Corn, Capitalism & Compassion
After the Pilgrims experienced cold and starvation, in 1623, William Bradford wrote in his history Of Plimouth Plantation:
So they begane to thinke how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtain a beter crope than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in miserie….
The experience that was had in this comone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceits of Platos & other ancients, applauded by some of later times;—that ye taking away of propertie, and bringing in comunitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser than God.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Rabbi Aryeh Spero has some insightful statements of the impact of our Judeo-Christian heritage on America’s prosperity. I don’t agree with all he writes, and some of the article is simply an endorsement of Romney, but he has some things to say that are important to highlight and remember this campaign year in the continuing drumbeat of distortion that comes from the Left about the inherent principles of who we are as a nation. He first discusses the Bible’s valuation of work and goes on to say:
The Bible is not a business-school manual. While it is comfortable with wealth creation and the need for speculation in economic markets, it has nothing to say about financial instruments and models such as private equity, hedge funds or other forms of monetary capitalization. What it does demand is honesty, fair weights and measures, respect for a borrower’s collateral, timely payments of wages, resisting usury, and empathy for those injured by life’s misfortunes and charity.
These concerns of the Bible are in regard to how you work and how you treat your fellow man in need; these are qualities of character. Its commands regarding hard work, sound ethics, and compassion rather than contempt or selfishness, are not an endorsement for socialism. Spero nails the “religious” left, who, in my opinion, isn’t very religious, but instead cherry-picks and distorts various Bible passages. He comments:
Many on the religious left criticize capitalism because all do not end up monetarily equal—or, as Churchill quipped, “all equally miserable.” But the Bible’s prescription of equality means equality under the law, as in Deuteronomy’s saying that “Judges and officers . . . shall judge the people with a just judgment: Do not . . . favor one over the other.” Nowhere does the Bible refer to a utopian equality that is contrary to human nature and has never been achieved.
I’ll add that the “religious” left likes to justify socialism by dragging out verses from the fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts on early Christians having all things in common and giving their land sale proceeds to the apostles for the care of the needy. Their actions, however, proceeded from their hearts, and in Acts 5 it’s clear these acts were done voluntarily and without compulsion. Peter’s condemnation of a couple in Acts 5 was for lying and not for refusing to sell and give what was theirs. In Acts 5:4, Peter said:
“While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Spero finishes his column by writing:
The motive of capitalism’s detractors is a quest for their own power and an envy of those who have more money. But envy is a cardinal sin and something that ought not to be.
God begins the Ten Commandments with “I am the Lord your God” and concludes with “Thou shalt not envy your neighbor, not for his wife, nor his house, nor for any of his holdings.” Envy is corrosive to the individual and to those societies that embrace it. Nations that throw over capitalism for socialism have made an immoral choice.
And I’ll finish with these words of the prophet Micah, found in Micah 6:7:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Our inability to do this is a discussion for another time, but this is God’s standard, and it’s not a socialist utopia.