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Nov 08, 2006

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dlw

I'm kind of in a hurry so I didn't read the whole thing, but I think the tradeoff between equity and efficiency is not something "scientifically" settled and that there is wisdom in spreading the tax-burden evenly through a variety of taxes.

I think one can also make a biblical args for caring about the incidence of the taxes and whether they are progressive or regressive.

Economics does not give us the answers. It helps us to better frame the choices and their likely impacts, though there often is more fluff than empirically-driven reasoning on the impacts in much of Economics today.

dlw

Michael Kruse

Yeah, I was less interested in the merits of his tax ideas than I was his observations about decontextualized Bible verses/ideas for justifying contemporary policy actions.

"Economics does not give us the answers. It helps us to better frame the choices and their likely impacts..."

Exactly. Then you can begin to have the discussion based on anticipated outcomes not moralistic bumper sticker idealism.

dlw

I think all exegetical applications of scripture are removed from their original context and thereby subject to some differences about whether the fallible analogy implicitly being made is God-glorifying or simply manipulative...

dlw

Ryan O

I agree that you can't take a direct link for your tax policy from Jesus words, but he does set up a perspective in terms of what our prorities should be. If we look at Capatalism as a system, I think we can take a radical view of it because of our Christian perspective. Personally, looking at what Jesus says about money (in an agrarian/subsistence economy) I have to examine what the repercussions of our assumtions inherent in the "success" of the free market.
I disagree strongly with the line "This reveals the fundamental presupposition error of their thinking—that the rich and poor have an inherent economic conflict of interest."
This conflict has been proven true in Capatalist systems through out the world. There are individual people of wealth who are not in conflict, but it is this conflict that ultimately gave birth to Marxist thinking, and consequently peoples movements. In fact the competion, leading to sme winners and some losers, seems to me indemic of creating such conflicts. Even in America there have been movements to protect people against the repercussions of capatalism, child labor laws are the best example of Christian ethics trumping the economics of capatalism. The only reason that rich and poor grow wealthy together is because of consciencious action on the part of the citezenry, or action of the Government on its behalf.

Michael Kruse

Ryan, I think first we should clarify what we mean by capitalism. I like Rodney Starks definition:

“Capitalism is an economic system wherein privately owned, relatively well organized , and stable firms pursue complex commercial activities with a relatively free (unregulated) market, taking a systematic, long-term approach to investing and reinvesting wealth (directly and indirectly) in productive activities involving a hired workforce, and guided by anticipated and actual returns.”

I think the author probably has a similar definition. I see nothing in this that inherently pits the wealthy against the poor. It is an infrastructure for economic transaction. It amplifies the productiveness, effectiveness and the efficiency of the players involved and the decisions they make…and there is the key. If the players are predominately people with high moral values (concern for the poor, concern for the environment, etc.) the decisions they make in the market place are greatly amplified throughout society. On the other hand if they not virtuous those values are amplified as well.

Can people operating in capitalist societies create horrific social affects? You bet. But to the degree you ramp down the economic system to curb the behavior you often restrain the good that could emerge as well. The goal is maximum economic freedom with high virtue. That is the environment that is most beneficial for the poor. In the quote “…that the rich and poor have an inherent economic conflict of interest…” the operative word for me is “inherent.” Economics is not a zero-sum game.

“The only reason that rich and poor grow wealthy together is because of consciencious action on the part of the citezenry, or action of the Government on its behalf.”

Conscientious acts and Government acts are part of the virtuous society I mentioned but the poor benefit greatly by capitalism. The cost of food, shelter and basic necessities are all less expensive and more available because of the efficiencies in the marketplace. The problem in many developing nations is not capitialism but the absence of basic property rights, no capital markets etc. “Free markets” in such places is merely might makes right not capitialism.

I can’t build a full-blown case here but I big backer of capitalism as defined above.

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