The Commandment To Spread The Wealth

October 17, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 8:37 pm   Category: Money and getting gain,Mormon Culture/Practices,Scriptures

Mormons really have no business sneering at the ideals of socialism.

What is socialism? We get this from the wiki:

Socialism refers to an economic theory of social organization advocating social or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society where one’s labor is the only important, individual factor of production. …

Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism by nature concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital, and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.

Ok so socialism is about “the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly” and it against philosophies which by nature “concentrate power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital, and creates an unequal society”.

Sound familiar? Well if you are Mormon it should because our scriptures are chock full o’ instructions from God for us to form egalitarian societies, to work toward evenly distributed wealth, and to avoid the evils of concentrated wealth in a segment of our society. Here are some of those exhortations from the D&C:

D&C 42: 30 And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken.

D&C 49: 20 But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.

D&C 51: 3 Wherefore, let my servant Edward Partridge, and those whom he has chosen, in whom I am well pleased, appoint unto this people their portions, every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.

D&C 70: 14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.

D&C 78: 5 That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.

But of course we aren’t just commanded to “spread the wealth” like good socialists in the D&C; there are some good injunctions to do so elsewhere in our scriptures as well.

2 Cor. 8: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

4 Ne. 1: 3 (Also Acts 2: 44; Acts 4: 32-37; 3 Ne. 26: 19; ) And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

Moses 7: 18 And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

So there you have it. We Mormons are emphatically and repeatedly commanded by God to “spread the wealth” like good socialists do.

Mormons really have no business sneering at the ideals of socialism.

252 Comments »

  1. I still sneer at the idea of socialism. In all the instances where the scriptures mention a socialist like society is among God’s people. As in all members of the same fold. In small Kingdom’s of God I could see how it would work well, but in an economy of our size, and society as diverse as ours, its ludicrous.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — October 17, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

  2. COLLEGE students:

    “Spread the Grades” (think about it)

    If you have a 3.5-4.0 GPA = 3.0
    If you have a 3.0-3.40 GPA = 2.8
    If you have a 2.8-2.99 GPA = 2.6
    If you have a 2.6-2.7+ GPA = 2.4
    If you have a 2.0 – 2.5 GPA = 2.2
    If you are failing GPA = 2.0

    We will use the GPA credits we collected from the fortunate students
    to raise the GPAs of the less fortunate students. This will insure that those students that have lower grades will have the same success that those who have good grades have had. We feel that this will insure a fair distribution of grades AND make
    it more FAIR in the job market after our students leave college.
    We feel that this will attract more highly qualified students to our
    institution and increase the academic standards as well. Those
    students who cannot make good grades will not be at a disadvantage
    when thay look for a job. It will also insure that any student can
    take any course and pass. Our institution will produce the best and
    brightest people who will lead the world!
    We will also implement this same “spread the grade” program for our engineering, technical, medical and dental schools as well!!!! Think of the professionals we can graduate!!!! We will also be eliminating all entrance requirments so as to open more opportunities to all students.
    This is only fair, as this type of program may soon be implemented in the real world.
    We want to stay abreast of the real world so as to better prepare our students for life after collage!
    Remember…study hard for good grades …or not, someone else will
    carry you through.
    IF YOU DON”T SUPPORT ACADEMIN WELFARE>>>DON’T SUPPORT GOVERNMENTAL WELFARE!
    think about it!!!!

    Comment by Mike D — October 17, 2008 @ 10:36 pm

  3. Craig: In small Kingdom’s of God I could see how it would work well, but in an economy of our size, and society as diverse as ours, its ludicrous.

    Uhhh… Our scriptures insist that Zion (based precisely on these egalitarian/socialistic principles) will be established throughout the earth and among all people eventually. You just called that idea we received through revelation ludicrous.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  4. Mike D,

    So are you saying God is wrong and you are right? What is your response to the revelations?

    PS — See here regarding ALL CAPS and exclamation points in comments.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

  5. There is a huge fundamental difference between what Mormon revelation and socialism are, one is guided and directed of God and the other is guided and directed of Satan. Socialism is the devils counterfeit, its just a part of his plan to take away our free agency. I hate to be too melodramtic and come off as the crazy guy who sits in the back of priesthood but this is the simplest way I can think of putting it. Did we have a war in heaven to be here and have a right to choose or not? Should we live United Order and Consecration? Yes.
    Should somebody force us to? No.
    Nuff said.

    Comment by David J. West — October 17, 2008 @ 10:56 pm

  6. Seems to me the only difference between Socialism and the United Order is the inclusion of God in the the mix. When you determine that it is the Lord that is at the head of the Society you get a different Order entirely. One that is run without corruption and power grabbing. Until you throw Pride into the mix… then the corruption and power grabbing begins and all bets are off.

    Comment by Dianna B — October 17, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  7. The fundamental difference between the United Order (as described in the D&C) and state socialism is that membership in the United Order is voluntary. That is significant.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  8. Dianna — True principles are true principles right? For instance, just because eternal marriage is best does not mean earthly/civil marriage should be avoided. Likewise, just because economic egalitarianism among the people of God is best does not mean all other attempts at economic egalitarianism are not desirable.

    Mark D. — True enough. But even in actually socialist countries there is always ample room to be personally altruistic. In a democracy shouldn’t we Mormons encourage people to vote in policies and politicians that move us closer to Zion in this way?

    It seems to me that based on the scriptures Mormons should be conservatives on social/moral issues and liberals on economic issues.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

  9. I don’t think so Geoff. Private initiative and public funding are quite at odds with each other.

    Contemporary social welfare states consume such a large portion of economic production that they crowd out what used to be a dominant role for private charity – hospitals, orphanages, benefit societies and so on. What few non-religious charitable organizations remain tend to be dependent on government grants.

    Among other problems – inefficiency, political favoritism, knowledge/power imbalance, private resource deprivation and so on – that tends to be an excuse for people to neglect their voluntary social obligations and let the government do everything for them. The Nanny State. [Or as some rather pejoratively call it, "Satan's Plan".]

    So you get no end of organizations who once upon a time actually tried to help people with their problems that now focus on stirring up sentiment for more state action instead. That is what “Liberation Theology” is all about.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 12:29 am

  10. Sneering at? Appalled by, is more like it.

    The record of socialism as actually practiced in the 20th century varies from not all that great to horrifying butchery. Given that so many socialists have taken their inspiration from Karl Marx, an anti-prophet if there is such a thing, I do not expect that record to improve in the 21st.

    If I thought those political figures who advocate socialism were honest, godfearing men who
    would bring us closer to Zion, I would support them.
    However, I see more evidence that more of them are corrupt demagogues full of empty promises that they have neither the ability nor intention to keep.

    Comment by Confutus — October 18, 2008 @ 12:42 am

  11. Mark D: Contemporary social welfare states…

    Interesting assertion. Which specific states are you referring to here?

    that tends to be an excuse for people to neglect their voluntary social obligations

    Are you implying that people don’t neglect their voluntary social obligations here in the US but they do in places like Australia or the UK or Norway where socialist parties are in power?

    In a democracy like the US we certainly could vote for policies and politicians who were interested in at least inching closer to economic egalitarianism (an end God is clearly in favor of) rather than policies and politicians that tend to increase the disparity between the rich and poor as we have seen in recent years. And based on our scriptures I think we probably should do so.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 12:51 am

  12. Confutus,

    There are all sorts of variations on the socialism as the excerpt I used in the post notes. Surely you are not accusing present day Australia, Norway, and the UK — all of which are currently led by socialist parties — of horrifying butchery right? In a place like the US why shouldn’t we Mormons vote for economically liberal politicians who want to begin to close the massive chasm between the rich and the middle class in America? Our scriptures certainly support that sort of position. Our scriptures clearly indicate that spreading the wealth can be a great good in the world.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 12:58 am

  13. As with abortion, this comes down to whether you think state enforcement of an ideal is a good thing. Saints are justifiable on either side with all of these issues, as far as I can tell from the statements of current general authorities.

    How much of the state’s power do you want to enlist in building Zion? How much do you trust it in that?

    Comment by The Right Trousers — October 18, 2008 @ 1:09 am

  14. Geoff J,

    Thank you for posting this! I love the juxtaposition of Socialism and Zion/United Order.

    Of course, it is hard for most with a western culture and education to bring Socialism into an objective setup. The feelings inheridted from western political views, teachings and culture are simply too strong.

    I find it very interesting how members of the Church react to this juxtaposition and the justifications they make to preserve the culture that defines them (and how ultimately, their scriptures seem to come second on the line of how they define themeselves).

    Thank you for this post, and also for your answers.

    From the person that aligns socialism with Satan, to the person that thinks those scriptural principles are ludicrous when applied to the an economy the size of a nation. All comments are valid and important because they explain how people regard these scriptures and how they reconcile them with their political views.

    I am always interested to see how people define themselves. Clearly, for some people, the feelings inherited from their political culture are stronger than the devotion to statements they aknowledge as “revelation from God.”

    I applaud your post.

    Comment by Manuel — October 18, 2008 @ 1:14 am

  15. Geoff, I am using “state” in the generic sense of “nation state”. By the standards of a century or so ago, there probably isn’t a country on earth that doesn’t qualify as a social welfare state.

    Governmental spending in the U.S., for example, is about 35% of the gross domestic product. That means the average worker works from January though mid May to fund government initiatives, and the rest of the year to support himself and other private initiatives.

    This is historically rather unprecedented. The Wikipedia article on Government Spending has some nice graphs.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 1:26 am

  16. Contemporary social welfare states consume such a large portion of economic production that they crowd out what used to be a dominant role for private charity – hospitals, orphanages, benefit societies and so on. What few non-religious charitable organizations remain tend to be dependent on government grants.

    Are you suggesting that being subject to the vagaries of private donors is better than having stable, adequate and predictable funding from the state?

    Among other problems – inefficiency, political favoritism, knowledge/power imbalance, private resource deprivation and so on – that tends to be an excuse for people to neglect their voluntary social obligations and let the government do everything for them.

    These problems are not unique to social welfare states, so we can safely ignore them for the time being.

    Considering that the level of US official development assistance ranks around that of Greece and Portugal, I suppose it is a good thing that private citizens step up to take in the slack.

    US private assistance to developing countries is quite impressive, but maybe not the sign of inherent generosity it might appear to be at first glance when you consider that two-thirds consists of individual remittances made by immigrants living in the US sending money home to support their families. Any guesses how that number might be affected if the US enforced its immigration laws?

    It’s also true that private donations in some (but not all!) social welfare states are quite low, but rather than maligning those who live there as suffering from an excuse-seeking moral condition, why not consider the relatively high tax rates, tax laws that are not nearly as friendly to donations as in the US as well as the overall standard of living available to the elderly, children, unemployed, and even immigrants?

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 18, 2008 @ 1:43 am

  17. That means the average worker works from January though mid May to fund government initiatives

    Maybe if US government spending had any relation to tax revenue…

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 18, 2008 @ 1:45 am

  18. Good luck winning this one, Geoff.

    Comment by Ronan — October 18, 2008 @ 2:10 am

  19. Love it!

    Once, bored in HP Group, I asked what the difference was between the United Order and Communism.

    And I did it with a straight face.

    Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog — October 18, 2008 @ 2:45 am

  20. Geoff J;
    I did say varied between the not so great to appalling, so yes, I can distinguish Norway from North Korea. The British have been switching back and forth between more and less socialist oriented governments for the past 60 years or so, but I’m not sure their flirtation with socialism has done them all that much good. There are also have the French and Germans, who have recently backed away somewhat from more socialist-oriented governments.
    As for why I as a Mormons am not willing to vote for economically liberal politicians who begin to close the massive chasm between the rich and the middle class in America,
    First, I think Zion will be brought about by conversion to Christ, not taxation and transfer payments.
    Second, on general principles, I don’t trust any government run by fallen men to be entirely either just or benevolent. I especially don’t trust the altruism of economically liberal politicians. I suspect the majority of them of buying votes or political influence from one class or other. It’s a whole lot easier to be generous with the taxpayer’s money than with your own.
    Third, I’m not sure it’s even politically possible to equalize wealth by confiscation from the very wealthiest. Lobbyists and funding of political campaigns come into play at that level, for instance.

    Comment by Confutus — October 18, 2008 @ 3:48 am

  21. It is a common misunderstanding to confuse socialism and communistic government with the true order of the Lord’s government. Socialism is simply a counterfeit, and like so many of the plans Satan invented, it holds out a promise that is never fulfilled.

    Church leaders have counselled us against the evils of this plan for many years. Here is a good talk on the church web pages that compares and contrasts the evils of socialism with the churchs’s United Order. You can see the similarities, as well as the striking differences.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 7:34 am

  22. The biggest problem with confiscatory and forced redistribution of wealth is that it immediately introduces corruption. In all the historical implementations of socialism, it seems that instead of spreading the wealth to make poor and rich of equal standing, there is simply the creation of a new wealthy class — rich politicians and bureaucrats instead of wealthy merchants and businessmen. It doesn’t seem to work. The poor are still with us, in ever greater numbers. I suppose we could grab all the treasures of the earth, with the best of intentions, but greed and evil would thrive. The wealth would end up in the hands of conspiring men, and the poor would still be hungry.

    I cannot see how any political party short of advocates of the Lord’s Zion can achieve the aim of prospering all.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 7:51 am

  23. For those who would dismiss the outdated rhetoric of long-dead church leaders, I recommend Elder Oaks’ excellent discourse, the Lord’s Way. It is a good overview of the church welfare system as it has been, and as it is implemented today.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  24. But Geoff, hasn’t the American mix of free market capitalism and social welfare done a pretty good job of spreading prosperity? Have other models been demonstrably, unarguably more successful at creating a well-fed, healthy, and generally contented population? Can you point to a historic or current secular society after which we should model our government and economy to be closer to Zion? Who is doing it right?

    Comment by Tom — October 18, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  25. Geoff: Uhhh… Our scriptures insist that Zion (based precisely on these egalitarian/socialistic principles) will be established throughout the earth and among all people eventually. You just called that idea we received through revelation ludicrous.

    The essence of what I was saying wasn’t so much that the society HAD to be small. Socialism definitely works better on smaller scales. The real difference is that Zion is God’s people. A group of people with a common core belief, and common core values. In a society as diverse as America’s, Socialism just isn’t viable.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — October 18, 2008 @ 9:25 am

  26. Geoff J.,

    I cannot believe that you would write this blog post promoting Satan’s counterfeit. It must be the effect of a frenzied mind.

    We righteous people who reject Satan’s counterfeit know that people should be free to make use of that which is their own. We prosper according to our genius and conquer according to our strength, and everybody gets by in this life according to how they manage their affairs. This is the Lord’s will as expressed in the Book of Mormon, chapter 30.

    Comment by Cory Hoar — October 18, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  27. Manuel: Thank you for this post, and also for your answers.

    No problem. With BYU not being undefeated anymore I have time to post about less important things again… (grin)

    Mark D
    : By the standards of a century or so ago, there probably isn’t a country on earth that doesn’t qualify as a social welfare state.

    Ooh… Good point. Perhaps the world is approaching Zion after all.

    Floyd: Once, bored in HP Group, I asked what the difference was between the United Order and Communism.

    Check out the United Order wiki. It is described as being similar to “Christian communism” so you were clearly not far off in your comparison.

    Cobabe: Socialism is simply a counterfeit

    Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard the talking points Jim. And civil marriage is just a counterfeit of eternal marriage. But it is a useful counterfeit no? Besides, we are only talking about how far we should lean toward policies that better spread the wealth and shrink the gap between the rich and middle class in the US here.

    Tom: hasn’t the American mix of free market capitalism and social welfare done a pretty good job of spreading prosperity?

    I think you have a pretty good point. Americans have historically reacted when one side of this tug-of-war has overdone it and started to hurt the country. For instance, when the welfare state was getting out of hand the free market conservatives were broadly voted into office. Now that free market folks have been running things for a while and have overstayed their welcome it looks like Americans will wisely send them packing and let the “spread the wealth” crowd start running Washington for a while.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 10:12 am

  28. Cory Hoar (#26),

    Hehe. Nice Korihor reference. (Hey, did you notice your name is kinda similar to his?)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  29. Peter LLC (#17),

    On the contrary – suppose the government never directly taxed anyone, but rather funded its current operations by printing money. Either way it would still consume the same percentage of the GDP, and on average the same percentage of the average worker’s production (however obtained) would be directed to government activity.

    The difference would be that the taxes on the average worker would come in the form of (rather severe) inflation instead. There are similar consequences for deficit spending, corporate taxation, price controls, and so on.

    The government is not Santa Claus – everything it consumes in real resources must be paid out of real production. Borrowing from foreign countries can time shift the burden somewhat, but the long term load remains the same.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  30. Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard the talking points Jim.

    Geoff, I was pretty certain you would not care to hear anything contrary. But I suppose someone else might listen. He that hath ears…

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  31. Likewise Jim.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 10:50 am

  32. Peter LLC (#16),

    The way private charities of any size (private universities for example) stabilize their funding is by placing contributions in long term endowments and withdrawing and supplementing as necessary.

    The downsides I mentioned to state socialism exist to some degree in freer economies, but the point is they are far worse under socialism. That is why state socialism on a sufficiently large scale doesn’t work. Besides the fundamental liberty issues related to government control of everything, centralized command and control economies (including historical implementations of the United Order) dramatically underperform free market economies in terms of providing for the health and welfare of the average participant.

    If that were not the case, North Korea (for example) would be a worker’s paradise. In the places where state socialism works at all, it is always an appendage to a fundamentally freer economic order. As the dominant mode of social organization it always falls flat on its face. That is the great lesson of the twentieth century.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 11:02 am

  33. Personally,I think the main problem american’s have with socialism is that it means “Evil Russia and China” in our minds due to government rhetoric in the past.

    Are public schools totally evil? public libraries? Both are socialist. It’s more a question of how much socialism is good and how much is bad.

    Anyway, just to speak both ways, here’s a pretty good ensign article on the differences between to UO and govt. socialism: (long)

    The Lord’s economic system differs in significant ways from other methods of relieving poverty. These other methods include philanthropy—an outright gift to the poor by an agency or benefactor; government-sponsored programs—attempts to redistribute the wealth among citizens by taxing the more affluent to provide for the less affluent; and communalism—the pooling of private property and money to community ownership so that each member holds equal ownership in community goods. These are the distinctive features of the Lord’s “own way”:

    1. Entrance into the united order is wholly voluntary, as evidenced by a consecration of all one’s property to the Church.

    2. The united order is not a supplemental assistance program; it is the economic system in Zion. It provides a standard of living commensurate to one’s needs, wants, circumstances, and ability to expand one’s stewardship.

    3. The united order operates under the principle of private ownership and individual management. It is neither communal nor communistic. Each man owns his own property with an absolute title. The individual family is preserved. There is no common table.

