God, America and wealth redistribution

God, America and wealth redistribution November 8, 2010

One of my interlocutors asks when God ever commanded us to take rather than give; he implies that redistribution of wealth is of the devil.  Let’s see…

I believe Old Testament regulations about land and wealth are not binding on Christians, but I also believe they reveal something about the will of God for his people and everyone.

The “Year of Jubilee” may never have been practiced by ancient Israel, but that God commanded it reveals that God is not IN PRINCIPLE against redistribution of wealth.  In fact, if may reveal that God is IN PRINCIPLE for it.  Was the Year of Jubilee intended to be voluntary–a matter of charity?  I doubt that.  Every 50 years debts were to be forgiven and land returned to the family that originally owned it.  That certainly amounts to redistribution of wealth–taking from the rich and giving to the poor has to be the intended goal of that law.  Surely it cannot be legitimately interpreted as God’s command “If you want to do it.”  That’s nonsense.  It was meant to be enforced.  My point is that at least in this one case God appears to have commanded that belongings be taken from those who have them and given to others. 

Moving from the Bible to 20th century America.  In my experience few people know this fact.  After WW2 General Douglas Macarthur served as virtual military dictator of Japan for 6 years.  One of his first acts was the forcibly break up the aristocracy’s plantations and give land to the peasants who had worked it for generations.  There can be no doubt that Macarthur, a conservative Republican, engaged in a form of socialism during his 6 years ruling Japan.  He could see that Japan would never become a functioning member of the family of Western democracies without such land reform that fundamentally altered its economy and political system.

The irony is that many of the people who argue most vehemently against redistribution of wealth consider Macarthur a saint!  My question to them would be: If redistribution of wealth is IN PRINCIPLE wrong, do you wish Macarthur had not done it in Japan (with the result that Japan would have continued in its semi-feudal state and possibly later engaged in other imperialistic adventures throughout Asia)?

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