Is God an Economist?

First, here’s a cartoon from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

Now, let’s note what the cartoon doesn’t show. At the end of the Book of Job, Job receives back double of every type of property he owned. But he only receives the same number of children as he previously had. I suspect that, if anything, this shows that the author of the Book of Job was aware that children are not replaceable – sorry, not a fungible commodity – in the way that sheep and cattle are.

Nevertheless, I wonder whether the way Job is treated throughout the story might not suggest that its author would have agreed with the character Philo in Hume’s famous Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion:

There may four hypotheses be framed concerning the first causes of the universe: that they are endowed with perfect goodness; that they have perfect malice; that they are opposite, and have both goodness and malice; that they have neither goodness nor malice. Mixed phenomena can never prove the two former unmixed principles; and the uniformity and steadiness of general laws seem to oppose the third. The fourth, therefore, seems by far the most probable.

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  • Beau Quilter

    No, the sheep and cattle have been multiplied, but as far as the children are concerned, the cartoon has it right:

    Fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution.

    • James F. McGrath

      But everything else was doubled, and children not. And so I think I can read it as acknowledging the very opposite of what the cartoon suggests – that you can’t just give double the number of children to someone and have it make up for the deaths of the others.

      • Beau Quilter

        I yield to your scholarship.


      • Virginia Moreland

        Perhaps, but they still are not the same children he lost. Are you suggesting that the loss of five children can be rectified simply by getting five new ones? That would assume he had no special feelings for those five who are now gone if they can simply be replaced and have all be just fine and dandy now. I would be more inclined to agree if his original five children had simply been returned to him happy and healthy once again. Suggesting that five new children makes up for the loss of five supposedly beloved children who died is a bit heartless.