    The Prophet rejected communalism. When he arrived in Kirtland in 1831, he found some of the Saints organized into a communal society called “the family.” He soon had them abandon that for the “more perfect law of the Lord.” (History of the Church, 1:146–47) When asked later, “Do Mormons believe in having all things in common?” he answered no. (History of the Church, 3:28) In Nauvoo, he recorded this entry in his journal: “I preached on the stand about one hour on the 2nd chapter of Acts, designing to show the folly of common stock [holding property in common]. In Nauvoo, everyone is steward over his own.” (History of the Church, 6:37–38)

    The united order, according to Elder Harold B. Lee, is “more capitalistic … than either Socialism or Communism, in that private ownership and individual responsibility will be maintained.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1941, p. 113)

    4. The united order should not be confused with various “united orders” that were practiced in Utah. President J. Reuben Clark observed, “In practice the brethren in Missouri got away, in their attempts to set up the United Order, from the principles set out in the revelations. This is also true of the organizations set up … in Utah after the Saints came to the valleys.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1942, p. 55)

    5. The united order is not socialism. The “equality” spoken of in the united order is based on (1) family size, (2) family circumstances, (3) family wants (these are to be “just”), and (4) family needs. (See D&C 51:31.) As President J. Reuben Clark observed, “Obviously, this is not a case of ‘dead level’ equality.” (The United Order and the Law of Consecration, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1945, p. 25)

    6. The united order will only be implemented by revelation to the prophet of the Church, not by legislation or some political program.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 18, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  34. Matt: Are public schools totally evil? public libraries? Both are socialist.

    Exactly. And the good news is that in a democracy like our we get to decide if it is appropriate for the ultra rich to be taxed more than the middle and lower classes.

    Which brings us to our current presidential election. I am baffled by the rally clips I see from McCain. He starts talking about how Obama wants to tax people making more than $250,000 per year and the crowd full of middle class people probably making closer to $50,000 per year on average gets all angry about it. It’s like “we must protect the rich in the US at all costs” is his main point right now. He then talks as if “spreading the wealth around” is some horrible evil.

    Now people can vote against their own self interests or even against the interests of the poor and middle class if they want — that is what democracy is all about. But with so many Mormons such dyed in the wool Republicans I think this economic policy issue is a major problem. Falling back on the “we can totally ignore all those scriptures about the virtues of spreading the wealth until Jesus returns” simply won’t do. And no amount of spin in a 70s Ensign article removes those basic principles from our scriptures.

    We may not have Zion yet but we can and should do our best to approximate it in the meantime.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  35. Mark,

    When I responded to you earlier you were talking about contemporary social welfare states which I’m sure we can agree look nothing like centralized, command and control economies you shifted to in #32. And if North Korea can be said to hew to an ideology beyond the personality cult around the current Leader, then it would be independence and self-reliance rather than socialism per se.

    I submit that there is will always be a demand for social welfare as long as the poor, sick, old, needy, etc. are among us. The question isn’t so much “should we provide it?” but “who will provide it?” It turns out that even among the bastions of the European social welfare state, private, voluntary efforts play an important role. Just as they do in the US.

    As a red-blooded American living in Europe, I chafe at the taxes, but I get kind of a warm, fuzzy feeling when I consider that it is impossible to go bankrupt receiving non-elective medical care, that families get a little extra to help raise children, that even farmers get pensions. There is a price, the “solidarity contribution,” but I still have my toys and have grudgingly come to view it all as a basically good thing.

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 18, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  36. It is pretty hard to find things that are “totally” evil. By degrees backwards, impoverished, wasteful, and ineffective is more like it.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

  37. By degrees backwards, impoverished, wasteful, and ineffective is more like it.

    This describes, inter alia, the unfortunate practice of the uninsured in the US seeking primary care in the nation’s emergency rooms.

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 18, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  38. Geoff I wouldn’t call that very well written ensign article spin, but I also wouldn’t say it has anything to do with the current elections. And I don’t see how taxing the uber rich has anything to do with a zion like society either.

    I think Mormons tend to be republican leaning due to social issues like abortion, ssm, etc which party members have used to paint major lines in the sand in the past, and which issues are rather egregiously over emphasized in elections.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 18, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  39. Peter,

    “Independence and self-reliance” – in the form of autarky perhaps, but personal independence and self-reliance is the antithesis of the North Korean program.

    North Korea is at the pretty extreme end of the spectrum between anarchy and totalitarianism. There is no question that in terms of degree of government control, European welfare states are closer to the totalitarian end of the spectrum than the U.S. is.

    Of course that is not all bad – there are benefits. But there is also a price to be paid, and the economic history of postwar Europe demonstrates the downsides quite well. Latin America even more so.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  40. I’m in the UK, and I don’t see anyone here going without medical care because they can’t afford it, or bankrupted because of it, or subjected to undignified means tests in order to obtain it.I pay less in national insurance contributions each month (which contribution covers NHS care, benefits contributions in case of illness/unemployment, and state pension) and my monthly contribution to such is less than I pay in tithing, so I don’t understand the unfounded fear of huge taxation that Americans seem to suffer from when this issue is raised. There is an element of choice too- if one opts out of the state pension, one pays a reduced rate. I am able to spread the wealth as I don’t need to squirrel away money to pay for ridiculous medical bills,or insurance, so can make extra donations to fast offering etc to help those in immediate need.
    just calling it as it affects me.

    Comment by Anne — October 18, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  41. This describes, inter alia, the unfortunate practice of the uninsured in the US seeking primary care in the nation’s emergency rooms.

    Being uninsured is not an excuse not to pay your bills. The main reason why emergency room care is so expensive is that too many people don’t. Hospitals currently charge the responsible, bill paying uninsured about three times what they charge insurance companies for the same procedures. That ought to be illegal. An unavoidable social cost should be born by everyone.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  42. Thanks for your comment Anne. It is an interesting insight for across the pond.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  43. “Hospitals currently charge the responsible, bill paying uninsured about three times what they charge insurance companies for the same procedures. That ought to be illegal. An unavoidable social cost should be born by everyone. ”

    I agree. This is why I believe socializing some aspect of medicine in America is reasonable.

    Comment by John C. — October 18, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  44. Mark D.

    The reason many people don’t pay their medical bills is because many of them are too poor to pay for medical insurance (let alone medical bills) and pay for food and shelter. So when push comes to shove food and shelter win.

    As others mentioned here, there is a lot of merit to (and potential increased efficiencies) in looking into a way to get some kind of health benefits for every American.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  45. Socialism is obviously exactly what we need. Church authorities who have spoken against it are apparently mistaken.

    Like this silly statement from J Reuben Clark:

    The Church never was, and under existing commandments never will be, a communal society, under the directions thus far given by the Lord. The United Order was not communal nor communistic.

    And this one, from Marion G.Romney:

    The united order is nonpolitical. It is therefore totally unlike the various forms of socialism, which are political, both in theory and in practice.

    Thanks, Geoff, for illuminating these points. It helps dispel my confusion,for sure.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  46. Arguments for more government involvement aside, the main issue is that support for the United Order (which is private, religious, and voluntary) does not imply support for state socialism (which is public, secular, and mandatory).

    It is no accident that socialist (and quasi socialist) countries are inevitably hostile to religion. State socialism and private religion are competing ideologies. State socialism is the religion of big government. And the thing about government is, you only get one of them, one overarching “religion” with mandatory tithes that tends to marginalize all others.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  47. Mark and Jim,

    Once entered into, are there consequences for failing to continue in the United Order fellowship? Are those consequences ever discussed as a means of keeping people in the fellowship?

    Jim,

    Certainly, I believe both of those men were prophets and both lived in periods when the plague of communism in Russia was an ever-present threat, one that may have plagued even their rhetoric. If you agree with them that the United Order is neither communal nor communistic, then what is it?

    Mark,
    Spain, if I recollect correctly, is a socialist state with a strong religious bent. So is, as another example, Russia at present. Further, since there ain’t no purely capitalist societies out there, I would guess that any state that is friendly to religious freedom is a socialist state wherein private religion is encouraged (or, at least, not punished). To take another example, charitable donations given to churches are considered tax-deductible in the US (I think); doesn’t that indicate that the US (socialist) government wants some of your money to go to churches?

    Comment by John C. — October 18, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  48. Jim Cobabe — You really will need to specify exactly what you are talking about when you rail against socialism before I can respond. As has been mentioned already, public schools and public libraries are accepted forms of socialism in America. Are you against those things? Do you think J Reuben Clark was opposed to those things?

    Mark — America is a democracy so if Americans vote to make health care or college tuition public benefits then that is what we will get. We are in no danger of official state socialism if that is what you are hinting at. Nor are we in danger of losing our right to worship as we please. As soon as the people stop liking the way a government has handled thing (like this year for instance) we vote for change.

    Again, my point is that Mormons have no business griping about the general idea of spreading the wealth. Our scriptures just don’t allow it.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

  49. The main distinction that was made in the past when men addressed the issue is that socialism is a coercive political system, while the united order is intended to be voluntary, and works by individual cooperation, allowing agency to be preserved.

    Am I understanding this right?

    Plans that require mandatory taxation to fund “charity” social programs don’t seem to serve quite the same purpose, no matter what their intent.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  50. J. Ruben Clark had his own opinions about social issues — as do you and me. I don’t presume to say what he thought about funding for public interests, like libraries and road building and such. I assume he was in favor of projects that serve public interest.

    My concern centers on social programs that are subject to such inevitable corruption. Yet another opportunity for control of the treasure by greedy men.

    Nothing unique about coveting the riches that don’t belong to you. It has been a problem since the beginning of time. Such problems are inherent in political solutions to things like health care, poverty, and the like. Socialism as implemented through earthly governments has never solved those problems effectively, though the intent is usually stated as a good one.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  51. Jim,

    You have to pay your taxes or you could go to jail. Your taxes pay for, among other things, public schools (thus the “public” part). This is a form of socialism. Public schools are certainly examples of being compelled by law to spread the wealth in America. Public schools could also easily be labeled “charity social programs”. So I’ll ask you again: Are you against public schools or are you for public schools?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

  52. Geoff,

    Public schools are an abysmal failure and a controversial solution. Lots of people do without them. I am not interested much one way or another, being too old and lazy to care about education any more, but for the sake of discussion, are you seriously suggesting that this is a good example of socialist government serving the needs of society?

    Maybe you are right, but I think the socialist approach for education has had plenty of chances, and earned an “F”. If you want my vote for socialism, you’d better come up with a better example.

    I don’t disagree with forced mandatory taxation. I think there is no way to fund legitimate government functions without it. I just think a lot of the money and government projects could do a lot better, if they operated privately, on a voluntary basis.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  53. Great, so you are against our government funding public schools. I suppose you like the idea of every parent paying for schools out of their own pocket. That way rich kids can get a great education (and thus grow up to be rich) and poor and middle class kids may get no education at all (and thus grow increasingly poor over time). Of course that is directly contrary to all those scriptures I quoted in the post but you are free to disregard scriptures all you want in this life.

    How about libraries, do you think the public should stop funding those too? Why stop there? How about social security? Should the public pull out of the caring for the elderly business entirely? How far would you like to see this go? What constitutes a “legitimate government function” on your view?

    (Thankfully we are a democracy so your extreme views get overridden in public elections, but I am always interested in seeing just how far out there some extremists are willing to go…)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

  54. John C.,

    In Spain, a nominally socialist party currently controls Parliament, but I would hardly call Spain a “socialist state”. Social democratic parties, of socialist heritage or otherwise, are typically balanced by conservative center-right parties, and are hence rather more moderate in practice than the radical (Marxist) socialists. That is a good thing.

    In terms of hostility to religion, consider China, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. One party, totalitarian socialist states all.

    In addition religion tends to be much more compatible with radical socialism in areas where there is one overwhelmingly dominant religion. Most of the middle east for example. But such states are hardly friendly to minority sects. Any religion is either co-opted by a one party state, or marginalized by it.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  55. For the record, our hospitals in tx charge less to the uninsured than to the insurance companies. At least for having a baby. Of course if insurance pays, I pay less in the end, but the hospital did charge more for with insurance

    Comment by Matt W. — October 18, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

  56. I think government funding of education is a good thing for practical reasons, but I don’t think the government is the proper party to operate schools or universities. The government should fund students, not schools.

    That mitigates the third party capture that you see in Massachusetts, among other places, where educational elites want to impose their values on students independent of parental and democratic input. I call it the “divine right of teachers”.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

  57. Mark (#54),

    If that is how you are defining a socialist state then your arguments (about religion and socialism being at odds) are largely moot in this discussion among mostly Americans. The kinds of socialism we might see would not even hold a candle to the variety of socialism in Spain.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  58. Geoff J., what should happen to me if I don’t want to spread my wealth?

    Comment by mondo cool — October 18, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

  59. Mondo,

    Well according to the scriptures you lose blessings at the very least.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  60. Geoff. I assume you are speaking in relation to Zion, no?
    Under a manmade government. I face the very real possibility of losing my blessing of liberty and having my wealth (plus my ability to create more wealth) taken away, no?
    All manmade governments are “force” – the antithesis of Zion. Zion is a Celestial law governed by the economic principle of stewardship and freedom of choice. Capitalism is maybe high-end telestial law, IMO. Socialism is definitely low-end telestial law, IMO.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 18, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

  61. Mondo,

    I’m speaking regarding our scriptures. We are commanded to spread our wealth and care for the poor and needy in scriptures. (See the post: “it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin”)

    Now it is true that you can ignore that commandment personally and never give to the poor. You are also free to vote to make sure that our government ignores that commandment in regard to its taxing and spending policies.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  62. Everybody here is a socialist, right up to the point where you think somebody else is benefiting from your money — never mind how much you might be benefiting from someone else’s. You hop on the freeway, you turn on the faucet, you plug your computer into an outlet, you call 911 when your house catches fire or when your neighbors party too loudly, you swim or play tennis at the city rec center, you put your trash can on the curb, you expect the bridge you drive over not to fall out from under you, you enjoy drinking unadulterated milk, you don’t expect to find bugs in your morning cereal, you immunize your children with vaccines funded by public research, you use electronics developed from publicly-funded space research, you paint your rooms with unleaded paint so your kids aren’t poisoned, and when you buy a bottle of dishwashing liquid you count on it holding the number of ounces the label says it does. All that and a thousand more benefits paid from the public treasury are fine and dandy.

    But let me ask for affordable public transit or the chance to have my blood pressure checked when no doctor will accept an uninsured patient (even one with cash in hand), and you start screaming about Satan and counterfeits and picking your pocket.

    Nice post, Geoff. And, especially, nice job of keeping your cool despite the barrage of outraged protest.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 18, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

  63. Thanks Ardis. And amen to your comment!

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  64. I like the quote from Geo. Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

    D&C 134
    1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
    2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

    Socialism does not secure to me in an inviolate way the right and control of property. Capitalism is getting worse and worse in its present U.S. practice. Socialism presumes that Government “knows better” what to do with property than I do. It does not allow me free exercise of conscience on how I choose to spread my wealth. Present day U.S. tax law questions that also. Somewhere in the IRC is a provision that if an individual gives away more than a certain percent of his income, he is to be subject to investigation by auditors. etc, etc.

    Spreading my wealth should be by my free exercise of conscience….not by confiscatory government fiat.

    The assumption in the title of this post “…The Wealth” is that wealth is not a stewardship of any one individual. The wealth, versus My wealth, or Our wealth. It’s like the wealth is everybody’s wealth. For me, socialism is collective covetousness.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 18, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  65. Geoff,

    I find it amusing and somewhat perplexing to be referred to as “extremist” by an apparently open advocate of unrestrained government socialism.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  66. Mondo: Socialism does not secure to me in an inviolate way the right and control of property.

    This is simply not true. As Ardis pointed out, we already have all kinds of socialism going on in America yet we citizens can own and control our property here.

    Spreading my wealth should be by my free exercise of conscience….not by confiscatory government fiat.

    You are free to spread your personal wealth all you want. And God wants us all to do so liberally. In our democratic society you are also free to vote for policies that better help the poor and all of our fellow citizens — even if such policies ask for a little more from our rich fellow citizens. These two approaches seem like they go hand in hand to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

  67. Jim,

    Who around here advocates “unrestrained government socialism”? Does that person think you’re an extremist too? Maybe we are all on to something (especially in light of your opposition to public schools)…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

  68. You are free to spread your personal wealth all you want. And God wants us all to do so liberally. In our democratic society you are also free to vote for policies that better help the poor and all of our fellow citizens — even if such policies ask for a little more from our rich fellow citizens. These two approaches seem like they go hand in hand to me.

    Sir, that is incorrect. The two approaches are diametrical opposites.

    If you force me to give of my time and money to help the poor, I am deprived of the blessings that I would have received from having chosen to do so myself. I am also deprived of the freedom to choose how I would have done so, but instead have to trust that you know best.

    All laws criminalize something, and punish the perpetrators of those acts using force. But socialist policies aren’t about punishing people for hurting others. Socialism makes “not being nice enough” a criminal act. It is literally an example of the devil’s plan put into practice, to force us to do the right thing.

    The Law of Consecration is more like the Law of Chastity — it is a natural law that sharing according to God’s plan makes everyone happier, including the person who does it. The penalties for breaking the Law of Consecration are also natural — unhappiness in this life, and separation from God in the next. To the degree that we’re forced to abide by it, we’re also deprived of its blessings.

    The problems that Socialism tries to address are real. But I don’t think it’s right to address the problems that way. I also think that it’s disingenious to take money away from the rich, when we’re the ones who gave it to them in the first place. Bill Gates and Sam Walton used questionable means to get ahead, and (especially in Gates’ case) the courts failed to stop them. But we also failed to stop buying from them.

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  69. Then, Jared, how about getting with the Lord’s program and abiding by the Law of Consecration by choice, and thereby becoming eligible for the blessings? It’s a real hoot to read all these comments saying, in effect, that selfishness, greed, and covetousness are the highest laws of heaven because asking anything else is a violation of agency.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 18, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

  70. Jared Spurbeck,

    I’m afraid your logic doesn’t hold up.

    It is true that if your taxes are higher you may have less discretionary money to give to the poor. (I say “may” because if you are middle class or below you might benefit and actually have more discretionary money if programs I have heard proposed this election season worked right).

    But let’s assume you make more than $250,000 per year and end up with higher taxes under the next president. If you voted for that president with the intent of helping the poor then the Lord knows your heart and will bless you for that. Plus you can still give of your discretionary funds to the poor so you won’t be deprived of any blessings there. Plus, as the story of the widow’s mite clearly illustrates, it is the intent that God looks at so if you give very generously of your own funds you will not be deprived of any blessings no matter how small that voluntary offering is. So there is zero chance of you losing blessings.

    On the other hand, if you are looking at this from a consequentialist point of view you want the poor to be taken care of in the most effective way possible, by voting for policies that help the poor and middle class you will achieve you desired end of better helping the poor.

    So voila! You can vote to help the poor and run zero risk of losing blessings. There is no downside and there is certainly no tension between your two goals of helping the poor while retaining the blessings of giving generously.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

  71. Ardis,

    Surely there is some practical medium between one extreme and another.

    My only real objection was the way the arguments were presented. Of course the scriptures advocate charity — but socialism is not the only way to support the poor, and many church leaders have counseled against the appeals of socialism, though it seems like an effective method for sharing wealth. Maybe I am an extremist for believing that church leaders have counseled us to adopt a better solution. If so, I accept that categorization — and I am not alone.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 18, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

  72. Then, Jared, how about getting with the Lord’s program and abiding by the Law of Consecration by choice, and thereby becoming eligible for the blessings?

    That is exactly what I advocate. Selfishness is wrong.

    But let’s assume you make more than $250,000 per year and end up with higher taxes under the next president. If you voted for that president with the intent of helping the poor then the Lord knows your heart and will bless you for that.

    I do not presume to speak about the election. But I do not believe that the Lord will bless you for using force to “consecrate” someone else’s money.

