Saturday, November 19, 2016
an even more modest proposal
Last week, our Bible study group wrapped up our review of Malachi. It is one of those minor prophet books that people tend to skim over on the spiritual freeway from Psalms to the gospels.
But it is filled with some heady stuff. Things like God desires us to have hearts dedicated to his respect and honor, but also to show the same love to our fellow souls on this planet. It includes some rather startling admonitions: "I will be quick to witness against ... those who take advantage of wage-earners, widows and orphans; against those who rob the foreigner of his rights and don’t fear me."
The gospels, of course, are filled with admonitions of the danger of wealth blinding one's faith. The young rich man. The farmer who hoarded his wealth in his barns. The teaching was clear. It was not the wealth that was evil: it was mankind’s obsession with it that hardened the heart toward others.
On the other hand, the group of people in Matthew 25 were astounded that they were rewarded for feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the alien, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the prisoners. "Whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!"
Several of my Christian friends have abandoned the political right in favor of what they see as a more-Christian form of government on the left, often citing that famous passage in Acts 2: "All those trusting in Yeshua stayed together and had everything in common; in fact, they sold their property and possessions and distributed the proceeds to all who were in need." At least, one based more on the message they read in the gospels. Several strong Bush boosters became Sanders supporters this past election year.
I understand the impulse. But I am a little surprised they stopped at the Sanders camp. He preached socialism lite. Fabianism with a Brooklyn accent.
Here is my proposal. If we take the gospels at their word, the message is for all people in all parts of the world. And if we wish to alleviate poverty, the world's economy produces quite a big piece of pie. But most of the pies are in the western world.
We need to gather the world population in one place. I suggest Piccadilly Circus next Saturday. Say, around 1430 hours GMT.
Oh, and everyone needs to bring the entire wealth of the world with them. Deeds and certificates to houses and factories will suffice. But everything needs to go into one big pile.
The reigning Miss Universe will then divide up the wealth and give an equal share to each person. That should be just under $10,000. About the price of a reliable used car.
Sure, you might have come to London owning a $10 million dollar house in Beverly Hills and drove to LAX in your prized Maserati. And you might have looked forward to all of your government benefits and pensions. But, after next Saturday, you will have the joy of knowing you have no more wealth than a poor girl in Peru who has never dreamed of owning that amount of money.
And this is where sharing things usually breaks down. There is always someone who wants more than the others and will start inventing helpful new things to sell to willing buyers, and thus increase his income -- as well as increasing the wealth of his customers.
It ain’t gonna happen this time. If you add up the world's income and equally divide it by the seven and a half billion souls who share our planet, each person would be paid $2,920. Annually, not monthly.
So, there you have it. I am certain President Obama would use his favorite word when it comes to such matters. It is fair.
If you are an American, it would mean trading an average accumulation of $81,400 in wealth for less than $10,000. And reducing an average income of $58,714 to $2,920. But it would be fair -- in a sense. It would also give a boost to the Castro Boys. It would make Cuba look like a paradise.
As Rousseau might say of the wealth that burdens Americans, Canadians, and Europeans: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chain stores."
There will be some minor problems, of course. People who have worked hard to accumulate wealth will not be anxious to give it all up -- or they would have done it on their own. And there will be the pesky problem of getting people to actually work. If they are getting the same wage as their neighbor (whether they work or not), the world will run the risk of being reduced to a bunch of Homer Simpsons.
That is why social democrats need to be authoritarian when ordering other people's lives. Or they could simply opt for totalitarianism if they are beguiled by the Cuba model.
It is a great idea. Full of fairness. Not to mention moral rectitude. But, within a year, the inevitable human spirit to compete would rise to the top. New jobs would be created. People would want more. And one nation or another is going to start collecting enough chips to be the top player in the game.
And someone else would have fun writing a similar essay. Probably unaware the original writer is now swinging from a Paris lamp post.