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How the World SHOULD Work

By Mary Pride
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #27, 1999.

An economics system that works.

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Mary Pride

Entire towns getting laid off. Congressmen voting for "free trade" pacts that are actually loaded with thousands of pages of bureaucratic regulations... and that the Congressmen knew in advance would ship millions of American jobs to Mexico. The disappearance of the very concept of a "family wage" - the notion that just one adult ought to be able to earn enough to provide for an entire family. Heads of corporations making million-dollar bonuses while slashing their workforce. Politicians taking "campaign donations" from foreign powers and in return allegedly giving special favors to foreign corporations and governments. Mom and pop stores disappearing as multinational chains buy them up or drive them out of business. Family farms disappearing as factory farms replace them. Farm families who manage to hang onto the farm having to work town jobs as well. Downtowns replaced by malls and WalMarts. Michael Jordan making more for lending his endorsement to Nike shoes than the president of Nike is paid in salary, and more than all the workers together make in one of the Indonesian factories that produces the shoes.

Does this bother anyone else?
Does anyone else see they are all connected?

It's Not Just the Economy, Stupid

I have read that when Bill Clinton was campaigning for President, his advisors used to leave him notes reminding him, in their words, "It's the Economy, Stupid!" These advisors believed that if Americans thought Clinton could keep the economy strong, they would vote for him regardless of his personal conduct or his position on moral issues.

There once was another politician who thought the same way. His name was King Solomon. Solomon took many foreign (non-Israelite) wives. God had strictly forbidden this, but Solomon was interested in forming political alliances with as many other nations as possible. After all, "It's the economy, stupid!" Solomon made every effort to make Jerusalem (and, to a lesser extent, Israel) prosperous. And he succeeded. We are told, "the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the vale, for abundance" (1 Kings 10:26). Solomon "exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom" (verse 23).

The "Wisdom" of Solomon

So Solomon was a good ruler, right? Wrong! Thanks to the idolatry introduced by his foreign wives and with his express consent, the kingdom of Israel was torn into two warring kingdoms. The history of both these kingdoms after Solomon is mostly one of paganism, debauch, and defeat, with just a few bright spots of revival breaking through. Even the riches of Solomon disappeared. His silver and gold were carted off to Babylon and other countries.

The Number of His Name

Most PHS readers probably are familiar with the "beast" found in the Bible book of Revelation. This "beast" is an evil character who persecutes the saints of God and does not let anyone buy or sell unless they have "the mark of the beast" on their hand or forehead.

Much has been written about who or what this "beast" can be. Revelation says, "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six" (Rev 13:18).

I think it is interesting that the only other time "six hundred threescore and six" appears in the Bible is in this passage:

"Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold" (1 Kings 10:14).

Here is wisdom - of a sort. Solomon was known as the wisest man who ever lived. This does not mean he was the most righteous, just that he was able to figure things out better than anyone else before or since.

Solomon chose to use his wisdom, during the main part of his life, to pursue economic riches for his people. "It's the economy, stupid!" He didn't seek after the LORD, like his father David. He didn't work for strong families and small businesses. Rather, Solomon centralized and taxed. He made the king and his friends powerful, and the people weak, just as the LORD had warned a king would (see 1 Sam 8:11-22). In fact, it was Solomon's heavy taxation and conscription of the people for public works that caused 10 of the tribes of Israel to revolt when his son came to the throne.

The number of the beast corresponds exactly with the number of the financial reward Solomon got for putting "the economy" before the LORD. What does that tell us?

Personally, I think it tells us we can forget weird schemes of numerology that try to assign numbers to the names of present or past historical figures. The clue "here is wisdom" could easily point to Solomon, and the 666 directly points to the gold of Solomon. If this is correct, then a political/economic system primarily based on the pursuit of wealth and good times alone is a problem, not the solution. As the Bible elsewhere points out, "You cannot serve both God and Mammon."

Principles First

We are suffering today under the economic theories of Solomon. Economists number and weigh, but they're numbering and weighing the wrong quantities. Freedom? Independence? Dignity? Family? These don't count in their thinking. Nine guys making ten million dollars a year each, with a thousand servants making ten thousand dollars each, looks better to today's economists than 1,009 guys making $99,000 a year apiece. (Do the math.) The total wealth of the first bunch is greater, but I bet the total happiness of the second bunch is greater.

As a Conservative Book Club member, I recently purchased a book entitled A Humane Economy, by mid-century German economist Wilhelm Roepke. Although Roepke is not perfect (he's a bit of a social snob, he believed in the myth of "overpopulation," and he hated comic books!), his book does an overall good job of promoting the economic theory of "distributism," which was first laid before the British public by Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton. As Roepke explains it, under this system,

wealth would be widely dispersed: people's lives would have solid foundations: genuine communities, from the family upward, would form a background of moral support for the individual; there would be counterweights to competition and the mechanical operation of prices; people would have roots and not be adrift in life without an anchor; there would be a broad belt of an independent middle class, a healthy balance between town and country, industry and agriculture.

Distributism is based on the biblical principle that the best economic system has "every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid" (Micah 4:3). Everyone has at least a little bit of property. Everyone values principle over money. Nobody builds huge multinational chains: "woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field... that they may be placed alone" (Isaiah 5:8).

We will never have this utopia in full, but at least now we know what we're aiming at. And what it's called.

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