    Many of the “rich” have done things that are wrong and illegal to make that money (I keep thinking of Bill Gates — or, worse, defense contractors). They should be punished. The money should be returned. But it’s also our fault for giving it to them.

    It’s not right to take back the money we gave them when we already got something in return. We should stop giving it to them to begin with. And before we raid Warren Buffet’s portfolio, we should re-examine our own needs and wants, and give what we can to help out the poor.

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

  73. Jared Spurbeck: But I do not believe that the Lord will bless you for using force to “consecrate” someone else’s money.

    This may very well be true. But based on the consequentialist argument the end (having the poor cared for better) is still something the Lord clearly desires so he certainly wouldn’t look down on such a vote. And as I mentioned, there is zero risk of you losing blessings for personal consecration either so it is a no-lose proposition.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  74. #62 – well put, Ardis. As a retired military officer I am benefiting from socialized medicine. For $460 per year (not per month), my wife and I qualify for full coverage – no deductible – and free prescriptions from the local base pharmacy ($5 per month if we go to our neighborhood supermarket). We use civilian doctors and facilities and are quite happy with the care we receive. My mother-in-law’s life has been significantly extended through 20 major surgeries, all covered under Medicare. My brother is dying of lung cancer, but hasn’t paid a penny for the quality care he’s received through the VA system under a recent innovation that allowed him to apply his employer’s Blue Cross premiums to VA care until he couldn’t work, and now provides 100% coverage for care provided mostly in his local civilian facilities.

    Socialized medicine? For many of us, that train has already left the station.

    Comment by J. Michael — October 18, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

  75. Geoff J: This may very well be true. But based on the consequentialist argument the end (having the poor cared for better) is still something the Lord clearly desires so he certainly wouldn’t look down on such a vote. And as I mentioned, there is zero risk of you losing blessings for personal consecration either so it is a no-lose proposition.

    That is incorrect, sir. “The end justifies the means” is not a doctrinally tenable position. It is, in fact, the position which Satan took when he proposed that exact plan.

    And while I may not be robbing you of the opportunity to do all within your power to follow God’s plan, I may be reducing you to saying with the poor man that “I give not, because I have not.” You won’t be deprived of the blessings of salvation, but you will be deprived of the specific blessings you could have had from being able to touch others’ lives.

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  76. You are in an enviable position J. Michael.

    I know a small business owner who gets to pay $500 per month to keep my family insured against catastrophic medical disasters. And that is just for the right to pay only the first $5000 per year in medical expenses. So he normally pays more than $10,000 per year in medical bills as a result. I have no idea why any “Joe the Plumber” small business owner would not be rushing to vote for the candidates that are pushing for a more socialized medical system.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 7:35 pm

  77. Er … if I were to force you to give up your money, I mean, I may be reducing you to saying that. >.>

    Let me be frank: I agree with all of socialism’s ends. I just don’t think that the ends justify the means. Insofar as we disagree on that point, we have reached an impasse.

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

  78. Jared: “The end justifies the means” is not a doctrinally tenable position. It is, in fact, the position which Satan took when he proposed that exact plan.

    You are incorrect sir. See the story of Nephi and Laban (you know — when God tells Nephi to behead the helpless drunk guy passed out in front of him…). God uses “the end justifies the means” approaches all throughout scripture.

    may be reducing you to saying with the poor man that “I give not, because I have not.”

    How on earth would that happen? If you made $250,000 a year and had a small increase of your taxes you would not suddenly become poor. The is a ludicrous argument.

    but you will be deprived of the specific blessings you could have had from being able to touch others’ lives.

    This statement is completely contra-scriptural. By your logic the widow who gave her mite is deprived of all kinds of blessings because she only had a mite to give rather than a bag of gold.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  79. Regarding #77 — I can accept that. With the caveat that I am defining socialism just like Ardis defines it in #62 so I think it is mostly an incoherent or at least uniformed argument for Americans to claim they don’t believe in socialism since we have plenty of socialistic policies that are basically undisputed by even the most ardent free market folks in the US.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

  80. See the story of Nephi and Laban (you know — when God tell Nephi to behead the helpless drunk guy passed out in front of him…). God uses “the end justifies the means” approaches all throughout scripture.

    I think I agree with you there. That was definitely a place where God was forced to instruct someone to choose the lesser of two evils. I can see the logic behind choosing to rob someone (an evil act) versus letting people starve (also evil).

    I still think that socialism is disingenious, though, because the money we’re talking about appropriating is money we gave to them in the first place. If we think that rich people have too much money, if we think Walmart’s being unfair to suppliers, if we know that large corporations are using child labor and slaves, shouldn’t we stop buying from them? A lot of our problems with greedy rich people would go away, if we as individuals took responsibility for what we did with our money.

    There’s also the problem of unintended consequences. A socialist bureaucracy may ostensibly exist for the purpose of helping other people, but it’s still a government bureaucracy that is not directly accountable to the people. Even if we all took an active interest in government, and watched out for abuse and corruption, it’d still be a lot less responsive than an organization that had to ask people instead of congresspeople for money.

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  81. Geoff J: By your logic the widow who gave her mite is deprived of all kinds of blessings because she only had a mite to give rather than a bag of gold.

    She would have been deprived of those blessings if I’d taken her mite, instead of letting her donate it. ^.^

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

  82. Jared: we’re talking about appropriating is money we gave to them in the first place

    You lost me with this comment. All we’re really talking about in America this election season is a graduated tax code — something that has already been in place for a long time in the US. And from there the plans are to do things like help more people afford health care.

    if I’d taken her mite, instead of letting her donate it. ^.^

    I know you are kidding with this but I will point out that in a more socialist society she wouldn’t have been destitute to begin with so she would have had plenty to charitably donate…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

  83. Geoff J: You lost me with this comment. All we’re really talking about in America this election season is a graduated tax code — something that has already been in place for a long time in the US. And from there the plans are to do things like help more people afford health care.

    You’re talking about the election. I’m talking about your original post, which said “You’re all in favor of helping the poor, so you shouldn’t be against socialism.” Although it used a lot more words than that. ^.^

    And I still agree with those goals. No one should be left un-cared for. And people with lots of disposable income should recognize that there are others who don’t have enough. But they have that disposable income because we gave it to them, because we just had to have that iPod and all those goods at the “Everyday Low Prices.” Then after we buy from them, we vote to take money away from them and give it away to the poor … using a complex bureaucracy that’s not accountable directly to the people.

    Wouldn’t it be a better if we didn’t buy from them in the first place? How about looking into Fair Trade, Ethical Consumerism, or any of a number of charities? How about giving up luxuries, in order to buy what we need from people who don’t have to slave in order to make it? Let’s start talking about what we can do, before we talk about storming Wall Street with pitchforks. Let’s starve them to death, instead of feeding them with one hand and taking their wallet with the other. Because that’s what any socialist policy amounts to … including the ones you just mentioned.

    I actually wrote an article about this, and it has a few useful suggestions if you’d like to know more about what you can do to help! You can read it here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1014520/the_one_campaign_how_you_can_help_make.html

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 8:32 pm

  84. Geoff J: I know you are kidding with this but I will point out that in a more socialist society she wouldn’t have been destitute to begin with so she would have had plenty to charitably donate…

    So what you’re saying, then, is that you would have given her my money so that she could donate it. Well, that makes perfect sense. ^.^

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  85. Geoff:
    Well, back to the Wiki definition of socialism you used: “an economic theory of social organization advocating social or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society.”

    For me the most important word is “egalitarian” which I understand to mean “asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life.”

    So, for socialists the belief in the equality of all people is the summum bonum. When Satan said: “…I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it…,” was he not making an egalitarian proposal for salvation?

    The Son’s focus was “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” For Him, the highest good was doing the Father’s will; i.e., what is good and what is evil.

    Having no poor among the citizens of Enoch’s Zion was a result of them having one heart and one mind and dwelling in righteousness. Please explain to me how one group of people (even a majority) can bring another group into a state of “one heart and one mind” by using the power of the ballot and the resulting enforcement power of the state to “have no poor among them.”

    If I want to take your paycheck because you really don’t work as hard as someone else who gets paid less, or if I think you really don’t need that car, or watch, or 3rd computer, am I not being covetous?

    Someone please explain to me how a bunch of people together wanting and thinking the same thing is not collective covetousness? Socialism is collective selfishness, greed, and covetousness.

    “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

    After all, didn’t the first brother have an egalitarian view of inheritance? Obviously, the deceased father was not being fair by giving one brother more than the other. Wouldn’t it have been better if the father had spread the wealth around?

    Comment by mondo cool — October 18, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  86. And, didn’t Laban already steal Nephi’s property and threaten to beat them & have them arrested – falsely accusing them of being robbers? I’m fairly confident that Laban was worthy of death under the law of the land at that time – a law given by the same one who told Nephi to slay him.

    I don’t think the means/end argument works in this illustration.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 18, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

  87. God is not asking us to spread the wealth like socialists do. They take it by force of law. Under socialistic thought, the “rich” that Robin Hood took from could and should consider themselves as charitible givers, helping the poor and all. In this election, and way too many in the past, we haven’t just “asked” the rich to give a little more. We’ve demanded it by force of law.

    God, on the other hand, wants us to freely give out of genuine love and concern for our fellow beings.

    Just not the same.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 18, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  88. mondo cool @86: And, didn’t Laban already steal Nephi’s property and threaten to beat them & have them arrested – falsely accusing them of being robbers? I’m fairly confident that Laban was worthy of death under the law of the land at that time – a law given by the same one who told Nephi to slay him.

    In all fairness to Geoff, I’m not sure that attempted murder is worthy of the death penalty.

    mondo cool @87: In this election, and way too many in the past, we haven’t just “asked” the rich to give a little more. We’ve demanded it by force of law.

    At the same time, though, the people on the “other” side keep voting for candidates who say that they support hot-button social issues (abortion, gay marriage) to get elected, and then use the power of government to rob from the poor and give to the rich. ^.^

    I still think that socialism is bad, but corporate socialism is really low.

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 18, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

  89. Jared,

    I agree with your point that we should dial back our consumerism. And I emphatically agree with your comment about our policies and politicians that have allowed the rich to rob the majority this decade.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

  90. “use the power of government to rob from the poor and give to the rich”

    That is one of the most ridiculously unfounded generalizations I have ever heard. Evidence please.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

  91. Jim #49 – You said “that socialism is a coercive political system, while the united order is intended to be voluntary, and works by individual cooperation, allowing agency to be preserved.”

    I think this has allready been addressed, regarding the fact that most (if not all) political systems are by their very nature coercive. Our government, at every point from 1776 forward has been coercive at least to some degree.

    Another anecode from my family tree. My great-great grandfather, who joined the church in Canada, marched in the Mormon Battalion, etc, started many towns, including the Muddy Mission in Nevada. At one point he was in Sunrise Az, which was a United Order town. This particular community was run essentially as a commune. All meals were prepared in common and eaten at a large table together. As this was to be a Zion Society, One of the commandments was that there was to be no complaining or grumbling. The penalty of such was some sort of corporal punishment or denial of food. As the meals were cooked in large batches they would be somewhat inconsistent in quality. at one particular meal, my great-great grandfather was presented with a particularly unedidble biscuit, and commented that the biscuits were burned again, and then raw in the middle. Lest he risk punishment, he quickly added “just the way I like them”.

    I think the story might be apocryphal, but it illustrates that even the United Order wasn’t completely voluntary (yes yes I know it will be said that this is the reason we abandoned the system).

    I agree with Geoff that our doctrine prevents us from denying a “redistribution of wealth”. You may deny that the United States Government is the appropriate agent to administer this, but you can’t deny that this is the principle we covenant to as members of the church. Thus, if you vote for the one who has promised to cut taxes for the wealthy, and you are wealthy, you should take that savings and give it to the poor and needy. The presiding bishopric, church educational plan or humanitarian fund would all be worthwhile donations.

    Comment by jay s — October 18, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

  92. Mondo: When Satan said: “…I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it…,” was he not making an egalitarian proposal for salvation?

    Did you even read the post? There are very specific scriptures there that disagree with your arguments here. You are free to disregard the scriptures if you want but don’t expect me to ignore it when you try to spin them away like this.

    If I want to take your paycheck because you really don’t work as hard as someone else who gets paid less, or if I think you really don’t need that car, or watch, or 3rd computer, am I not being covetous?

    Oh I love this. Now you’re equating the size of paychecks to the amount of effort put in. I heard just today that as recently as 30 years ago that CEOs of large corporations made something like 25 times the average salary of their employees. Today CEOs of those large corporations reportedly are making 500 times the salary of their average employee. Do you think those CEOs work 25 times harder than their employees? Do they work 500 times harder? Your arguments connected with working harder are just silly.

    Now if you think it is wrong for Americans to ask those CEOs to pay higher taxes then by all means vote to protect them from tax increases. Lap up the lines the politicians feed you that raising the taxes of those people is evil “sharing of the wealth” that is somehow deeply unfair and inspired by Satan himself if you choose.

    But there is no question that our scriptures indicate that the idea of sharing the wealth itself is a highly desirable to God.

    Last, Zion of the scriptures is the most egalitarian of all societies. If you wish to vote against any semblance of Zion (even if it is only a counterfeit of the real thing) that is your right. Thankfully, if the majority of Americans vote for a society that more closely resembles Zion in one way at least we are all bound as citizens to follow the will of the people on such matters.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

  93. And I agree w/ #88 & #89.

    Good night, all.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 18, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

  94. All political government is coercive by definition. If it weren’t coercive it wouldn’t be government. The primary function of government is to hold a monopoly on the use of force.

    Re: “robbing the poor”. The poor do not pay federal taxes, so it is pretty hard to rob them that way. I will concede that some government programs – agricultural subsidies for example – “rob” the middle class in a way that benefits primarily the wealthy. However, support for such corporate welfare is – surprise – stronger on the left side of the aisle.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  95. Mark,

    This is a bit off topic for this thread but since you brought it up…

    The charge that is most defensible is not really that the government robbed the poor and middle class. Rather the idea is that the government of the current decade, at the behest of uber-rich bankers and whatnot, deregulated to such a degree that the biggest ponzi scheme of all time was foisted upon the middle class by the fat cats on Wall Street. So while the uber-rich at the banks and oil companies etc made out like bandits with this deregulated “shadow market” thing on Wall Street, when this great ponzi scheme collapsed the poor and middle class were left holding the bag. What our government is guilty of is deregulating at the behest of banking lobbyists (senator Phil Gramm as the lead dog on that one) and then standing by as America got fleeced. So while the government didn’t rob the poor — they let the robbers in the house and didn’t protect us from them.

    Of course the massive problem with our current government is that it is already socialistic for large uber-rich corporations in that we socialized their risk. The problem is that we privatized their profits so it is the worst of all systems for the majority of us.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 10:36 pm

  96. I agree that there are very real issues about the nature and extent of government financial regulation. What I object to is the suggestion that those on the right deregulated for the purpose of grinding upon the faces of the poor.

    Whatever the merits of the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, it passed the House on a roll call vote of 377 to 4(!). The idea that the bill was designed to allow the rich to exploit the poor is preposterous.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

  97. Your point is well taken Mark. The watchmen in our government let the wolves in by deregulating credit default swaps with that one (plus opening the door for the Enron fiasco) but it wasn’t on purpose and neither party prevented it.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2008 @ 11:36 pm

  98. Isn’t the current funding of the missionary program a model of the type of socialism you’re proposing? As I understand it, don’t all missionaries pay the same amount regardless of which mission he or she is sent? Thus, a missionary in Mexico is paying more than he or she otherwise would and that extra money is used to subsidize a missionary in an expensive mission like Japan or Western Europe or the Eastern US. This communal approach seems to work pretty well. Brother Clark must be spinning in his grave.

    Comment by rbc — October 19, 2008 @ 4:43 am

  99. rbc @98: Isn’t the current funding of the missionary program a model of the type of socialism you’re proposing?

    Noes. Church welfare programs are voluntary.

    jay s @91: At one point he was in Sunrise Az, which was a United Order town.

    I was under the impression that the United Order was abandoned as an idea while Joseph Smith was still alive, and that it was non-coercive in nature. When you say that it was a “United Order” town, do you mean that in the same sense that certain places in Utah today are polygamist societies — i.e. without official sanction?

    geoff j @89: I agree with your point that we should dial back our consumerism. And I emphatically agree with your comment about our policies and politicians that have allowed the rich to rob the majority this decade.

    *bow*

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 19, 2008 @ 5:06 am

  100. My goodness, Jared, you aren’t familiar with the United Order experiment under Brigham Young? See any standard history of the Church for general background, or see Leonard J. Arrington, Feramorz Y. Vox and Dean L. May, Building the City of God: Community & Cooperation among the Mormons, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976, for specifics.

    Familiarity with the United Order experiment should be a prerequisite for commenting in any discussion of Mormonism and economics.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 19, 2008 @ 5:34 am

  101. Jared,

    The spread the wealth program among Mormon missionaries isn’t really voluntary in the way you imply. If you wish to be a missionary you are compelled to participate in the missionary “spread the wealth” program where families with missionaries in cheap places subsidize families with missionaries in expensive places. So rbc is right.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  102. 41:

    The main reason why emergency room care is so expensive is that too many people don’t. Hospitals currently charge the responsible, bill paying uninsured about three times what they charge insurance companies for the same procedures. That ought to be illegal. An unavoidable social cost should be born by everyone.

    55:

    For the record, our hospitals in tx charge less to the uninsured than to the insurance companies. At least for having a baby. Of course if insurance pays, I pay less in the end, but the hospital did charge more for with insurance

    Exactly. What we have in the US is a form of de facto socialized medicine–one that is at turns unfair and grossly inefficient.

    Against this backdrop, what speaks against a rationalized system in which all contribute and get what they need in return?

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 19, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  103. Peter LLC @102:

    Against this backdrop, what speaks against a rationalized system in which all contribute and get what they need in return?

    You make it sound like it’d be voluntary, like in Church welfare. When the government’s doing it, it isn’t voluntary anymore. ^.^;

    How efficient is Church welfare compared to any government program? Or volunteer labor and offerings in general, compared to government bureaucracy? Shouldn’t we be trying to come up with ways we can help — and then doing them — instead of rationalizing the use of force to make others help?

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 19, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  104. Jared,

    You are missing Peter LLC’s point. He is saying that we are all paying for the current inefficient socialized medicine program in the US already through our taxes. The idea is that openly providing socialized health care would be less expensive and more efficient than the de facto socialized medical system we are currently saddled with.

    Also, it is worth noting that ongoing citizenship in the US is voluntary — just like ongoing membership in the church is voluntary. In a democracy like ours all citizens are obligated to follow the laws the majority agree to, including tax laws, if they wish to enjoy the full benefits of membership. The very same principle is true of the church with tithing (at least) being obligatory for people who wish to enjoy the full benefits of membership. So the comparison between to two has merit.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  105. Geoff J @104:

    You are missing Peter LLC’s point. He is saying that we are all paying for the current inefficient socialized medicine program in the US already through our taxes. The idea is that openly providing socialized health care would be less expensive and more efficient than the de facto socialized medical system we are currently saddled with.

    I’m not going to argue that!

    Also, it is worth noting that ongoing citizenship in the US is voluntary — just like ongoing membership in the church is voluntary.

