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Sep 14, 2009

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Travis Greene

Psalm 72
Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
He will judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.
The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
He will defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
he will crush the oppressor.
He will endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
He will be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
In his days the righteous will flourish;
prosperity will abound till the moon is no more.
He will rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The desert tribes will bow before him
and his enemies will lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
will bring tribute to him;
the kings of Sheba and Seba
will present him gifts.
All kings will bow down to him
and all nations will serve him.
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.

The holders of political power will be blessed when they look after the weakest and most vulnerable.

In regard to property rights, I am fond of the Catholic idea of the social mortgage. That is, property rights aren't absolute, but exist for the purpose of encouraging the common good. Just as copyright doesn't exist because of some inherent right to own an idea, but as a tactic for encouraging creativity and the arts.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Travis.

As we look at the issues of the poor, what is their biggest challenge? Unjust transactions and no protection for property rights!

The prophets rail against the use of unjust measures in weighing grain. Procedures are used to drive the poor into debt in an effort to convert them into serfs and deprive them of product of their land and labor. Bribes are used by the rich to prevent judgments against themselves in the courts or to oppress those with less resources. In general the poor cannot get justice at the city gate (the courts).

In short, the reason the poor are needy and afflicted is because the powerful will not honor the property rights, and other rights, of the poor. The issue here is not a centralized ruler who is not taking enough taxes to help the poor but rather the powerful unjustly taking the private property of the people and driving them into poverty.

I'm not entirely sold on the social mortgage idea. First, we need to keep in mind that the mortgage holder is not the state or any other human institution, but God. Who enforces the mortgage terms of God's mortgage? There is danger here of seeing property as the state's property that people are permitted to own. That takes us back to the mindset of the ANE cultures and to modern excesses like communism.

Second, we are back to whose definition of the common good to use? The libertarian? The Communist? The capitalist? The distributivist? Saying we should seek the common good is little bit like saying we should work for world peace ... a general sentiment that is useless if content is not specified. That is why I preferring saying we need to work for the elements of shalom I articulated in an earlier post ... and even that is at the 40,000 foot level.

Travis Greene

"In short, the reason the poor are needy and afflicted is because the powerful will not honor the property rights, and other rights, of the poor. The issue here is not a centralized ruler who is not taking enough taxes to help the poor but rather the powerful unjustly taking the private property of the people and driving them into poverty."

No, but a centralized ruler is seen as a buttress against the excesses of the economically powerful, yes?

Michael W. Kruse

Absolutely! While it is jumping the gun at bit, I think it is important to ask in what ways the economically powerful may deny others their property rights, particularly with the emergence of corporations.

I think one of the great blunders with economic development in Latin America (and elsewhere) in the 20th Century was the attempt to radically impose market economies on cultures where there were not already strong legal frameworks where the poor could count on just enforcement of contracts, enforcement of property rights, freedom to move from job to job, and having reasonable certainty that they would not be stripped of their wealth by authorities. The wealth from trade flowed into the coffers of a tiny elite and did little for the poor. I think we are still learning the lessons of how critical cultural values we take for granted (trusting strangers, respect for property, etc.) are in economic prosperity.

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