Christ was a socialist has become a popular refrain among liberals, even from some whose Christianity is lukewarm at best. But is there any truth in it?
That question cannot be answered without a reliable definition of socialism. A century ago, it was widely regarded as government ownership of the means of production. Jesus never once even hinted at that concept, let alone endorsed it. Yet the definition has changed over time. When the critiques of economists such as Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman demolished any intellectual case for the original form of socialism, and reality proved them to be devastatingly right, socialists shifted to another version: central planning of the economy.
One can scour the New Testament and find nary a word from Jesus that calls for empowering politicians or bureaucrats to allocate resources, pick winners and losers, tell entrepreneurs how to run their businesses, impose minimum wages or maximum prices, compel workers to join unions, or even to raise taxes.