    You haven’t read Arudou Debito’s blog, where he talked about how crazy hard it is to renounce one’s US citizenship and stop paying taxes to the federal government. ^.^

    Seriously, though, the church doesn’t send the police after us to get us to pay our tithing. That’s where things differ — living in the country may be optional, but obeying the laws is mandatory! You’re talking about using force, here, and that’s the biggest problem I have with it.

    Aside from that, though, there are a lot of practical considerations. Like one I just thought of: If the rich are making their money off of child slave labor in Africa, sweatshop conditions in China, environmental exploitation and all-around not-niceness, then isn’t it blood money you’re talking about taking, here? Worse, you’re making a self-perpetuating government bureaucracy that lives off of human blood, taking the ill-gotten gains of the rich and giving them to American citizens.

    Who’s standing up for the rights of the exploited workers, animals and whole ecosystems? It’s not going to be the bureaucrats whose jobs depend on it! And it’s sure as heck not going to be the congressmen, whose re-election depends on promising a bigger share of the fat cats’ pie to Americans, and helping us forget the human costs that are involved.

    How can we possibly justify that? Why aren’t we stopping the problem at its source, instead of just making things worse?

    Comment by Jared Spurbeck — October 19, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  106. “citizenship in the US is voluntary — just like ongoing membership in the church is voluntary”

    That does not follow. Non-citizens are required to follow the laws of the jurisdiction where they reside. Leaving the Church does not require you to move to a new country and join another church with similar rules.

    “I just don’t believe in government anymore, so I have decided to go inactive.” I don’t think so.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2008 @ 11:58 am

  107. Jared,

    The problems connected with our world economy in general are interesting but they are way off topic in this thread. So back to the topic at hand — the scriptures are clear about God’s desire for people to spread the wealth on earth. You, like all Americans, are free to vote however you wish in the upcoming election. If you don’t like the “For of him unto whom much is given much is required” approach to taxation and social policies then by all means vote against them.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

  108. Mark,

    What doesn’t follow? You quoted two true but independent statements that I made. There was no “therefore” in that quote.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

  109. There are two ways to accomplish the same objective here – one coercive and one non-coercive. People in favor of the coercive approach inevitability cite the advantages of the comphrensive coverage of such requirements.

    Suppose we take a few examples. We have a commandment to abstain from alcohol and tobacco. Does that mean we should reinstate the Prohibition?

    What about the commandment not to commit adultery? Should we enact and enforce anti-adultery and fornication laws? Should pornography be made illegal? What about gambling? Should all shops be required to close on the Sabbath?

    Surely such a society would more closely resemble Zion than the one we have now.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

  110. I should have quoted further:

    “Also, it is worth noting that ongoing citizenship in the US is voluntary — just like ongoing membership in the church is voluntary. In a democracy like ours all citizens are obligated to follow the laws the majority agree to, including tax laws, if they wish to enjoy the full benefits of membership.”

    The fallacy is that you are implying that non-citizens are not obligated to follow the laws where they reside. In addition you imply that non-compliance is simply a matter of losing “benefits” – where the reality is non-compliance will result in severe civil and criminal penalties ranging from seizure of property to prison terms.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2008 @ 12:26 pm

  111. I should not have responded to that tangent to begin with Mark — it is both off topic and totally boring so forgive me for even going in that direction.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  112. Mark: There are two ways to accomplish the same objective here – one coercive and one non-coercive.

    This is true with economic issues as well as social/moral issues like abortion. Both the right and left have their preferences on what they believe should be open to choice and what should be coerced by law. That is partially why I said in comment #8 “It seems to me that based on the scriptures Mormons should be conservatives on social/moral issues and liberals on economic issues.”

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  113. There is a big difference between laws that prohibit activities and laws that mandate activities. The former are usually an occasional irritation where the latter are necessarily an omnipresent burden. Death and taxes are the certainties of life, not death and prohibition.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

  114. Well I agree that there is a difference Mark, but I’m not convinced it is a big difference.

    Plus it is largely a matter of perspective as to whether laws prohibit activities or mandate activities. One could argue that tax laws prohibit citizens from spending all of the wages they earn or that such laws mandate a portion of wages be given to the public till. Likewise hypothetical anti-abortion laws could be seen as prohibiting abortions or as mandating that women carry pregnancies to term whether they want to or not.

    We as citizens largely get to decide what activities we should prohibit/mandate in our society.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  115. What we have, in the case of US government programs of wealth redistribution are programs that are not based on sound principles, but shaped by what will be politically advantageous or expedient for the supporters; run by administrators paid from the same source as the (only partly voluntary) contributions; and supervised by a Congress of dubious integrity and a reputation for financial irresponsibility.

    Is this how we are to build up Zion? Especially considering D&C 105:5, I remain entirely unconvinced that the scriptures quoted in the original post are an endorsement of socialism.

    Comment by Confutus — October 19, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

  116. The ideals of the two clearly match to a large degree, but that doesn’t mean that the actual implementation to date has lived up to the ideals.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  117. I feel like the majority of Americans–say the poorest 90%–are ganging up on the minority–the richest 10%–and saying, “There are more of us than there are of you, so we’ll vote on it and we’ll take your money.” It seems immoral to disrespect the rights of the minority like that.

    Comment by rd — October 19, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  118. Geoff: I don’t believe that the scriptures are addressing any kind of government program — full stop and end of discussion. It is beyond ludicrous to suggest that the coercive force of government to take money that is not freely given is somehow like the United Order which is based on covenants freely entered.

    Further, I reject your basic premise that capitalism centers capital in only a few. In fact, every dollar that goes to a wealthy individual gets returned to the economy as an investment _- those who have it don’t let it sit around but reinvest it. The multiplier effect of money means that every dollar someone of means puts into the economy in terms of hiring labor or investing in new ventures gets greatly multiplied. On the other hand, if the money goes to someone who cannot afford to spend it then it has no effect.

    That is precisely why the last Bush gimmick to give a tax break to those who couldn’t reinvest did absolutely nothing to boost the economy.
    The socialism now suggested by the DNC and Obama is simply bad math and bad economics. Capitalism would never have put the US and world in the mess that it is in. The real culprit is the government interference in the market forces to insure “affordable housing” even for those who could not afford it. If the free market had been allowed to govern housing loans, then the real risk of giving loans would have been reflected and the loans would not have been made to those who could not afford to pay back what was borrowed. It took the Clinton administration and government interference by Freddie and Fannie to upset the markets so that loans didn’t reflect the actual risk. Throw in the Clinton administration’s move to upset the markets with securities backed by real estate and you have a real mess — as we now see in living color. To fix the problem of big government screwing up the markets, we now get the solution in even bigger government to the tune of $800,000,000,000! Yep, socialists screw up markets with big government and then claim that we need even bigger government to solve their screw-ups. Socialism is a disaster. There is a reason that Sweden has now twice bailed out its massive bank failures and has one of the lowest productivity rates in the civilized world.

    Further, it is a lie the richest are not pulling their weight in terms of taxes. The richest 5% of the population pay 83.8% of all the taxes. Why should they have to pay more to support this monstrosity of a federal government than others? Yeah, I know — there are are of us than them as rd says. Throw in taxation at the federal, state, county, city and special service district and school district levels, together with the tangle of fees and charges and surcharges and bonds, and it is no wonder that our economy is dying. There are three working in the private sector for every government employee. Our government is out of control — and the moron Americans are about to make the biggest mistake in the history of the American economy (as if the Clinton and Bush administrations with their record tax hikes and spending didn’t screw it up enough). Like it or not, the Constitution didn’t contemplate taxing the hell out of citizens to support a Behemoth from the depths of the abyss.

    Comment by Blake — October 19, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  119. rd: the majority of Americans–say the poorest 90%–are ganging up on the minority

    Welcome to democracy baby!

    It seems immoral to disrespect the rights of the minority like that.

    Well then you ought to vote to protect the richest 10% of Americans from taxes my friend. I can recommend a party that seems interested in such a policy if you’d like…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

  120. Blake: I don’t believe that the scriptures are addressing any kind of government program

    I agree. But there are certainly political philosophies that are more aligned in principle with the scriptures than others.

    full stop and end of discussion

    Well it was nice hearing from you again.

    Further, I reject your basic premise that capitalism centers capital in only a few.

    Wait — I thought you said this discussion is over. Well I’m glad you’re back.

    I am a fan of capitalism too. I simply think it must be tempered with sufficient regulation and social programs to keep the natural voracious greed of humankind sufficiently in check. I like our overall system of government and policy in America where we mix capitalism with various socialistic programs. This post was large motivated by the ludicrous comments I have been hearing from the GOP this election season acting as if “spreading the wealth” is some evil thing regardless of the degree to which it is utilized.

    The real culprit is the government interference in the market forces to insure “affordable housing” even for those who could not afford it.

    That certainly contributed. But the thing that really caused this crash was the deregulation of credit default swaps back in December of 2000. That deregulation as written by banking lawyers and championed by GOP senator Phil Gramm was the most important destabilizing factor in a slew of other factors that got us here.

    But as someone who has been connected to the mortgage industry for a few years now I can assure you that the majority of sub-prime loans had nothing to do whatsoever with Fannie and Freddie. They were rather funded by upstart companies who realized that this great ponzi scheme created by deregulation of credit default swaps had also created a voracious demand for mortgages no matter how ridiculous they were. In fact loans backed by Fannie and Freddie were never even called sub-prime. They were instead referred to as “Alt-A” loans and they were harder to qualify for than true sub-prime loans.

    The richest 5% of the population pay 83.8% of all the taxes.

    This is not very impressive if the richest 5% make 95% of the money…

    Seems to me that we have a major problem with capitalism mostly benefiting the richest among us while the rest of us are called in to bail them out when their giant deregulated ponzi scheme came crashing down. As they say, we’ve privatized profits but left losses socialized. Only the very few win in such a system while all the rest of us lose.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  121. Someone needs to read/hear Marion G. Romney’s “Socialism and the United Order”.

    They are not the same things.

    http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=480

    Comment by pedro — October 19, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

  122. And someone needs to read the thread before bringing up a point that has been addressed multiple times already.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

  123. Amen to Blake @ 118.

    Just for the record, I abhor the tax policies of both the Dems and the GOP. (There are many more issues I disagree on with the both of them.)

    I support the FAIR tax idea as the most equitable. (Not meant to be a threadjack.)

    Geoff J @ 119: Welcome to democracy baby!

    I interpret this statement as “It is more important to be fair than to be right.” How far is the trip from democracy to mobacracy?

    Comment by mondo cool — October 19, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

  124. Actually Geoff, I’d say that the number one contributor to the present crisis is greedy loan officers who pushed loans to get fees at many levels. However, what you call de-regulation wasn’t — it was the creation of a new type of futures commodity that removed the underwriter of a loan from the risk-taking in giving the loan.

    No coercive government programs are more in alignment with a free decision to enter into covenants. The United Order doesn’t take money for ear-marks and waste and multiple levels of government.

    Further, you just ignore the multiplier effect of investment. Taking money from the rich to give to the poor not only gets government involved where it has no business being involved, but it wrecks the economy. I just don’t see it as a legitimate role for government to take from the rich and give to the poor and if that is what democracy means to you, then democracy is surely doomed to economic failure.

    However, I don’t disagree that the bailout (a socialist program if ever there was one) is a bad idea. It does in fact reward incompetence and greed and shields those responsible from accountability at the expense of the rest of the population — instead it isn’t really the rest, it is really just the richest 5% that are paying for it if you look at the numbers.

    Comment by Blake — October 19, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

  125. BTW when I said that the discussion is over, I meant that wresting scripture to address something that it doesn’t and to cite it as proof-texts to support something it clearly doesn’t address is just bad use of scripture that borders on idolatry.

    Comment by Blake — October 19, 2008 @ 8:37 pm

  126. CDSs were never regulated, even before the CFMA was passed.

    Comment by woodboy — October 19, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  127. This is not very impressive if the richest 5% make 95% of the money…

    THat’s not even close.

    Top 5% earn only 33% of total income in the US, while paying 57% of the US’s total income taxes.

    Top 25% earn 66% of income while paying 85% of taxes.

    This post was large motivated by the ludicrous comments I have been hearing from the GOP this election season acting as if “spreading the wealth” is some evil thing regardless of the degree to which it is utilized.

    I tire of the comments from the left that act as though Obama’s tax plan is going to somehow end poverty. It’s not likely to affect it much at all.

    The end of the last quoted comment is curious. You don’t believe that “spreading the wealth” can be misused in any way? (see: Farm Bill)

    Comment by Tim J — October 19, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  128. Blake,

    There is no question that greedy loan officers were the feet on the street with the awful loans being granted. Of course they could only sell loans that greedy people were begging for and that greedy banks were pushing. And greedy banks only pushed loans that the greedy folks on Wall Street were voraciously demanding. And the voracious demand on Wall Street was created as a result of that Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which among other things did this:

    The act specifically banned regulation of credit default swaps. These unregulated instruments, insurance policies against default on risky investments like Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), necessitated the government bailout of insurer A.I.G.

    See what I’m saying? The greed is always there among the people. It was the banning of regulation on CDS’s that gave all kinds of greedy people means and incentive to, you know, behave greedily.

    I just don’t see it as a legitimate role for government to take from the rich and give to the poor and if that is what democracy means to you, then democracy is surely doomed to economic failure.

    Hehe. Go over the top much?

    Look, in American democracy we have been taking from the rich and giving to the poor in the form of roads, bridges, public schools, libraries, etc from the beginning. We may be doomed to failure but it won’t be because of this post nor because of my pointing out the obvious.

    is just bad use of scripture that borders on idolatry.

    Hehe. Go over the top much?

    Oh wait… I think I have my answer…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 8:58 pm

  129. Tim,

    What are your sources on those stats? I was hoping someone might show up with supportable stats.

    And of course “spreading the wealth” can be misused. The problem is that it is being treated as if the concept itself is some kind of unmitigated evil.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

  130. Here’s the deal. It’d be one thing if taxing the rich were helping the poor. But it’s not. Poor people typically don’t pay income taxes as it is. In fact, about 40% of American’s don’t pay income taxes. Obama’s claim to “tax cuts for %95 of Americans” is untrue as you can’t cut taxes from zero.

    What we’re talking about, is those who make over $250K subsidizing those who make $100K (for example). It’s not exactly “spreading the wealth”, is it?

    Comment by Tim J — October 19, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

  131. About the source, see the table in this article.

    Comment by Tim J — October 19, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

  132. Geoff, you repeatedly bring up the Commodities Futures Modernization Act as the root of the recent problems. CDSs were never regulated. I repeat my earlier comment from another blog:

    >>The CFMA didn’t really “remove” regulation of CDSs. It did codify the exclusion of bilateral swap agreements from CFTC oversight, but they weren’t ever really being regulated before that legislation by the CFTC and it was not exactly clear whether they had the authority to do so (probably yes). It did remove a certain legal risk from swap contracts, and they did explode in popularity sometime after that, but I’m not so sure you could point conclusively to one causing the other. People will always find a way to take on more risk than is prudent, especially if they know they’ll be bailed out if they fail.

    Comment by woodboy — October 19, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  133. Furthermore, you’re conflating the CDS problem with the mortgage problem. CDSs started as bond insurance contracts and evolved into trading instruments. But it wasn’t CDS trading that drove the demand for mortgage products, though they were both symptoms of the general problems of greed, overleverage, and poor underwriting standards.

    Comment by woodboy — October 19, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  134. My two cents worth (give me change if it isn’t worth it)
    I listened to an interesting speech by Harold B. Lee this summer where he addresses the fact that even within this dispensation there are those who pick old leaders’ advice over current leaders’ advice. I respect Bro. Romney as called of God, but the 70s aren’t the 00′s (if that’s what we’re calling it).

    Socialist ideas here in the US will never look exactly like those in Russia, China, or even Europe. Those who are arguing carte blanche against socialist ideas need to recognize that we will never reach the level of other countries.

    With that said, I’d have to agree with someone I hear on public radio (left leaning, I know, but if you’re not willing to be challenged in your thinking, how intellectually honest are you?). She said that she thought Christ would be in favor of universal healthcare. Just something I continue to think about.

    Comment by ALS — October 19, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

  135. woodboy: Thanks for the comments. I did try to be a little more accurate this time around by using this quote: “The act specifically banned regulation of credit default swaps.”

    ALS: She said that she thought Christ would be in favor of universal healthcare.

    Sounds like a reasonable guess to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  136. Well one thing’s for certain, and that’s that CDSs are out of control, and everyone was ignoring the looming problem for years. Plenty of blame to go around. It seems people will always find ways to speculate, no matter what regulatory impediments you throw in front of them.

    Comment by woodboy — October 19, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

  137. I am following the counsel of the church — not Geoff’s interpretation thereof. I would be happy to concede this point, if he was right, but he’s not — the church welfare plan is nothing like socialism. In fact, they seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. More about church welfare at this church web page,

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 20, 2008 @ 3:34 am

  138. Jim Cobabe,

    My counsel is to follow the counsel of the church and the scriptures.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2008 @ 8:39 am

  139. Offtopic -
    CDS were a huge element in the financial crisis. They caused the mortgage crisis to extend to the bond market, and thus the money market fund.

    Warren Buffet described them as financial weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reported the notional amount on outstanding credit derivatives from reporting banks to be $16.4 trillion at the end of March 2008. (For reference and perspective, the U.S. GDP for 2007 was $13.8 trillion) http://www.sec.gov/news/testimony/2008/ts092308cc.htm

    The same folks who did the “giant pool of money” story that explained the mortgage crisis, also did a story on the CDS and why they are dangerous. They also now have a great podcast – planet money
    End off topic.

    Going back to the original post, it appears there is abundant support for the proposition that we have a duty to share the wealth with all of our brothers and sisters, to ensure a more equal distribution of material goods.

    can anyone provide similar scriptural support for the position that large amounts of accumulated wealth are proper?

    Comment by Jay s — October 20, 2008 @ 9:01 am

  140. Geoff,

    Thanks for affirming that point. I was not sure you were into the following of such counsel. I feel reassured to know that we are reading from the same page.

    The brethren have been very consistent in their recommendations for many years. The church welfare program has had its aim toward fulfilling the scriptural injunctions for supporting the poor. I have dropped the post-war rheteoric that speaks so strongly against “creeping socialism”, although this thinking was very prevalent at the time. The foundation for today’s program is much more moderate. But the brethren still encourage principles such as individual preparedness and self-reliance. There is very little support, as far as I can tell, for a progressive government program that addresses such issues. I interpret this as lack of enthusiasm for parties and candidates who promise to engage us more fully in government welfare.

    Many aspects of socialism hold similar promise. But I think they have consistently failed to deliver, through history, while the church welfare program serves well, and continues to thrive, based on the voluntary efforts or church members inspired by the idea of charitable service, and the spirit of God.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 20, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  141. Jay s,

    I could cite you all the scriptures in the Book of Mormon that refer to taxes. Then when you point out that these are not easily applied to the modern times, I would reply that your reaction to my “tax” scriptures is similar to my reaction to Geoff’s “spread the wealth” scriptures.

    Geoff,

    The reason people object to Obama’s “spread the wealth” rhetoric has very little to do with the points being debated here. It seems to me as an (mostly) observer of Bloggernacle politics that people inevitably find support for their political views in the principles of the gospel and in the scriptures. Trying to convince people that your candidate is the one aligned with the gospel principles seems like a waste of time to me so I don’t get involved in those discussions. However, I will note that it seems to me you may have veered away from your previous emphasis on prospering in the land based on the law of the harvest. Am I correct in my inference?

