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Apr 09, 2008


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Dennis Sanders

I see two issues here:

I'm not an economist, but I think you are right that he is confusing material consumption with economic growth. They are not necessarily the same. It seems to me to have a slow growing economy means that people's living standards would be far lower and there would be fewer jobs which wouldn't help the poor one bit and in fact would make more poor.

If you have growth, that means more jobs and the ability for people to raise their standards of living. Look at China and India for example. They were both primarily slow or no growth economies, but was they opened up and started to expand, more and more people have been lifted from extreme poverty. They still have ways to go, but they are not where they once were.

I think a lot of Christians tend to think economic growth means consumption and consumption is bad. And I would agree that if you live life for things, then that's bad. I try to not live a life based on getting things. But the fact is, I still want certain things. I can decide to get them or not, but I think what matters is if we are buying these things for status or for more utilitarian reasons.

The second thing is his focus on good deeds and Christ. I think a common fault of conservatives is to focus only on Jesus dying on the cross and not on the life of Christ. I tend to believe that how Jesus lived is important because it gives us insight into how we should follow Jesus. That said, I think those that tend to lean towards the left, tend to de-emphasize Christ as Savior and make him into a "good guy" we should follow. I think Jesus calls us to care for the neighbor. But I think that we do that in light of Christ living a sacrifical life for others all the way to the cross. Because Christ died and we have recieved grace, in thanks and gratitutde, we help our brothers and sisters.


Michael W. Kruse

Great insights, Dennis. Thanks. Somewhere between hedonism and asceticism is a healthy balance of enjoying economic abundance and caring for the least of these. I thinkg the most important way (but not the only way) we aid the poor is by providing them with the opportunity to join us in an ongoing cycle of creating abundance and excercising generosity.


Once you accept that there are "sound reasons for some wealth redistribution at the societal and international level", you are on a slippery slope. Subsidarity will not stop the slide.

Michael W. Kruse

"Wealth redistribution" may not be the best phrasing. I'm thinking in the broadest terms of using the wealth of some to aid others. I'm thinking here in terms of things like international aid, earned income tax credits, or certain basic services for the poor (especially the incapacitated).

The OT Law required offerings to aid the poor. Gleaning deprived owners of all they could reap so the poor could eat. I think aid and subsidiarity can function together. But I think your warning is is important.


I realise you wrote your reply quickly, so I am probably reading to much into it. Gleaning was voluntary for land owners. There were no penalties for not allowing it. They made the stuff that was hard to reap available to the poor.

So the owners were not deprived. The poor were blessed

Michael W. Kruse

Ron, mostly I was trying to avoid a rabbit trail in my post while still acknowledging that there are needs for redistribution. I think few of us question the redistribution of the voluntary type. The sticking point is with taxation to provide for certain types of care for others.

My view of normative economics wouldn’t rule out all taxation for certain types of aid, but I think, at best, government aid can play a supportive role to other institutions. All too often government aid has fostered dependency instead of restoring wholeness to individuals and institutions.

While there appear to be no specific legal penalties for prohibiting gleaning, there clearly were ethical mandates given by God. Not following the gleaning mandate had consequences in that it violated the larger covenant. The fact that the command was given suggests to me that the diligent owner could have harvested the edges and earned more, yet God has him surrender that portion to the poor. The challenge is translating these ethics (along with things like offerings for the poor) in our contemporary context.

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