Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things February 3, 2012

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson: “Biblical Economic Justice: Supply and Demand Isn’t Enough

The Bible itself provides ample examples of laws that modify the unbridled rights of property owners: we are commanded to leave the corners of our fields unharvested, and to harvest our crops but once. Any remaining produce becomes the property of the poor, and they are legally entitled to access to that yield. Mandatory funds are established so the poor can sustain themselves, and the rich were obligated to provide food, clothing and sustenance for the widow, the orphan and the poor. Ancient Israel provided community education for all (male) children. One legal standard applied to rich and poor alike, with all contributing their fair share in tax revenue. Fields are to lie fallow every seventh (Sabbatical) and 50th (Jubilee) years to renew their bounty. While the market forces of supply and demand were the baseline for ancient Israel’s economic activity, both Bible and Talmud delineate a prohibition of excessive profits, which were held to be sinful and impermissible.

… An economy that ignores supply and demand may find itself lacking the resources to sustain itself. We properly work with market economics as the starting point for our economic activity.

But an extremism that elevates supply and demand to its solitary and highest priority rejects a more encompassing Biblical commitment to care for the widow and the orphan, to provide food and clothing for the poor, to educate and nurture all its children, to live harmoniously with creation. Such a idolatrous dogmatism must be rejected, both in the name of our Founding Fathers and in the name of the world’s wisdom traditions.

Tim King: “Gary Bauer Is Wrong About the Bible

Bauer claims, “But nowhere in the Bible are we told that government should take one man’s money by force of law and give it to another man.”

This is false.

Both the Year of Jubilee (when all debts were forgiven, slaves released and land returned to its original owners and related to the “sabbatical” year) and “gleaning” laws (mandate to leave grapes or grain on the vines or in the field for the poor to collect) are forms of government mandated redistribution of wealth.

They were laws concerned with justice not encouragements to charity.

To read up on gleaning you can flip to Leviticus 19:9; 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21 or the story of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth chapter 2. To read up on Jubilee and “sabbatical” years I recommend Leviticus 25 and then later scriptural references of Isaiah 61 and Luke 4.

… Prophets regularly criticized rulers for denying justice to the poor and oppressed. If you read Isaiah and Amos you will clearly see that God wasn’t happy that His people weren’t doing a better job making sure that those in need were taken care of.

… Bauer’s argument is Biblically ignorant. The antidote is obvious.

Read the Bible.

Barack Obama: “Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast

Treating others as you want to be treated. Requiring much from those who have been given so much. Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need. These values are old. They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers. And they are values that have always made this country great — when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year. And they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.

And today, with as many challenges as we face, these are the values I believe we’re going to have to return to in the hopes that God will buttress our efforts.

Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.”

Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical. It is God who is infallible, not us. Michelle reminds me of this often. So instead, it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and common ground and the common good as best they know how, with respect for each other.

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  • I continue to be impressed at the ability of Chris Hadrick to labor under a misapprehension, the magnitude of which one cannot comprehend.

  • social power > state power

  • Lori

    And there you are, reliably proving my point. You’re just regurgitating slogans and I don’t believe you even understand what you’re saying. What do you even mean by “social power”? Do you have any meaningful understanding of state power beyond the fact that you don’t want to pay taxes? How does your belief in Libertarianism, which values individual power, mesh with your supposed interest in “social Power”? In what sense is “social power” greater than “state power”? In what sense is not?

    I don’t believe you’ve given any of these questions any real thought or that you have meaningful answers for any of them. 

    I think that rather than answering any of these questions in a useful way you’ll either just spit out another talking point/slogan or you’ll totally ignore them in favor of spouting off on something else entirely and hoping no one notices the dodge. 

  • we are not who we are as people and as communities because we happen to have a system where a number of services are run by a monopoly firm called the government.
    If washington DC ceased to exist would you have no idea who you are? If the government in your area decided to hand over garbage collection to a private firm who you paid monthly would we all no longer be Americans?

    and not wanting to pay taxes is just a cheap strawman. if paying higher and higher taxes is somehow good why not just have out and out communism? I could care less about money. raising taxes is not going to reduce unemployment. it is also no way to deal with our failed status quo. it’s just papering it over.    

  • P J Evans

    Do you even think about the crap you’re writing?

    You don’t have any fucking clue what taxes are, what they’re used for, and what having no taxes would do.
    You are, as Lori says, just regurgitating things you’ve heard, most of which are nonsense to start with.

  • how is raising taxes going to alleviate unemployment? theres no connection. all it will mean is that people will have less money to spend or save.

  • Lori

    we are not who we are as people and as communities because we happen to have a system where a number of services are run by a monopoly firm called the government.  


    You have not given any of this any realistic thought. The fact that we have a functional government does actually have a great deal to do with who we are as communities. If you need proof of that, look at places that don’t have a functioning government. Communities do not work the same way there. 

     If washington DC ceased to exist would you have no idea who you are? 

    What does my self-identity have to do with the questions that I asked you? Is your definition of social power somehow tied to knowing who you are? Are you just regurgitating Libertarian talking points at random? 

     If the government in your area decided to hand over garbage collection to a private firm who you paid monthly would we all no longer be Americans? 


    So, we add garbage collection to the list of things about which you know nothing. 

    Setting that aside, this scenario has nothing to do with Libertarianism. In Libertopia there is no government to had over garbage collection to a private firm. I have garbage. There are companies that will take it away if I pay them. If I don’t pay them I have to figure out how to get rid of it myself. 

    If you can’t understand why that would be a terrible idea then you’re once again proving that you haven’t thought this through, or that you are unable to think it through.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I have a print-out of all the verses in the bible that use tzedek or its root. It’s 50 pages long.

    I want that now. Kthxbye.

    I made it myself about 10 years ago using online concordances, after researching the concept of tzedek. I think it’s pretty cool that it ended up being 50 (A4) pages cos 50 is the number of jubilee–when debts are to be cancelled and prisoners set free. When justice is done we will all be free :)