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  142. Wow, this thread got big.

    Geoff: “But as someone who has been connected to the mortgage industry for a few years now I can assure you that the majority of sub-prime loans had nothing to do whatsoever with Fannie and Freddie.”

    But didn’t Fannie and Freddie have a big role in encouraging these sub-prime loans by buying the bad mortgage-backed securities?

    Comment by Tom — October 20, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  143. Jacob J – thanks for providing the handy link! * links

    1. Ether 10: 5-6 – Doesn’t apply
    2. Luke 2: 1-3, 5 – Wow the Romans taxed.
    3. Mosiah 7: 15

    15 For behold, we are in bondage to the Lamanites, and are taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne. And now, behold, our brethren will deliver us out of our bondage, or out of the hands of the Lamanites, and we will be their slaves; for it is better that we be slaves to the Nephites than to pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites.

    4. Mosiah 11: 3, 6

    3 And he laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed, a fifth part of their gold and of their silver, and a fifth part of their ziff, and of their copper, and of their brass and their iron; and a fifth part of their fatlings; and also a fifth part of all their grain.
    • • •
    6 Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity.

    5. 2 Kgs. 23: 35 – Okay Pharoah taxed too.
    6. Dan. 11: 20 – nobody likes the IRS man.
    7. Acts 5: 37 – Doesn’t apply
    8. Mosiah 2: 14
    14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.

    I don’t see a round condemnation of taxes. We learn King Noah was bad for taking 20% to support his own lifestyle, that King Benjamin planted a vegetable garden to not have a salary. Good. This would support the proposition that we not pay the President.
    The other is more akin to the war reparations paid by Germany following WWI then taxes to pay for roads.

    The principle that I take from this is that we should not have taxes that support the rich, that we should not overburden working people with taxes, and that we should do what we personally can to reduce our own burden on the government. Does this square with your reading Jacob?

    Comment by Jay S — October 20, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  144. Fannie and Freddie are generally issuers of MBS, not purchasers.

    Comment by woodboy — October 20, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  145. Personally help the poor, hungry, and naked: Christlike. Force others to do likewise with the threat of prison or death: Socialism = Satanism.

    Comment by ed42 — October 20, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  146. You know…

    I keep hearing Mormons saying that normally socialism is evil as a rule, but that if you do it as part of Zion, it somehow works out. Sure socialism is normally evil, but if the returned Jesus sprinkles his magic pixie dust all over it, that will make it all OK!

    This ignores the fact that Jesus actually asked Joseph Smith to implement a socialist system here and now. And it wasn’t a success just because Jesus said so. It was very unpopular, it was resisted by the membership and it failed miserably. Then God reprimanded the saints for their failure to live it.

    No magic pixie dust anywhere to be found.

    So what makes all you fellows think that it’s going to be any better in the Millenium? Because Jesus will personally decide whether your bishop’s son deserves a new iPod, or whether your wife ought to get a new outfit?

    The fact of the matter is, the Lord’s command to live the Law of Consecration has nothing to do with ideal conditions or ideal forms of governance. It has to do with obedience and concern for our brothers and sisters. And that’s it!

    No magic pixie dust for you. Not now. Not ever.

    So just get used to living with crappy socialism, because that’s all you’re ever going to get. So you might as well hold your nose and get started today. Because it’s not going to get any easier by putting it off.

    Comment by Seth R. — October 20, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  147. Seth R., You neglect the whole issue about coercion vs. a voluntary religious society. Freedom of association is the magic pixie dust here. Without it, anything as extensive as the United Order would resemble North Korea.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

  148. Woodboy,
    From AEI:

    Although a large share of the subprime loans now causing a crisis in the international financial markets are so-called private label securities–issued by banks and securitizers other than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–the two GSEs became the biggest buyers of the AAA tranches of these subprime pools in 2005–07.[21] Without their commitment to purchase the AAA tranches of these securitizations, it is unlikely that the pools could have been formed and marketed around the world. Accordingly, not only did the GSEs destroy their own financial condition with their excessive purchases of subprime loans in the three-year period from 2005 to 2007, but they also played a major role in weakening or destroying the solvency and stability of other financial institutions and investors in the United States and abroad.

    This is far from my area of expertise, so I may be missing something, but the above sounds to me like they were big buyers of MBS’s.

    Comment by Tom — October 20, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  149. Seth,

    The Lord’s church in the meridian of time was also an abysmal failure, in many respects. No magic pixie dust, I suppose.

    Should we abandon it also? I think it has been established as an accepted premise of this discussion that we should. At least, if I am reading Geoff right now.

    Perhaps a few experiments with a united order society have had problems, but the city of Enoch was a successful implementation. The stories in the Book of Mormon also attest to the success of the society because there was no poor among them. And prosperity ended when the people began to abandon the practices and became greedy and selfish.

    Your counter-instance of a few half-hearted attempts in recent times that somehow went wrong is not sufficient reason for abandoning correct principles. It is a lesson that this is not altogether an easy way for a society to live. We should try all the harder to follow the course that we know fulfils the Lord’s will. No reason to settle for “crappy” solutions — especially those poor solutions suggested by pandering politicians.

    The most frightening lie — “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help”.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 20, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

  150. Sorry, I meant that to read that we should not abandon the gospel.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — October 20, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  151. Seth: You’re just missing the point: socialism is not the Order of Enoch. Government programs and oppressive taxes are not anything like what Jesus or Joseph established. So no need to hold our noses beginning now. Let’s see, you political philosophy must be: bring on the pain now because the kingdom of God is maximally painful! Who wants to be part of that?

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

  152. Jay s,

    I guess I already predicted how this would go in my previous comment. The scriptures about taxes are no more a round condemnation of taxation than the scriptures Geoff cited are a round endorsement of Obama.

    Seth,

    I addition to Mark’s point about voluntary association, I would add that I think the magic pixie dust is personal righteousness. That is why the law of consecration is called a celestial law. It cannot be successfully implemented without individuals developing celestial qualities. This is the reason it did not work in the latter-day attempts. Consecration, as a system, screws around with all the incentives/rewards/checks/balances of our financial system. All of the problems created by consecration are solved by celestial qualities in the participants involved. However, it is fundamentally impossible to create a celestial society with most of the people being telestial.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  153. It doesn’t hurt to bear in mind that our failure to attain Zion is not exclusively the fault of the rich:

    Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands! (D&C 56:17)

    Comment by JimD — October 20, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

  154. JimD (#153), Nice pull.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

  155. #152 – Jacob J – I disagree. The doctrine behind the scriptures cited clearly endorse the rule of equality. While the scripture “there was no poor among them” may not necessarily support redistribution of wealth . However, “in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.” Combined with the requirement to “remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support” combined with “it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” Pretty well go the distance.

    These scriptures are not descriptive, as are the ones about taxes (taxes are greivous to be born), but rather prescriptive. We shall consecrate our goods.

    Do you disagree?

    Comment by Jay S — October 20, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

  156. Jay S,

    Yes, I disagree. My point is that neither set of scriptures is a prescription for US economic policy. Using them as such strikes me as fundamentally misguided. As I said to Seth in #152, there are prerequisites to successfully implementing the law of consecration. Using the law of consecration as a justification for Obama’s ideas about wealth redistribution is good fodder for a blog post, but it glosses over one million important details where those two things are not similar.

    You say that the scriptures you cite “pretty well go the distance,” but this is exactly what I am talking about. Applying these scriptures in such a way as to create a US economic policy requires us to fill in so many gaps I don’t even know where to begin.

    Do you really believe your interpretation of that scripture about “it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another”? If so, then are you ready to get serious and truly level the possessions in the world. Would you advocate going all the way with this and truly spreading the wealth until it is evenly distributed?

    We shall consecrate our goods. Yes. Do you count your taxes as having been “consecrated”? If not, then how is this relevant to the discussion of taxation and redistribution of wealth?

    I could go on and on, but I am sure what I have written already is a waste of disk space.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 5:18 pm

  157. Perhaps I misunderstood your argument.

    The scriptures discussed here state very strongly that we should be equal monetarily. That we should live the law of consecration.you then stated that the scriptures opposed taxation. Which they clearly do not. This was my point. Your comparison wasn’t accurate.

    Other notes:

    You asked how I interpret “it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another”. How would you?

    “Would you advocate going all the way with this and truly spreading the wealth until it is evenly distributed?” Yes. Can a Christian withold bread from a starving child to afford a swarovski crystal encrusted cell phone? Can a follower of Christ withold shoes to pay for a prada bag. Can a temple worthy member of the church turn down requests for antibiotics or education to pay for a cosmetic surgery.

    I just deleted a lot more preachy rant. I think you can disagree that government is the best way to increase the physical wellbeing of the poor and the needy. I just don’t think you can use the scriptures to do so. The doctrine is pretty clear that we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters.

    I don’t think the scripture say that we should enact certain proposals regarding economic equality. But they don’t say we shouldn’t either.

    Comment by Jay S — October 20, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  158. I think the point I was attempting has been missed.

    A common Mormon response to the scriptural demand for the Law of Consecration is a dismissive

    “oh, that’s simply impossible/impractical now – but when Jesus comes again, I’m sure it will all be better and I’ll be more than happy to live it then… and, has anyone seen my flatscreen TVs catalog?…”

    My “pixie dust” rant was solely directed at that kind of magical thinking.

    The command for Zion is now – today. Not the Millenium, not some other time. Now.

    Comment by Seth R. — October 20, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

  159. Seth, If you want to get together with others and form your own private United Order, what is stopping you?

    Many are probably relieved that the Church doesn’t formally require that of them right now (though there are lots of people who do this kind of thing informally). I think the quasi-canonical answer for why not is contained in the preface to D&C 119:

    The Lord had previously given to the Church the law of consecration and stewardship of property, which members (chiefly the leading elders) entered into by a covenant that was to be everlasting. Because of failure on the part of many to abide by this covenant, the Lord withdrew it for a time, and gave instead the law of tithing to the whole Church. The Prophet asked the Lord how much of their property he required for sacred purposes. The answer was this revelation.

    I suppose this “time” will end (again) when the Prophet gets up in general conference and announces the re-formation of the United Order and the requirement for all faithful members to join.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  160. Jacob (#141): The reason people object to Obama’s “spread the wealth” rhetoric has very little to do with the points being debated here.

    I wrote this post mostly because too many Mormons gobble up whatever comes from the GOP as if it is the other gospel. It ain’t. The latest poppycock I have heard on the campaign trail is that the very notion of spreading the wealth is awful. It ain’t. My point is that we Mormons, of all people, should be able to see that such overstatements are total BS.

    Now having said that, I think reasonable people can be very concerned that the government is the wrong medium through which to spread wealth. There is certainly merit to that idea. In fact I agree with it in some ways, while at the same time I am a fan of the idea of universal health care in America.

    you may have veered away from your previous emphasis on prospering in the land based on the law of the harvest. Am I correct in my inference?

    I don’t think you are correct. For instance, we as a nation will reap a president from the votes we sow. I certainly wasn’t promoting some Korihor-style unbridled and unregulated capitalism in that post if that is what you thought…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  161. woodboy (#144): Fannie and Freddie are generally issuers of MBS, not purchasers.

    Yup. That was my understanding as well. Thanks for filling in for me on answering that while I was away today.

    Tom (#148) — See this from the MBS wiki:

    (Fannie Mae) was chartered by the US government as a corporation which buys Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA) mortgages on the secondary market, pools them, and sells them as “mortgage-backed securities” to investors on the open market. FNMA was later privatized.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2008 @ 7:56 pm

  162. ed42 (#145): Force others to [be Christlike] with the threat of prison or death: Socialism = Satanism.

    First, let me congratulate you on the most imbecilic comment to date in a thread with some humdingers in it.

    So any law that forces people to behave more Christlike is Satanic? I suppose that makes you aggressively pro-choice on the abortion issue right? I mean carrying a baby to full term even when it is unwanted might be Christlike but it should be chosen freely right? By your logic making any abortions illegal would be Satanic.

    But why stop there? Freely choosing to not steal, or murder, or rape is Christlike. Forcing others to not steal, or murder, or rape with the threat of prison or death must be Satanic too right?

    Dang dude — I never took you to be an anarchist…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

  163. Jay S,

    The doctrine is pretty clear that we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters.

    Indeed. I never disputed this. But there is a vast chasm of a difference between helping our brothers and sisters and making sure we are monetarily equal. And frankly, I don’t believe for a second that you are giving away all your money until there is no one with less money than you. Or, that you think we should all follow such a rule. Or, that we should enforce such a rule.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  164. Jay S,

    By the way, I’m sorry if my original comment in #141 was not clear enough. I tried to say upfront that my point was about the difficulty of applying scriptures about things like taxes and consecration to our current society and the political choices we get to make.

    I think many of the statements you are making are very reasonable and well intentioned. My disagreement is that you seem to be taking some giant leaps when it comes to how we should practically apply the principles of the gospel as public policy. You seem to think that there is a very clear and obvious path from the commandment (e.g. remember the poor and impart of your substance to them) to the implementation of a public policy based on that commandment.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  165. Geoff,

    I wrote this post mostly because too many Mormons gobble up whatever comes from the GOP as if it is the other gospel. It ain’t.

    Fair enough. I don’t disagree.

    The latest poppycock I have heard on the campaign trail is that the very notion of spreading the wealth is awful.

    The problem is that by posting on the concept of “spreading the wealth” at a time when Obama’s statement to Joe is the hot topic in politics, you are no longer able to talk about the notion of spreading the wealth divorced from Obama’s actual proposals. People are not objecting to the idea of spreading the wealth in a vacuum. They are objecting to it in the context it was put forward by Obama.

    I think a discussion of consecration and how it fits in today’s world is very interesting, but I don’t care much to discuss Obama’s economic policy (mostly because discussing politics online tends to make everyone hate each other). So, when I read the scriptures in the post, I don’t see a single one of them that is relevant to Obama’s economic proposals or his motivations underlying his proposals. Thus, they strike me as someone finding his religion in his politics as I said in #141.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 10:19 pm

  166. Finding religion in politics is a Mormon specialty Jacob. See my response to ed42 in #162 for a fine and common example of it in its worst form.

    You are of course right that the comment to Joe the plumber about spreading the wealth that has set the McCain campaign and right wing in America in general into a conniption was the inspiration for this post. Again, one need not agree with the Obama tax proposal to see that the right wing reaction to the very words “spread the wealth” was just ridiculous. I know the GOP is losing big and many on that side are getting panicky over it but I am always disappointed to see how many of my fellow Mormons have drunk that GOP Kool-Aid.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

  167. #163
    And frankly, I don’t believe for a second that you are giving away all your money until there is no one with less money than you. Or, that you think we should all follow such a rule. Or, that we should enforce such a rule.

    1 – I didn’t say that I am.

    2 – Funny that you think you know me well enough to decide what I think we should follow. I don’t think this by the way. I do think it is immoral for us to let our neighbors go hungry while we feast.
    3- See No 2.

    #141 – I think your point was clear. It was just wrong. You made a poor analogy. You certainly can apply the scriptures about taxes to modern days, its just that they don’t have much to say. But if you had asked me about 60 years before I was born, I could have applied at least one of those scriptures to “modern times”. They just don’t apply in the way you might like them to, or they don’t apply in a way that readily justifies a particular political philosophy.

    And please don’t tell me “statements you are making are very reasonable and well intentioned.” That is what my grandpa used to say when he thought I was being simple. Unless you mean it, then thanks, but maybe you could tell me what you agree with. I am trying to be sarcastic and funny here, but I don’t think it is working.

    As to my “giant leaps”, I disagree.

    With public policy you have values and you have policies. The scriptures tell me what I should value. While you may make a perfectly valid administrative argument as to why program A won’t deliver value B in the most cost effective way. But don’t tell me the scriptures say that program A is improper, unless they really do, then I am all ears.

    My point is I have my values, and the scriptures don’t say one way or the other about a particular method.

    I think Geoff’s point can be made best by those arguing against him, especially ed42 in #162.

    Comment by Jay S — October 20, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  168. I am always disappointed to see how many of my fellow Mormons have drunk that GOP Kool-Aid.

    I can’t take issue with your disappointment, but again, if this is the motivation for the post, then I think it is a swing and a miss. The logic of your post is: (1) kool-aid drinking republicans are sneering at the concept of socialism (i.e. spreading the wealth) but (2) the scriptures have theses verses that say we should spread our wealth, therefore (3) these republicans are foolish and find themselves at odds with the scriptures.

    The problem, as I have already pointed out, is that although both Obama and the scriptures talk about spreading the wealth, the context of their statements is so different as to be virtually unrelated to one another. Thus, your logic breaks down and your post doesn’t show the republicans taking issue with Obama to be ridiculous as you seem to think it does.

    I suspect you could articulate fairly well some of the reasons that Obama’s statement was so concerning to many GOPers. None of the reasons have to do with the principles of consecration spoken of in the scriptures. It seems related on the surface, but if we were to dig down to the details we’d realize it isn’t, which is why I think this post is a red herring.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  169. Jay S,

    1 – I didn’t say that I am.

    Well, I am not trying to put words in your mouth here. I thought I asked you point blank and here was your answer:

    “Would you advocate going all the way with this and truly spreading the wealth until it is evenly distributed?” Yes.

    Just how do you propose we spread the wealth until it is evenly distributed without making everyone give away their extra money until everyone has the same amount? That seems like the only way to do it, so I am at a loss to understand your position.

    I do think it is immoral for us to let our neighbors go hungry while we feast.

    No one in this conversation has ever disagreed with this, so you who are you arguing against? We don’t let people go hungry in this country.

    You made a poor analogy. You certainly can apply the scriptures about taxes to modern days, its just that they don’t have much to say.

    Actually, this is why it is a good analogy. You can apply the scriptures about consecration to modern days too, they just don’t have much to say about what US economic policies should be.

    And please don’t tell me “statements you are making are very reasonable and well intentioned.”

    Please accept my apology. I meant that sincerely and I can give plenty of examples if you want. I noticed that I was mostly taking issue with things you had said without doing enough to acknowledge the points you were making that I agreed with. This was a fairly lazy way to rectify that, but it was not meant as an insult.

    The scriptures tell me what I should value.

    So, if I understand, you are saying that the scriptures tell you to value equality, so the question is simply one of which economic policies will most effectively lead to everyone having an equal amount of wealth. Is that right?

    I think Geoff’s point can be made best by those arguing against him, especially ed42 in #162.

    Anybody can put up a post about politics and then say they are proven correct by crazy comments made by their opponents. That is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  170. Jacob: I have already pointed out, is that although both Obama and the scriptures talk about spreading the wealth, the context of their statements is so different as to be virtually unrelated to one another.

    Well you said it, but it still doesn’t make any sense to me. Context Schmontext — is spreading the wealth a good thing or a bad thing? If it is a morally commendable thing then we should want it and support it.

    I suspect a much better argument from the Republicans would be — “yes a more egalitarian society is desirable but we don’t think Obama’s tax plan is the best way to achieve it. Here is our better plan to achieve a more economically egalitarian society instead” (And then they could pitch more deregulation and tax cuts or whatever).

