Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spreading the Wealth Around

Count off seven sabbaths of years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan... In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property. If you sell land to one of your countrymen or buy any from him, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your countryman on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And he is to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what he is really selling you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. (NIV)
I know that this cryptic passage from the book of Leviticus is not in force for non-Jews, nor for the church of Jesus Christ; nonetheless, I find it interesting in that it reveals, at least to some degree, how God looks upon the redistribution of wealth in an earthly economy. That should be interesting to any American, given that our economy is supposedly one under God (at least that's what we say on our currency!). Redistribution, the pariah of free-market capitalists everywhere, seems to be looked upon with favor, even ordered, by God. Every 50 years, God wants the scale set back to zero, the land redistributed, so that inequities in society don't become so entrenched as to produce a slave class, perpetually indentured and beholden to the rich.

And all the Republicans said, "What?!"

I've heard it said that a severe financial crisis crops up once or twice a century in the West. Hmmm, every 50 years is God's metric for resetting the playing field--do you wonder if there's any correlation? I think there may well be. One statistic that would be germane is the concentration of wealth, the measure of the "rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer." The old adage, "it takes money to make money," is true and describes the mechanism though which wealth is concentrated. Could it be that once wealth concentration reaches a critical point amongst his people, God wants it shaken up?

Some politicians have long cited the concentration of wealth and the need for redistribution as a justification for increasing the size and spending of government; however, increasing spending among the poor doesn't make them wealthier, it only increases their share of consumption. That may not be a bad thing, but it doesn't shift the economic balance of power which is more correlated to wealth. If government actually wants to effect wealth distribution, the place to start would be reforming the Social Security system along the lines George Bush suggested just a few years ago. Making the government wealthier in no way makes the poor wealthier, it just shifts their indenturer from the rich to the government while keeping their slavery just as perpetual.

Over the last couple of months much of the wealth of the rich has evaporated into thin air. That kind of thing hasn't occurred since the Great Depression--not exactly 50 years, but close enough for government work. The poor are not likely to be statistically poorer as result of this economic downturn (we'll have to see what unemployment ends up doing), but the rich sure will be. Could the Great Depression II, which we seem to be in the beginning throes of, be God's redistribution plan? It wouldn't be the first time God took things into his own hands and spread the wealth around:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy... The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah. (NIV)