    But I can’t tell if the GOP folks actually think spreading the wealth and a more egalitarian society is even a good idea. I suppose the tax cuts for all are meant to move us in that general direction but who knows since cutting everyone’s taxes doesn’t really narrow the massive gap between the rich and the rest of us in America…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  171. Anybody can put up a post about politics and then say they are proven correct by crazy comments made by their opponents. That is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Hehehe. So true. But it can make for good times.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2008 @ 11:15 pm

  172. “oh, that’s simply impossible/impractical now – but when Jesus comes again, I’m sure it will all be better and I’ll be more than happy to live [the Law of Consecration] then…”

    Yes, as if the person saying this will be one of the fortunate ones who will be permitted to live in that happy state. :-)

    Comment by Mark N. — October 20, 2008 @ 11:25 pm

  173. Context Schmontext — is spreading the wealth a good thing or a bad thing?

    Seriously, did you just say that the meaning of the phrase being discussed doesn’t matter to the discussion? To answer your question, its goodness or badness depends entirely on what one means by spreading the wealth.

    I suspect a much better argument would be — “yes a more egalitarian society is desirable but we don’t think Obama’s tax plan is the best way to achieve it. Here is our better plan to acheive a more economically egalitarian society instead”

    How about, “Having an egalitarian society is one goal we’d like to achieve, but it tends to find itself in conflict with other important goals. If we could raise the standard of living for everyone in the world, but the only way to do it was to increase the inequity in the world at the same time, would it be a good thing or a bad thing? It seems to a debatable point. Historically, my take is that capitalism has been able to create a rising tide more successfully than socialist economies have. Which should be more valued, everyone being better off, or everyone being equal? The easiest way to make everyone equal is to make everyone poor. I tend to go for the rising tide over equality, but others disagree. Still others think that both can be achieved at the same time, which would be great, except that I usually disagree with them on that.”

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

  174. Me previously: To answer your question, its goodness or badness depends entirely on what one means by spreading the wealth.

    Let me expand upon that. By spreading the wealth, do you mean people banding together under a covenant of righteousness to consecrate their property for the building up of a localized Zion society? Or, do you mean the government taking money from the very-wealthy to give it to the semi-wealthy by way of entitlement programs? Both might be great ideas that we should support, but to pretend they are the same is what I find ridiculous.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

  175. Jacob: Historically, my take is that capitalism has been able to create a rising tide more successfully than socialist economies have.

    I agree. I certainly am not implying we should do away with capitalism because I think it is very evident that capitalism can indeed be very useful to a society. As you say, it is particularly useful in giving incentive for inventiveness and thus creates growth. But the question is where is the proper balance between Korihor-style unregulated capitalism and evils-of-the-dole socialistic policies? I don’t know for sure.

    By spreading the wealth, do you mean…

    I mean creating a more economically egalitarian society. You want to focus on the means and that is an interesting topic, but the scriptures seem to indicate that the end is a good thing too even is it can be achieved by different means.

    And of course as I noted in #162, this coercion vs. voluntary argument is pathetic. We have created laws to reward Christlike behavior and punish unChristlike behavior from the beginning of this country and nobody here is complaining about that kind of “coercion”. But as soon as it gets near our wallets to help the more downtrodden among us its all cries “Help! Help! I’m feeling coerced to give to the poor!”. Yet the same people tend to be all about enacting laws “coercing” people to do other things they believe to be morally right.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2008 @ 12:35 am

  176. “Yet the same people tend to be all about enacting laws “coercing” people to do other things they believe to be morally right.”

    On the contrary, like liberals, they tend to be in favor of laws that use the power of government to prevent people from doing things that are considered to be unquestionable moral wrongs.

    The Born Alive Infant Protection Act, for example. Enacting and enforcing laws that prohibit various crimes is the traditional role of government. Large scale social engineering using the taxation power is not.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2008 @ 6:21 am

  177. Geoff,
    It’s not all that important and the conversation has moved on but your response to the claim that Fannie and Freddie were major purchasers of subprime MBS’s is non-responsive. Citing congressional testimony of a GSE regulator, the AEI article states that between 2005 and 2007 Fannie and Freddie were “the biggest buyers of the AAA tranches of these subprime pools.” The wiki excerpt doesn’t refute that claim.

    Comment by Tom — October 21, 2008 @ 7:24 am

  178. Geoff: “And of course as I noted in #162, this coercion vs. voluntary argument is pathetic. We have created laws to reward Christlike behavior and punish unChristlike behavior from the beginning of this country and nobody here is complaining about that kind of “coercion”.”

    Simple nonsense. What you suggest would actually violate the Establishment clause. If you fail to see the difference between voluntarily covenanting to share one’s increase and government coercion to take from those who produce to give to those who don’t, then you’re missing something fundamental that the Church leaders have stated repeatedly. Further, let me complain about anyone who wants to make their standard of being “Christlike” the basis of our laws. Our laws are a lowest common denominator necessary to get along as a social order and not a morality lesson for Sunday School.

    Further, it is now clear that Freddie Mac bought a lobbyist to kill legislation that Republicans wanted to introduce to stop Freddie’s abuses of the market. Freddie was successful in its illegal lobbying effort that the Democrats, to a person, supported. I’m no Republican (thank goodness), but the truth is clear. The Democratic party maintained the abuse of the markets through Freddie Mac to provide mortgages to those who could not pay them.

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2008 @ 7:32 am

  179. Mark (#177),

    This distinction you are trying to make between laws that prevent actions or laws that coerce actions is totally bogus.

    For instance take our laws against theft. One might say they are laws that coerce people to control their natural urges to steal. Or you might say they prevent prevent people from stealing. In the end it is just spin. They both mean the same thing.

    The same could be said about people’s urge to hog all their money and give nothing back to the poor. Tax laws could be said to coerce them to control those naturally selfish urges. Or they could be seen as preventing them from being as that selfish. Call it what you want but it is the same.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2008 @ 8:41 am

  180. Tom — As I understand it, the tranches are simply pre-MBS organizations of mortgages. That is, they are bundled up and turned into MBS’s but are not MBS’s. So as to the technical point we are discussing — I still think woodboy is right that Fannie and Freddie created and sold MBS’s rather than bought them.

    Also, I think it is not accurate to claim that Fannie and Freddie were buying true sub-prime mortgages. Rather they were buying Alt-A mortgages and those Alt-A mortgages are often lumped together under the label “sub-prime” even though that is not technically accurate.

    Blake — As I said before, there is not question that Fannie and Freddie are major contributors to the Ponzi scheme falling and that bleeding heart Democrats fought to keep Fannie and Freddie from getting regulated out of the Alt-A loan market. My point is that the ponzi scheme itself was made possible by banning the regulation of the fake insurance products known as credit default swaps. It was that unregulated fake insurance that 1) Created such a false demand for mortgages of any kind, and 2) eventually sunk Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros, Fannie and Freddie, and AIG who couldn’t pay up when the insurance claims started coming in. This in turn ultimately has hammered the world economy. So focusing on Fannie and Freddie is missing the real story.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  181. Geoff: As I understand it, the tranches are simply pre-MBS organizations of mortgages. That is, they are bundled up and turned into MBS’s but are not MBS’s.

    I understood the opposite: MBS’s are split into tranches. See here

    Also, I think it is not accurate to claim that Fannie and Freddie were buying true sub-prime mortgages. Rather they were buying Alt-A mortgages and those Alt-A mortgages are often lumped together under the label “sub-prime” even though that is not technically accurate.

    I think the AEI article I link to in #148 establishes that Fannie and Freddie owned true subprime mortages and were purchasers of subprime securities. According to Fannie’s own reports, “the company also held $29.5 billion of Alt-A loans and $36.3 billion of subprime loans that it had purchased as private label securities.”

    Comment by Tom — October 21, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  182. Geoff, interesting post. But I would argue that wealth redistribution is not a matter of morality, but more of societal choice. If a people live in a capitalist society, and live righteously, that people will be taking care of the poor, and thus redistributing wealth voluntarily.

    Equally, if a people live in a socialist economy, and live righteously, they will be taking care of the poor, albeit through more government means. But in my view, that is voluntary (mostly) since the people have voted for that form of economy (I’m assuming a democratic society that chooses socialism).

    On the flip side, we have seen the evils of capitalism without righteousness, and socialism without righteousness can also be bastardized.

    Ultimately, it depends on the righteousness of the people.

    To your point, you argue that a righteous people would want to have a form of government that redistributes wealth more equitably. I disagree. There are too many arguments for both socialism or capitalism as valid government-sanctioned economic systems. As I explained above, a righteous people will redistribute wealth equitably regardless of economic system, and will redistribute wealth unfairly if they are unrighteous. One could argue that capitalism provides more choice, but socialism provides greater security. But either can work.

    I will say that anyone who thinks socialism is inherently evil, or that capitalism is somehow God-sanctioned, are not thinking clearly.

    By the way, I was an Economics major at BYU.

    Comment by Darin W — October 21, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

  183. This distinction you are trying to make between laws that prevent actions or laws that coerce actions is totally bogus.

    Tell that to Random House:

    Compel, v.

    1. to force or drive, esp. to a course of action: His disregard of the rules compels us to dismiss him.
    2. to secure or bring about by force.
    3. to force to submit; subdue.
    4. to overpower.
    5. Archaic. to drive together; unite by force; herd.
    6. to use force.
    7. to have a powerful and irresistible effect, influence, etc.

    [Origin: 1350–1400; ME compellen (

    Prohibit, v.

    1. to forbid (an action, activity, etc.) by authority or law: Smoking is prohibited here.
    2. to forbid the action of (a person).
    3. to prevent; hinder.

    [Origin: 1400–50; late ME

    Do you really want to argue that the distinction between prohibitive law (the speed limit, for example) and compulsory law (such as the draft) is meaningless? That’s insane.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

  184. Darin, thanks for stopping by. A few responses:

    But I would argue that wealth redistribution is not a matter of morality, but more of societal choice.

    I would say that these two are not mutually exclusive. I think the scriptures I quoted show that spreading wealth is indeed a moral issue. And it is obvious that it is also a societal choice.

    But in my view, that is voluntary (mostly) since the people have voted for that form of economy (I’m assuming a democratic society that chooses socialism).

    Excellent point. That is my thought on the matter too.

    I will say that anyone who thinks socialism is inherently evil, or that capitalism is somehow God-sanctioned, are not thinking clearly.

    Amen.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  185. Mark D: Do you really want to argue that the distinction between prohibitive law (the speed limit, for example) and compulsory law (such as the draft) is meaningless?

    In many ways it is meaningless because these two are just different sides of the same coin.

    We prohibit speeding or we compel people to drive slower than they would like. Same thing — different name. We compel people to join the military or we prohibit them from comfortably staying at home while the country is at war. Same thing — different name.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  186. Geoff: The problem as I see it is the lie perpetuated by the media that the Republicans caused this mess. I am an independent and I have no love lost for Republicans — but the fact is that the Democrats supported the various risky loan products that caused this entire mess and the Republicans fought such loans programs. This mess was created by the very democratic leaders with their big government programs to foist on us these various loan packages and products that now offer us even bigger government and debt as the solution. There is a massive media cover up and the media journalists are a bunch of liars, prevaricators, frauds, cheats, and swindlers who have fobbed this mess off in the public mind as the problem created by the Republicans. There is no honesty left in journalism in this country. They have all sold their souls to the DNC and they are covering up the truth and and lying to see Barak Obama elected.

    What we see are those who control the media control the American morons who will now elect Obama — it is a foregone conclusion — because they successfully established a simple lie about the cause of the economic collapse and massive bail-out program — though Bush didn’t help matters any by jumping onto the Behemoth government bail-out program.

    I like this statement of this massive media cover up and prevarication: http://www.ldsmag.com/ideas/081017light.html

    BTW, your suggestion that it is the government’s job to redistribute the wealth by legal coercion is repulsive to me. You are wresting scripture in a way that it was never intended to be used to support such a view as I see it.

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2008 @ 11:33 pm

  187. Geoff: I agree with Mark. You’re missing a fairly obvious, fundamental and vast distinction that makes all the difference.

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

  188. Blake,

    I won’t disagree that plenty of Democrats and Republicans have been complicit in the financial fiasco we are in. However I have stated several times that I believe the keystone of the current mess we are in is the legislation that banned regulation on credit default swaps. You repeating the BS they say on conservative talk radio is not in any way persuasive to me so please give that ranting a rest. (Seriously, repeating the tired “liberal media” line here? Are you serious??) If you wish to persuade me, explain how Senator Phil “nation of whiners” Gramm and his cohorts were not at the heart of of this mess when they pushed this regulation ban through. You have not addressed that key issue at all. Instead you have simply been parroting the poppycock about how Fannie and Freddie are at the heart of this. Let me make this clear because you aren’t seeming to understand:

    a. Fannie and Freddie were not the final resting place of these bad mortgages.
    b. Fannie and Freddie never would have purchased these mortgages if there was not a demand for them in Wall Street.
    c. There would never have been such a demand for these risky investment instruments if the instruments didn’t come with pseudo insurance policies
    d. Those fake insurance policies are called credit default swaps and it was banning of regulation on them that created the massive shadow market problem that led to the collapse.

    If you (or Orson Card) can intelligently refute that I am all ears. But that is how I currently understand the situation.

    Next, you are right that there will certainly be some morons who vote for Barack Obama. I already voted for him if that proves your point. But there will be all kinds of morons who vote for McCain too (perhaps including his running mate…).

    Regarding the recent bailout: I actually think the bailout may be the one thing that redeems President Bush’s reputation decades from now. I think it was the right thing to do after the mess that was reaped after so many people sowed so many bad financial choices. My guess is that it will be seen by posterity as the move that staved off a world depression. (I certainly hope it staves off a depression at least).

    your suggestion that it is the government’s job to redistribute the wealth by legal coercion is repulsive to me

    Whoop dee doo. Every law and all taxes are variations on legal coercion. Vote against the laws and policies you don’t like — it’s your right as an American.

    Also, if you and Mark want to respond in a meaningful way to my #185 where I say the so-called distinction amounts to two sides of the same coin in practice you are welcome to do it. Merely saying “it’s so obvious” is not cutting it.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2008 @ 12:13 am

  189. There is a massive media cover up and the media journalists are a bunch of liars, prevaricators, frauds, cheats, and swindlers who have fobbed this mess off in the public mind as the problem created by the Republicans. There is no honesty left in journalism in this country. They have all sold their souls to the DNC

    Seriously?

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 22, 2008 @ 4:53 am

  190. Geoff:

    The fact that Fannie and Freddie were not the “final resting place” for mortgages is quite irrelevant. These mortgages were made possible by the programs to make loans available to folks who could not afford to pay them. I am engaged in at least 8 cases right now that involve massive issues regarding loans and their origination. The credit default swaps (and a number of other loan packages including real estate back securities) were made possible by the Clinton administration and its deregulation. Care to look at the record?

    You’ve certainly bought the popular crap about how the real problem here was Phil Gramm. Really? The democrats as a block effectively stopped any legislation at least three times that would have rectified this problem. Really — every last single dam one of them! They got a few Repubs to go along.

    As for the bailout — could you please explain to me where the money will come from to pay for it? Can you explain how drastically depreciated properties are supposed to cover the inflated mortgages for the tax payer benefit? Can you explain how draining our economy to be paid by future generations is the responsible thing to do?

    Now one last comment. Your notion that all laws are coercive so a few more coercive laws is fine because, they are all that way, shows a naive and myopia that is truly astounding. The answer is to let the free market govern, leave people free and unfettered to decide how their money will be spent instead of having the government suck it all up. I know — we have a duty to be coerced to pay for the massive government deficit. You don’t seem to get it. The best government is the one that governs the least and limits itself to the proper role of government. You think the purpose of our government is to redistribute the wealth. I don’t believe that is a legitimate government purpose. Take care of the minimal needs to achieve life and liberty, fine. Make sure that those who are productive must support those who refuse to be — BS.

    Peter LLC: Really! If the Repubs had done what the Dems did, it would be all over the news. Instead we’re met with shocking silence and sheer refusal to address the issues in the media. But of course, believing that the media bias is somehow justified because the ends justifies the means would seem to justify such deafening silence I suppose?

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2008 @ 6:59 am

  191. Say what you like about politicians and financial crises–it has done wonders for the strength of the US dollar. So that might be a silver lining for some.

    Comment by Peter LLC — October 22, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  192. Geoff,

    Two clarifications.

    “But I would argue that wealth redistribution is not a matter of morality, but more of societal choice.” me

    “I would say that these two are not mutually exclusive. I think the scriptures I quoted show that spreading wealth is indeed a moral issue. And it is obvious that it is also a societal choice.” – you

    To clarify, wealth redistribution is a moral issue. The means by which society redistributes wealth is not. People can righteously or unrighteously redistribute wealth in either economic system.

    “By the way, I was an Economics major at BYU.” – me

    I say this not to claim expertise in Economic matters, but that this conversation would be considered heresy by the classical economists at BYU.

    Comment by Darin W — October 22, 2008 @ 8:47 am

  193. Blake: The fact that Fannie and Freddie were not the “final resting place” for mortgages is quite irrelevant. These mortgages were made possible by the programs to make loans available to folks who could not afford to pay them.

    You are still missing the point. There would have been no such programs if there were no demand on Wall Street for such loans. There would have been no demand on Wall Street for such loans if CDSs had been properly regulated.

    The credit default swaps were made possible by the Clinton administration

    Clinton was indeed still president in Dec. of 2000 and his signature is on the law that the CDS-banning legislation was bundled into.

    The democrats as a block effectively stopped any legislation at least three times that would have rectified this problem.

    Please show evidence that Dems (or anyone else) repeatedly stopped legislation to specifically regulate CDSs.

    The answer is to let the free market govern, leave people free and unfettered to decide how their money will be spent instead of having the government suck it all up

    You’d make Korihor proud with such statements. Also, remember this thread? You seemed to agree that regulation was needed to protect the weak and poor among us. What changed?

    Make sure that those who are productive must support those who refuse to be — BS.

    Oh I get it. You are falling back on the old “welfare state” argument. I am not for a welfare state either. I simply think that the plans I have heard to do things like see to it that every American has health care coverage are prudent.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2008 @ 10:14 am

  194. You think the purpose of our government is to redistribute the wealth. I don’t believe that is a legitimate government purpose.

    Blake, shouldn’t we, then, eliminate all taxes and allow us all to decide how to spend our money?

    Comment by BHodges — October 22, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  195. B Hodges: No. The government should provide minimum subsistence for those who cannot support themselves. The government should provide a strong military and roads and schools. Our government is so out of control in spending that it is beyond anything a rational approach to government could possibly justify. Our government is a joke that ought to be gotten and then we ought to tear it down and start all over again.

    The government shouldn’t take from the rich and give to the poor. It should allow the rich to hire the poor to multiply capital and allow markets to grow. It should allow each to choose how best to spend the money that isn’t essential for the kinds of government programs I named. It shouldn’t allow a gang to decide how much money it wants from those who have it and engage in “legalized” stealing.

    Finally, wrenching scripture to support a government wealth redistribution program the way that Geoff has is about the worst kind of disrespect for any sound exegesis. God wasn’t setting up a government dole when he established the United Order.

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

  196. If only the rich would actually hire the poor at living wages, instead of turning us into slaves who have to settle for whatever the boss offers because we’re too afraid to pass anything up.

    Why should money, rather than brains, or virtue, or some other quality have all the power? I know the categories aren’t mutually exclusive, but you phrase it that was — the rich should do this, the poor should do that.

    God wasn’t setting up a “them that has” world when he set things running. Why do you defend greed as though it were the highest purpose of life?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 22, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

  197. Dang Blake. Who kicked your dog this morning?

    Look — I simply pointed out that our scriptures command us to spread the wealth. That is undeniable. I then pointed out that socialism is built on the ideal of spreading the wealth. That is also undeniable.

    God wasn’t setting up a government dole when he established the United Order.

    You are wrong — God was indeed setting up a variety of government dole when he revealed the law of consecration and the United Order. In the case of the United Order the government was God’s government through the priesthood and the rich very much do subsidize the poor.

    I certainly can’t argue with the point that the U.S. government is very unlike God’s government but you are severely overstating your case over and over in this thread. Frankly I am surprised at how weak and emotionally charged your arguments have been here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

  198. Blake: The government shouldn’t take from the rich and give to the poor.

    Yet earlier this year you defended the minimum wage right along side me. Minimum wage is an example of the very things (government taking from the rich and giving to the poor) you are railing against in this thread. I’ll ask again — what changed?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  199. Our government is a joke that ought to be gotten and then we ought to tear it down and start all over again.

    Oh, man, Blake is totally calling for a revolution.

    …(but not a “Ron Paul revolution”, methinks)

    ;)

    Comment by BHodges — October 22, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  200. The political parties get caught up arguing about a lot of detailed issues and specific policies, but if you strip things back and try to get to the most basic philosophical underpinnings, one of the biggest arguments in politics is over the proper role of government. This theme seems to be coming up a lot in Blake’s comments of late on this thread and his Prop 8 thread.

    The people arguing for Obama’s “spread the wealth” plan, by contrast, seem to be arguing primarily from the argument that it is moral for the wealthy to provide for the poor and that the scriptures even give commandments that say as much.

    Notice that these arguments start on such different turf that both people can punch wildly into the air without fear of hitting the other person.

    BTW, Darin W, you seem like a reasonable person and I agreed with what you had to say. Thanks.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 22, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

  201. I’m with Blake.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  202. Well say hello to him for us Mark. What are you guys doing out this late? Isn’t it past 11:30 pm where you are?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

  203. I agree with his comment #195, in other words. And yes, it is 11:48 p.m. on the Wasatch Front. Time to retire.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

  204. One interesting fact is that Europe, which is primarily socialist, has nearly caught up with the US in productivity, as measured by GDP. One theory is that with the increase of knowledge work and the decrease of manual labor, that fewer work hours result in higher productivity. In Europe, the average work day is less than in the US. The fewer work hours result in workers being less tired, less stressed, and therefore more creative and productive. The SAS Institute, a software developer in the US, employs a strict 35 hour per week policy. It has outperformed the technology sector by a wide margin for years, follows the same principle.

    Another theory that has strong evidence is that small disparity in pay across a company correlates with better market performance. In other words, companies whose CEOs make LESS (or the difference between the highest paid employee and the lowest paid is small) have better performing companies than companies whose executives who make MORE.

    One final tidbit. Companies that employ group reward systems such as employee stock ownership programs, shared bonuses based on group performance, etc., outperform companies with individual incentive programs.

    All three examples are socialist ideals, not capitalist. And all three examples of socialist practices led to better performance than the capitalist counterpart.

    It’s not all or nothing – either capitalist or socialist. As Geoff points out, public schools and other public programs (libraries, roads, infrastructure) are socialist. We do them because there is a practical reason to do so. There are benefits to a more socialist society, such as reduced work hours, increased vacation, and smaller pay disparity that can lead to improved performance and productivity. It is very possible that Europe will outperform the US in the future – because a socialist culture seems better suited to knowledge work.

    I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. I just believe that our own economic system could use tweaking, some cases leading to less government, and other situations leading to more government. I’m not convinced that going back to a libertarian society prior to 1800 is the right answer in today’s society. Nor am I convinced that a purely socialist government has all the answers. But there is probably some middle ground.

    Comment by Darin W — October 23, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  205. Hallelujah! Darin rolls in as a voice of reason amid the hysterical “socialism=satanism” cries of so many others here. Nice work D.

    Socialism is not only already deeply ingrained in the U.S. economy, there is evidence that that in some cases a more socialistic approach could lead to higher overall productivity. As you point out — too many people in this thread are dead set on throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The task is to figure out which “share the wealth” programs work best to enrich all and increase productivity and which have the opposite long term effect.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2008 @ 10:04 am

  206. Darin:

    Your post makes no sense to me. You say that the US is more productive than European counterparts in terms of GPD and then you say that the reasons are that Europe is more productive despite short work weeks. Your assertions seem to contradict each other. Further, you say that practices that lead to greater productivity are “socialist” rather than “capitalist.” But doesn’t it follow that if a practice leads to greater productivity that it is by definition capitalist?

    I can hardly believe that Americans are arguing that we ought to seriously consider socialism as the form of our government.

    Comment by Blake — October 23, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  207. Blake,

    I assume you know that so-called “socialist” European countries are not that different than the US in that they employ a mixture of free market and socialistic principles in their economies. The point is that even though some of those countries tend to employ more socialistic programs than the US they are gaining ground on the US in productivity. So not only are they economically living better lives in many ways (more vacation, shorter work hours, more egalitarian access to health care, etc) they are also becoming more productive at a faster rate than we are.

    I am really baffled by the ham-fisted approach your are taking on this issue. I usually see such non-nuanced approaches from much stupider people than you.

    At one extreme is totally unregulated, Korihor-style, anarchistic free markets. At the other extreme is totally oppressive communism. No one here, including you, is pressing for either of those extremes. The U.S. and these so-called socialist democracies in Europe are between those two poles and not too far apart in the middle at that. The goal we all want to achieve is the perfect mix of socialistic programs and free market incentives. Inching ever so slightly toward more socialistic programs is not the same as becoming North Korea or something despite the hysterical cries we are getting in this thread. Seriously, where is the thoughtful and persuasive Blake?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2008 @ 10:18 am

  208. Thanks, Geoff. You answered the question better than I could have. And yes, those European countries are not only gaining ground, but it may only be a few years before the EU overtakes the US in overall productivity.

    Additionally, there is strong evidence that suggests corporations that employ more socialist ideals in their corporate culture, tend to outperform the market. This begs the question: could the same approach work at the Government level?

    I’m not saying that the approach corporations make will work at the government level. But it is worth thinking about. And we are seeing some success of socialistic ideas in practice elsewhere in the world.

    As for how to categorize corporate behaviors, let me use an example. Reducing pay disparity requires a CEO to take far less money than the market will bear – 10-20% of market value for a CEO position or even less. The CEOs of Costco, Whole Foods, and Toyota have pay on the 200-400k range – where the industry pays CEOs in the millions or deca-millions. These companies also offer generous health packages, even for part time employees, and pay performance bonuses not based on individual work (like most US corporations) but on group-based measures. And these companies outperform all others in the long run.

    Would you reduce your pay to 10% of market in order to promote less pay disparity in your company? The idea is heresy to most. Yet these people do it because it works. That to me is a socialist ideal – that the top would cut their pay in order to help everyone else. They do it because the greater good – economic performance of their companies does great.

    We are seeing some countries who are more socialist starting to outperform the US. So it seems there is something to some of these ideas that are worth considering.

    Comment by Darin W — October 23, 2008 @ 11:27 am

  209. Darin,

    I think you may be painting a rosy picture of the economy in Europe. Over the last 15 years (about the amount of time I’ve been old enough to pay any attention) I wouldn’t even consider trading economies with Europe. The innovation and the R&D are coming out of the US rather than Europe. I haven’t been watching it lately, but European unemployment was terrible in the 90s while it went to historic lows in the US.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 23, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  210. Geoff: I don’t get what you mean. I have proposed a very limited government. Are you arguing that the US gov’t should set CEO pay? The US outperforms the entire EU by a wide margin The EU is increasing productivity not due to its socialist governments, but due to capitalists reforms. They are working more and longer hours than they used to even if they have a shorter work week. Their productivity per employee is way below the US.

    I have never argued for pure capitalism — just limited government interference in the markets to let them function efficiently. Where is the level-headed Geoff that would never wrest a scripture to support a political system?

    Comment by Blake — October 23, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  211. “Anarchist free market” is an oxymoron. Free markets require government to enforce contracts, property rights, and the rule of law. No sane libertarian would argue otherwise.

    Korihor on the other hand, to the degree he says anything at all on the subject, implies that fraud, theft, rapine, and murder are just fine. That is not a “market” at all. It is unfair to imply that conservatives or libertarians favor such things.

    In addition, present day Europe is not fairly described as “socialist”. Real socialism means dominant government control / ownership of the means of production. That is the exception, not the rule, in Europe today. Many European countries can be fairly described as welfare states, but that is not the same thing.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

  212. Darin - Excellent comments again. Thanks

    Blake: I don’t get what you mean.

    That is obvious. It is pretty clear by your accusations and questions that you haven’t been paying very close attention to what I am actually saying. I can only guess that you saw the word “socialism” and felt your head beginning to explode that that blurred your vision or something.

    So let me make it clear what I mean in this post:

    1. Our scriptures make it clear that it is ideal to have a more economically egalitarian society
    2. Socialism shares those same ideals.
    3. That’s it — nada mas.

    So here is how you probably ought to respond. “Yes Geoff, the ideals are the same but here is why less government intervention will actually lead to a more egalitarian society than more government intervention will…” You have made a few comments in that direction but they are interspersed with the angry, accusatory, my-head-is-about-to-explode comments you have made here about me and this post in general.

    I have proposed a very limited government.

    Right. I think that is generally a good idea. I simply have a different idea than you do about how limited government should be. For instance, I believe universal health care access/coverage is probably a good idea for our economy and our people.

    Are you arguing that the US gov’t should set CEO pay?

    Uhhh, do you see me arguing for that specific measure? If not then why on earth would you assume I am arguing for it? I don’t have any specific positions relating to that I am arguing for. I simply am pointing out that God clearly likes the idea of economic egalitarianism so if various government interventions can help toward that ideal without hurting everyone in the country I am generally for them.

    The US outperforms the entire EU by a wide margin … Their productivity per employee is way below the US.

    Well that is different than what Darin is saying. I would be interested in the facts underlying your and his assessments on this matter.

    Where is the level-headed Geoff

    Right here as ever. If you had taken more time to understand what I actually have said you wouldn’t make such unfounded accusations about me.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  213. Mark: In addition, present day Europe is not fairly described as “socialist”.

    Exactly. Can you pass that memo on to the knuckleheads over at the GOP and the Fox News network for us?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  214. Here’s an article in the Washington Post about the EU economy:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/05/AR2007100501041.html

    Jacob, my intent is not to paint a rosy picture, but to demonstrate that socialist economic systems can succeed. While the underlying reasons may be debatable, it is worth trying to understanding why. Researchers at Stanford, Bob Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer, have hypothesized that the EUs surge in productivity may be attributable, at least in some degree, to the lifestyle afforded by socialist policies.

    You are right about the 90s – but times have changed, and the EU has turned a corner since the mid-2000′s.

    Blake, I used to agree with your point about limited government interference. It’s not as clear to me that this is a correct principle. I would argue for the right level of government interference. That makes the conversation more challenging, and how to define what is “right” is problematic, but the world’s economies have changed dramatically, and new policies that may be counter to our traditional limited government mindset may not be sufficient for continued success.

    As for CEO pay, I am challenged by the notion of government restricting CEO pay. But, most evidence suggests that extravagant CEO pay does not produce sustained growth. We see this in the credit market crisis (AIG, Wall Street, etc) that CEOs and other executives made huge sums of money even while their companies were losing money and market share. Yet, the taxpayers are bailing them out, and these CEOs are not losing their shirts? How is that fair? How is that right? The free market did not correct the situation fairly, nor did the government.

    The credit crisis and the bailout is an example where more government interference would be useful. At a minimum, the bailout should have granted the taxpayers voting shares in those companies being bailed, much the same way that Warren Buffett got premium voting shares for bailing out Goldman Sachs.

    So again, I’ll go back to my earlier point. I agree with Geoff that wealth redistribution is a moral obligation. I believe that the means to do that redistribution is largely a societal choice, and not a moral one. There are examples of socialist environments succeeding, and merit our attention, as we think about how to optimize our own economic performance with moral obligations.

    Comment by Darin W — October 23, 2008 @ 1:40 pm

  215. Just in case you don’t click the link to the article, here’s an excerpt:

    The European economy was never as bad as the Europessimists made it out to be. From 2000 to 2005, when the much-heralded U.S. economic recovery was being fueled by easy credit and a speculative housing market, the 15 core nations of the European Union had per capita economic growth rates equal to that of the United States. In late 2006, they surpassed us. Europe added jobs at a faster rate, had a much lower budget deficit than the United States and is now posting higher productivity gains and a $3 billion trade surplus.

    The rest of the article is good reading too.

    Comment by Darin W — October 23, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  216. Darin,

    I’ll take a look at the article when I get more time. Thanks for the link. On the specific point of deficit spending, I think a lot of the disparity comes back our engagement in the war, which is to say that it is not primarily a matter of economic policy that is reflected in the difference between European and US deficits.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 23, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  217. Jacob,

    I don’t know all the root causes of our deficit spending relative to the EU, although you could say the US was already on the path to huge deficits even before the war. That said, this is tangential to our topic.

    The point I want to emphasize is the the EU has shown higher productivity gains than the US. This in spite of government policies that seem to favor socialist ideals. Perhaps labor unions and universal health coverage aren’t so bad for economies after all.

    Comment by Darin W — October 23, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  218. Capitalism is freedom in our economic lives. We do not currently live in a capitalist country. It is more mercantilist/soft fascist than capitalist. In true capitalism there is no special privileges and corporate welfare. The root of our problem is not de-regualtion as Geoff suggests. There are so many governmental regulatory agencies its absurd. The real culprit is the government as Blake has suggested. But even deeper, it is the Federal Reserve at the root of the problem. The easy money policies of the past decade has financed this whole mess. This goes back to the founding, Jefferson v Hamilton. Hamilton wanted a central bank. Jefferson did not. He feared it more than standing armies. Andrew Jackson call the central bank a monster. The Hamiltonians won out in 1913 with the creations of the Fed. The economic havoc a central bank can cause by artifically setting the interest rate(it should be determined by the market) and diluting the value of the dollar is immense. It literally causes the boom-bust cycles.

    See
    Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles by Jesus Huerta de Soto. http://mises.org/books/desoto.pdf

    The Ethics of Money Production by Guido Hulsmann http://www.mises.org/books/moneyproduction.pdf
    The Mystery of Banking by Murray Rothbard http://mises.org/Books/mysteryofbanking.pdf

    The United Order is not socialistic at all. Private property will be respected, meaning no coerced transfer of property. What it is is the righteous, the pure in heart, living in freedom, and understanding their moral obligations to one another, producing and consecrating. It is turning 5 talents into 10(capitalism), and consecrating the surplus. It cannot work unless the people are righteous. It is purely individualistic, the consecrator and the bishop decide the amount to be given. Under a socialist regime, the State decides, under threat of violence.

    Well just my 2 cents….I got to go to Cub Pack Meeting.

    Comment by stephen — October 23, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  219. Darin: I believe that you’re cherry picking statistics and making the EU look a lot better than it is. The graphs of GDP growth rates tell a very different story. The EU is virtually at the bottom. See here: http://www.swivel.com/graphs/show/24908997

    Further, comparing a trading block of countries to the US is rather misleading. There are 27 countries in the EU and it could be either larger or smaller depending on which countries get admitted (Ukraine would love to be a member). The US has an absolute GDP larger than any other country in the world regardless of populaton. Further, if we take the Eurozone rather tha the EU, the US is still by itself the largest economy in the world according to the World Bank. Check here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)#fn_a

    Even if the rate of productivity growth is faster in EU countries, US workers far outstrip their productivity in absolute productivity. Each U.S. worker produces $63,885 of wealth per year, more than their counterparts in all other countries according to the International Labor Organization. Ireland comes in second at $55,986, ahead of Luxembourg, $55,641; Belgium, $55,235; and France, $54,609. The U.S., according to the ILO, also beats all 27 nations in the European Union, Japan and Switzerland in the amount of wealth created per hour of work – a second key measure of productivity.

    Note also that seven years ago, French workers produced over a dollar more on average than their American counterparts. The country led the U.S. in hourly productivity from 1994 to 2003.

    The U.S. employee put in an average 1,804 hours of work in 2006, the report said. That compared with 1,407.1 hours for the Norwegian worker, and 1,564.4 for the French. It pales, however, in comparison with the annual hours worked per person in Asia, where seven economies – South Korea, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Thailand – surpassed 2,200 average hours per worker. But those countries had lower productivity rates.

    I’m not so sure that the move toward more socialism is the solution. A move away from government interference in the market to make mortgages available to those who cannot afford them, or those who bought a lot more house than they could afford, seems like a much better solution to me. The market as a matter of fact will correct this excess by itself without humongous gov’t programs to solve the problem caused by humongous gov’t programs.

    Comment by Blake — October 23, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  220. One thing worth noting is that when western Europe was significantly more socialist than it is now, it was also much more of an economic basketcase. Eastern Europe far more so.

    Ironically, as the United States prepares to take a sharp turn to the left, most of the G-7 has been moving right. Germany, France, Italy, and Canada have all (relatively) recently elected center-right governments.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

  221. Mark: Ironically, as the United States prepares to take a sharp turn to the left, most of the G-7 has been moving right.

    I take that to mean we are all looking for that perfect balance between the right and left economically. I think both sides are moving in the right direction to find it.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

  222. And back to the earlier discussion on the deregulation being at the heart of this current mess — did anyone catch highlights of the congressional hearing this morning?

    Alan Greenspan, one to the biggest and most influential proponent of free markets always self regulating “conceded the meltdown had revealed a flaw in a lifetime of economic thinking and left him in a “state of shocked disbelief”" according to reports. Further we get this good quote from the AP article:

    The financial crisis even prompted the Republican Greenspan, a staunch believer in free markets, to propose that government consider tougher regulations

    Further when some GOP congressman started going off on how Fannie and Freddie were at the heart of the mess the chairman asked Greenspan and Cox and the others being questioned if that were true and that all agreed that the Fannie and Freddie issues contributed to the mess but were not the central cause.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2008 @ 11:41 pm

  223. Blake,

    Of course I’m cherry picking statistics. That’s what makes this thread fun!

    I won’t argue with your statistics. But I will add one more to make a point: Norway has a higher absolute labor productivity rate than the US (70.1 to 52.1 in 2007 – see source here http://www.conference-board.org/pdf_free/Productivity2008Briefing.pdf). Norway is a mixed economy, but decidedly more socialist than the US. France, Germany, and Sweden (the darling of socialist countries) aren’t far behind the US in labor productivity either.

    The point is that we often assume that socialism leads to reduced economic incentives, more free loading, and therefore socialist countries can’t compete with the more capitalist countries. That simply isn’t true. There seems to be a spectrum of government policies that can lead to global economic success. In other words, a country can use high taxes to fund more social programs and still succeed economically, just as a more libertarian country can use less taxes and less government intervention and succeed economically.

    Now back to Geoff’s original point. Does God want us to distribute wealth more equally? I think that is indisputable. Does God care how that is done? I think he cares that it is done by exercising our agency. Could our agency be exercised through the voice of the people? Isn’t that what Prop 8 and 102 are about? Or any vote? Couldn’t the same principle apply to social economic systems? I don’t see how socialism is coercive if the voice of the people has determined that system.

    Comment by Darin W — October 24, 2008 @ 12:26 am

  224. Geoff, thanks for sharing the Greenspan quote. It seems to support the idea that sometimes you want less government, and sometimes you want more, and sometimes you just don’t know until it’s too late.

    Comment by Darin W — October 24, 2008 @ 12:29 am

  225. Darin: Norway isn’t comparable at all because of its small population and its large oil production (mostly by foreign workers). The Norwegians support their addiction to government welfare on the backs of foreign workers. Socialism is great if you can get someone else to do all of the work. Hold it, that is exactly what socialism is — a few who produce wealth supporting the many who don’t.

    Darin — the notion that God wants us to spread the wealth voluntarily is true. Just how you believe that the government is a voluntary program of redistribution is beyond me. Those who don’t have it vote to take it from those who do. Those who don’t have it don’t pay; those who have it do. Those who don’t have it voluntarily vote for the wealth to be redistributed to them; those who have it don’t like being told they have to “voluntarily” give their money or go to jail. Worst of all, those who don’t have don’t reinvest it and make the economy grow, those who do have it have their money taken away so that they cannot reinvest it and the economy shrinks. In the end, everyone suffers because the economy shrinks and those who have it have it taken away and the economy sputters to a halt. That is exactly what happened over the 90s in Europe and now they are moving more toward capitalism. Oh yeah, that is also the best explanation for their increasing productivity. And you are mistaken — France, Sweden and Germany are far behind the US in productivity but they are getting better because each has opened to a more open market and labor reforms that insure longer hours worked and less vacation time. Do you want the citations on that? Look at your own link.

    I am astounded that with the size of our federal (and state, and local, and special service districts, school districts, sewer districts etc, etc, etc,) that ya’ll feel that government just isn’t big enough and that we’re not paying enough in taxes. Correct that — those who make the wealth pay the taxes and those who don’t take it from them to support a Behemoth that has record deficits . . . and what’s a few more hundred billion or a trillion dollars to the national debt matter anyway? After all, we get money back from the Feds and State.

    You call that God’s plan and I call it mobocracy and theft. Once again, citing scriptures related to setting up the United Order and then using them to support more government involvement in spreading the wealth Obama style is not merely proof-texting, it is an egregious misuse of scripture.

    BTW, prop 8 has nothing to do with citing scripture to support one’s politics. You may note that in my long thread I haven’t cited scripture once and I never claimed that God supported prop 8 as a reason to vote for it.

    Comment by Blake — October 24, 2008 @ 6:23 am

  226. Greenspan would never admit he was the problem. Artificially pounding down interest rates and leaving them there for a prolonged period thus flooding the market with cheap and easy credit is at the very root of this mess. That is not the market, that is not even close to how the market works. It is interventionism on a grand scale. These artificially low interest rates sent false signals throughout the economy that money was there to be invested and lent, which had not been previously saved. The Austrian theory of the business cycle explains this perfectly. Governments solution is to throw more money at the problem which is how we got here in the first place. Writes a friend “They started the forest fire and blamed in on the trees. Now they are hosing the fire down with gasoline and they are not going to “stand down” until they run out of gasoline and forest.” The above links I posted are books that explain this.
    Here are some links to shorter articles:

    http://mises.org/story/3165

    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2008/09/29/bailout-marks-karl-marx-s-comeback.aspx

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/14/miron.banks/index.html

    And a daily dose of mises.org would be expedient as well.

    Comment by stephen — October 24, 2008 @ 6:49 am

  227. Blake: I call it mobocracy and theft

    It’s actually called _democracy_. I personally don’t think democracy is such a horrible thing.

    it is an egregious misuse of scripture

    You are incorrect sir. If we believe Darin captured my point very well with this comment:

    Does God want us to distribute wealth more equally? I think that is indisputable. Does God care how that is done? I think he cares that it is done by exercising our agency. Could our agency be exercised through the voice of the people? … I don’t see how socialism is coercive if the voice of the people has determined that system.

    We all agree with the notion that God wants us to spread the wealth voluntarily. But surely we all agree that God want us to be honest voluntarily too. Yet we as a people have voted in laws that make theft and robbery and embezzlement and other forms of dishonesty illegal. Is that kind of coercion to behave morally horrible in your mind too? I don’t think so. We the people decide on which behaviors will be encouraged/enforced or discouraged/punished in our society.

    You say it is a horrible wrenching of scripture for me to imply that our scriptures might give us some support for the notion of inching slightly to the left in our economic policies. If you were right (and you aren’t) then you are also horribly wrenching our scriptures and doctrine to imply that moving to the left is evil and thievery.

    If you don’t like the policy or direction vote against it. I don’t think God will punish anyone for voting their conscience.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2008 @ 8:15 am

  228. Blake,

    I never once quoted scripture. And I didn’t liken Prop 8 to scriptures that I never quoted. All government laws rarely have universal acceptance by the people. Doesn’t mean that those laws are unjust or coercive. We vote for issues we like and against issues we don’t like, and live with the voice of the people. Is that coercive? Of course not. Last time I checked living in this country and most industrialized countries is a choice.

    I’m astounded at your inconsistencies. You say the EU isn’t comparable to the US even though it is closer to the size of the US economy than just about every other economic country. And Norway doesn’t count because it’s too small. I guess nothing compares to the USA! Besides, you are missing all the points I make, so whatever.

    I am not a socialist. I am just saying that if we are intellectually honest, there are multiple methods to achieving a more egalitarian society. Some of it may be through our faith, through charities, through education, or through social policies. Is that really so heretical?

    Comment by Darin W — October 24, 2008 @ 8:16 am

  229. All tax laws are coercive. When we vote for taxes we vote to coerce others to pay against their will or face imprisonment. Saying that people can uproot their families from their country if they don’t like the tax laws doesn’t make taxes non-coercive. Nor does the fact that taxes are enacted through a democratic process make them non-coercive. The “voice of the people” is only ever the voice of a portion of the people.

    I don’t think we can consider a vote to coerce others to spread their wealth as evidence of personal virtue or as fulfillment of commandments. Individuals exhibit charity when they freely give of themselves for the benefit of others. A decision to coerce our neighbors to spread their wealth, whatever its merits, doesn’t count as charity on their part or ours. I personally think it’s good to have some social welfare and I vote accordingly, but I don’t think I’m fulfilling any commandments when I do so.

    Comment by Tom — October 24, 2008 @ 8:52 am

  230. Tom: I don’t think we can consider a vote to coerce others to spread their wealth as evidence of personal virtue or as fulfillment of commandments.

    Do you feel the same about our laws that coerce honesty? Do you think we would be better off legalizing theft, larceny, robbery etc? That way people won’t feel coerced to avoid them. To use your words, in our current legal system “A decision to coerce our neighbors to be more honest and not steal, whatever its merits, doesn’t count as honesty on their part or ours.”

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  231. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. – H L Mencken

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting what’s for dinner. The lamb didn’t vote to eat himself, but no matter, it is the will of the people. Democracy has become a god to be worshipped, we send troops around the world to be killed for it. It is a false god. It is individual liberty that matters. Protection of private property. The founders knew it.

    As usual Ron Paul is right:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul233.html

    http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2003/cr012903.htm

    Comment by stephen — October 24, 2008 @ 8:59 am

  232. Geoff – Do you think we would be better off legalizing theft, larceny, robbery etc?

    Theft, larceny, robbery are violations of property. Forcing someone to give charitably is also a violation of property. Give who you want to give to Geoff, but don’t force me. In so doing, you have violated my property rights.

    Comment by stephen — October 24, 2008 @ 9:06 am

  233. are violations of property

    And who decided that we can even own private property in this country in the first place? Answer: We the people.

    You can’t have it both ways bro. You can’t take the parts you like of the democratic society we live in (like the right to private property) and discard the parts you don’t like (taxes). If we the people decide to enact tax laws we the people are obliged to follow those laws.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  234. Do you feel the same about our laws that coerce honesty?

    Yes.

    Do you think we would be better off legalizing theft, larceny, robbery etc?

    No.

    I didn’t say that coercion was bad. Just that our coercion of others to do good things doesn’t count as a good act in a personal righteousness sense.

    A decision to coerce our neighbors to be more honest and not steal, whatever its merits, doesn’t count as honesty on their part or ours.

    Right. It doesn’t reveal honesty in our character or theirs. Voting for laws that punish stealing isn’t something that one can point to as evidence of one’s personal commitment to keep the commandment not to steal.

    Comment by Tom — October 24, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  235. Ok, so what’s your point Tom? Are you responding to some specific claim you think differs from your view?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2008 @ 9:19 am

  236. Well, first I was just countering the idea that democratically-enacted taxes are not coercive, which they clearly are.

    Secondly, there’s the idea that given our belief in spreading the wealth Mormons should support any specific economic model or welfare system for our secular government. We each live up to the Mormon ideal of spreading the wealth when we freely act to spread our wealth. I don’t think that our beliefs require us to coerce wealth spreading in our neighbors. I do coerce wealth spreading in my neighbors, but I don’t think I need to do so to be true to Mormon ideals.

    Comment by Tom — October 24, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  237. Isn’t is generally understood that our rights come from God, and governments were instituted to protect those rights? If man created government to protect his rights, isn’t man then superior to his creation? The individual greater than the collective?
    Ezra T Benson stated, “This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by man. No man possesses such power to delegate. The creature cannot exceed the creator.”

    Taxes should be spent on precisely that. Really nothing more. If I do not have the right to plunder my neighbors wealth for some charitable cause, I cannot delegate that power to the collective. I cannot delegate a power I myself do not have.

    Comment by stephen — October 24, 2008 @ 9:59 am

  238. Tom: countering the idea that democratically-enacted taxes are not coercive, which they clearly are

    Ok, though I don’t think anyone argued that they aren’t. The argument was that they are no more or less coercive than the rest of the laws we uphold.

    I do coerce wealth spreading in my neighbors, but I don’t think I need to do so to be true to Mormon ideals.

    Whatever floats yer boat bro.

    Stephen: Isn’t is generally understood that our rights come from God, and governments were instituted to protect those rights?

    Depends on who you ask I guess. That certainly isn’t a universally accepted notion in our country.

    Taxes should be spent on precisely that. Really nothing more.

    Whatever floats yer boat bro.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  239. Ok, though I don’t think anyone argued that they aren’t.

    Darin did: “I don’t see how socialism is coercive if the voice of the people has determined that system.”

    Whatever floats yer boat bro.

    Thanks. So does that mean that you agree that you don’t have to vote for wealth distribution in order to be in harmony with Gospel teaching or does it mean that you’re just tired of talking about it?

    Comment by Tom — October 24, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  240. For those of you on the “coercion” bandwagon, be reminded:

    1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

    2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

    3 We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.

    5 We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

    There’s a lot of latitude for governments to enact laws and secure the public interest.

    Be careful of your interpretation of “right and control of property”. This does not remove the rights of governments to tax or to redistribute wealth, if done by the voice of the people.

    So if a government’s actions are within the guidelines prescribed by God, does that mean that government is acting coercively? Because by that definition, God Himself is coercive, requiring us to keep His laws or else be punished. I think you are confusing “coercion” with “consequences”.

    Comment by Darin W — October 25, 2008 @ 7:08 am

  241. Darin,
    I agree with you that it’s OK for the government to tax and redistribute wealth, but just because it’s OK doesn’t mean it isn’t coercive. To coerce means:

    1: to restrain or dominate by force
    2: to compel to an act or choice
    3: to achieve by force or threat

    Taxes clearly meet this definition, even they are democratically enacted.

    Comment by Tom — October 25, 2008 @ 8:12 am

  242. Tom,

    Perhaps we can agree to disagree. I view it differently because since I was a Boy Scout I have pledged my duty to country. I see obeying laws of the land as my duty, and therefore my choice, even the ones I don’t like. I don’t feel coerced, much like I don’t feel coerced to keep the commandments of God, even though I know there are serious consequences that await if I fail to keep them.

    Comment by Darin W — October 25, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  243. Darin has a point Tom. An analogy might be BYU. The school has very strict rules. Are the rules coercive? Well for the students, sure you could say they are coerced to adhere to the honor code. But no one coerces them to attend BYU so is it really a coercive situation?

    The same applies to living and working in the US. If one plans to make money is the US one is coerced to contribute taxes. But no one is coerced to live and work in the US. So is it really a coercive situation?

    I suppose it is a little bit of both. No one is coerced to belong to the group but once one freely joins the group there are enforceable (coercive) regulations associated with participation.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  244. Darin, this reminds me of the debate about the terms ‘general welfare’ and ‘necessary and proper’ in the Constitution. There were strict constructionists, Jefferson and Madison, and broad constructionists, Hamilton and Marshall. We could argue phrases until we are blue in the face. I’m sure Benson would disagree with Reid on what the above scriptures mean. I believe in a more strict interpretation. I think that governments, especially in the 20th century, have justified far too many abuses and tyranny under the idea of the social good.

    Comment by stephen — October 25, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  245. The idea that conservative politics or support for a free market economy implies support for lax regulation of banks and other financial institutions is unfounded.

    Anything explicitly or implicitly guaranteed by the government needs to be regulated because to do otherwise creates a serious moral hazard where financial institutions take on excessive risks, relying on the government to satisfy the obligation to their depositors and creditors should anything go seriously wrong.

    Sensible regulations, such as requiring writers of risky financial instruments (such as credit default swaps) to carry appropriate collateral or trade on a proper exchange are not exactly conservative heresy.

    The type of financial regulations conservatives are opposed to include when government requires or encourages financial institutions to participate on in dubious transactions in the name of social policy.

    The Fed is supposed to ensure banks are sound. However, since a poorly implemented Boston Fed study in 1992, in the name of remedying (largely non-existent) racial discrimination it has encouraged a lowering in lending standards for everybody. HUD cheered them on, in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. President Bush in particular publically favored lowering downpayment requirements.

    If the government wants to increase the percentage of people who own homes, the responsible way to do that is to give them money for a down payment. Diluting or ignoring the long standing principles of sound financial regulation is a prescription for disaster.

    Finally, it is worth mentioning that a “libertarian” central banking policy is an virtual oxymoron. Libertarians are the number one opponents of central banks. Any libertarian true to his principles that became the head of the Fed would use his influence to maintain price stability and the soundness of our currency, rather than trying to print our way out of minor recessions.

    Greenspan’s easy money policies (1% interest rates?) over the last decade are conservative and libertarian anathema. Traditionally it is the left-liberals who are the inflationists. It is worth noting in this context that Germany, Canada, France, Australia, and the U.K. all have more conservative monetary policies than the United States.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 25, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  246. Goeff says: “The argument was that they are no more or less coercive than the rest of the laws we uphold.”

    Darin & Geoff: You just don’t get it. Not all laws are coercive. Some are permissive — like the law that allows us to park on city streets during certain hours. Further, the issue isn’t whether we should have coercive laws, but whether we should avoid coercion by passing laws that coerce. Further, the economic plan of those who want to steal from the rich to give to the poor instead of hiring them is coercive. The question is: do we want government to engage in (more) of this type of coercion rather than less?

    Those who prefer the Obama approach to wealth redistribution prefer to have many laws and humongous government programs to insure that everyone gets taken care of. They want a massive socialist medical insurance program, a massive tax increase on those who provide the wealth to pay for the massive government to provide this redistribution. The problem, as we see with the last Bush “stimulus” program, is that such programs have no effect except to make money cheaper and depress our markets because investment capital was sucked out the economy.

    You assert that all laws are a matter of democratic process. False again. Many basic constitutional laws protect against the oppression of the masses. Further, the very issue is whether we can persuade folks that we ought to avoid the coercive effect of passing laws that require taxpayers to pay more, have more government programs that dictate how we live rather than let them choose how they will spend their own money and live their lives. You have assumed that since all laws are coercive that any democratically passed government program is just fine. Well, That is just a false assumption. I choose to be freer rather than more coerced.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  247. An analogy might be BYU. The school has very strict rules. Are the rules coercive? Well for the students, sure you could say they are coerced to adhere to the honor code. But no one coerces them to attend BYU so is it really a coercive situation?

    The biggest difference is that attending BYU is a freely made choice. Citizenship, for most of us, is not a freely made choice. We are born into it. So for a person who doesn’t want to pay taxes the options are 1) pay, 2) not pay and go to jail, or 3) leave the country of your birth for some (non-existent, to my knowledge) place where there are no taxes. For most citizens, relocating has many huge costs, financial and otherwise. So we’re still left with a coercive situation. The fact that one may submit happily and willingly to taxes doesn’t make them non-coercive. As long as there are people who want to pay no taxes or less taxes, taxation will be coercive.

    Comment by Tom — October 25, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  248. One more suggestion: If the Democrats want to do something useful, they should ban adjustable rate consumer loans of all types – adjustable rate mortages and rate changes on existing credit card balances in particular. That would be far more beneficial than a smattering of minor tax credits.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 25, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  249. Blake: You just don’t get it. Not all laws are coercive.

    I wrote a post in response to the generally lame argument you and others keep leaning on. See it here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  250. For all the slow thinkers that think a completely free market will create wealth where the rich hire the poorer to work for them and all is well. This does work for some small businesses but big and even many medium businesses which control a tremendous amount of wealth do create jobs just not in the US. The large corporations usually are the only ones providing healthcare benefits and the ability to live on 1 income. China is laughing all the way to the bank on our pathetic free market. Every other industrialized country in the world has a more managed and controled economy generating jobs within their country. The Republicans think moving from 1 job making $30-40 per hour to 2 jobs for $6 is a 2 for 1 job growth. Democrats think they can tax businesses into submission. It is anybodys guess who is the slowest thinkers between those two groups. The one positive is our government is not as corrupt as the dozens and dozens that function even worse than ours.

    What other industrialized country in the world would force people into bankruptcy before helping with medical care. Can we say homeless? So vote for tax cuts that will solve all of our problems.

    Here’s hoping for someone with an idea that works stepping up and leading before we get bled dry. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

    Comment by Harold — October 25, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

  251. I have not come to this site for a while now and sorry to bring you back to this subject after many thinks have happened since…
    I come from Portugal and views here slightly differ from the ones in the New world in terms of being more or less socialist or understanding socialism at all.
    I am disappointed with some of the comments here because they lack basic understanding of our religion at all.

    First we have to understand that this church is a “do it yourself church” and that applies to all the commandments. including spreading the wealth. Of course we should live a socialist way and teach that to our children because that is one of the basic principles of christianity. Now we can only do it in the scale of our free agency we cannot make others think that way.

    europe is tired of capitalism because the most part of the population here discards God/Christ in the first place. So not having principles that can heal us from greed people simple aspect governments to act as the legislators for making the whole group satisfied.

    If you know a bit of history from the old continent you will understand what governmental socialism did in both Fascism and Communism fronts. Both of this types of Government can never be in place again. we cannot repeat what happened.

    Now we cannot let the capitalism also lose the plot in the since that all of the world security its jeopardized. and How can we cure this?????? by being true Christians and teach others to live as such. We can only try.

    Comment by Sérgio — November 11, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  252. Socialism is about blaming and taking

    Consecration is about helping and giving

    Comment by Scott — September 23, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

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