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Gospel/philosophical critique of a few of David's Recent Salient Points


Loran Howard Blood

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In the still ongoing "Social Justice in the Bible" thread, David has made the following assertions, several of which I would like to analyze in order for their philosophical content.

My perspective is that when the wealthy hoard resources, they do actively harm the poor.

This is a fascinating proposition, for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is that it, more (or as much) as anything else David has ever said here, provides a window into his intellectual background and the influences that have informed his particular approach to scriptural exegesis.

If the accumulation of capital resources (whether this be stuff or a medium of exchange) is, by definition, a withholding of substance from the poor, then this can only imply a view of the economy as a zero sum game; as a static pile of money, goods, or commodities that, when x amount is held by y, means there is less for z. Z has less, or becomes poor, or even destitute, because y holds x amount. If we, as a society, though some central mediating agency (the state or church, as it may be) redistributes this wealth equally, all the shares of the static pie are available to all. Even if each share is infinitesimally small, and poverty itself is not in any substantial way actually overcome as a condition, the equal sharing of ever smaller shares is understood to be a morally superior state to the unequal diffusion of the "pile" of capital in a free market system, in which some have less and some have more.

The central idea here, that the creation of wealth is the cause of poverty, did not begin with Marx, but had its greatest impact upon the intellectual and political world through his articulation of it. It infuses virtually the entire academic and political Left today as a matter of settled dogma. Is is economic nonsense? Of course it is. Is it an elementary matter to refute it? Indeed, and it has been for much of the last century.

Why then does it persist? That is a question for philosophy, psychology, history, and economics but also, and most importantly, for the gospel. Since without the gradual and substantial accumulation of capital, there can be no economic production, no economic growth, and no creation of net wealth, without capital accumulation ("hoarding," as David has phrased it), the very idea of eradicating poverty is a moot question. We might as well pack our moral and spiritual bags and go home.

Without capital accumulation, there is no productive economic activity, no economic growth, no job creation, and no generation of net wealth in the economy. As the very concept of "welfare," and the presence of the Bishop's storehouse in Zion is grounded at its foundation, in a a priori sense, in capital formation, capital accumulation, and productive work, if we eliminate these at the outset, then we tie a noose around the neck of the very fountain of the means of the eradication of poverty so earnestly sought and looked forward to.

The big pile of money somewhere that some people (the rich and the bourgeoisie middle class) happened to get to first and take more than their of, leaving less for the poor, is a closed system. There is a specific, set amount of it. Some people (or classes - groups) take more from teh pile than is morally permissible. Others have less because the greedy hands got their first and removed more than their "fair share."

Nowhere in this paradigm is the relevance or presence of productive labor, work, creativity, entrepreneurship, or the creation of more, better, and more varied goods, services, commodities -stuff - even considered. Nowhere, within the Olympian towers of pure academic theory is the real world of economic and social history ever consulted, from which perceptual window one would see that the economy, in a unhindered, unhampered, unshackled, free market, contractual society that protects property rights and observes the rule of law, is not static but is in a conintual dynamic process of growth and expansion. In such an economy, unless government intervenes and corrupts and distorts normal economic processes, as very recent history tells us, the rich tend to get richer, the middle class gets richer, and the poor tend get richer as they participate in expanding job opportunities as well as the ever spiraling decrease in prices and proliferation of items that once could only be afforded by the affluent, but due to economic liberty, market competition, and property rights, fall ever more within the realm of even many of the poorest as time goes on.

Could there be a better system, form a gospel perspective? Sure. But we should not kid ourselves in moments of idealistic reverie that, even as improvements are made, the fundamental principles that lie at the foundation of the spread of ever better living conditions among the vast majority in free market oriented countries can ever be abandoned without abandoning the truths regarding the nature of wealth and the laws that govern its creation, which, if abandoned for idealistic fantasies birthed by human hubris, will make the eradication of poverty in any conceivable Zion society just as far beyond reach as they are at present.

All previous secular ideologies that have attempted to eradicate poverty and usher in a golden age of communal brotherhood and happiness (all of which, in point of fact, are really best understood as forms of utopian secular gnosticism seeking a secular realization of the Christian eschaton) ended in human, moral, and practical disaster precisely because their core, foundational premises and assumptions are false. From false fundamental premises, nothing but further falsehood and failure can ever come.

Additionally, since I accept the validity of the biblical view regarding communal sins, I believe that the government representing a community holds a moral responsibility to see that virtue and charity are legislated.

This is a call for state sanctioned and forcibly coerced moral virtue, not of the kind we deal with when we speak of laws forbidding theft, forging of checks, rape, murder, or arson, but of state sanctioned and forcibly coerced charity. It is also a call to forcibly take property (as well as time and labor) from those to whom it belongs, and transfer it to those to whom it does not belong as an entitlement as a member of the collective identity group "the poor," It is hence also a call for legalized theft in the name of "virtue and charity," as David has termed it.

The gulf between that which is Caesars business, and that which is our business, is bridged, and the road to serfdom adds a few more lanes.

This is a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous path for any Latter Day Saint to tread, let alone a society. The moral, doctrinal, and practical contradictions and hidden quicksand are so great that it begs probably an antire book to explore the possible consequences of such a course.

We already know where such a course will lead. History makes that clear beyond reasonable argument. Why have some of us not learned from history?

Now at that, I draw a big, dark blank.

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A parting word of clarification.

Not knowing anything about me and the development of my personal beliefs, you've made a major misrepresentation of the facts. My political views developed out of my scriptural and historical LDS studies, not the other way around.

Sincerely, have a good life.

--DB

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A parting word of clarification.

Not knowing anything about me and the development of my personal beliefs, you've made a major misrepresentation of the facts. My political views developed out of my scriptural and historical LDS studies, not the other way around.

Sincerely, have a good life.

--DB

As you remain incapable of responding to or substantively engaging intellectually serious critique and argument regarding your philosophy and its implications within the context to which they are directed (actual social/economic policy within the UO and what you see as scriptural mandates regarding how Latter Day Saints should be living now, as to the application of these principles (Acts 4: 33-35 and what you claim are its proper understanding and application for the entire restoration Church in this dispensation etc.)), I hope you too, have that same "good life."

Note: if you actually believe that I am going to swallow whole the claim that your iconoclastic interpretations of scripture, and the particular form they have taken in your thought, are the result of purely individuals thinking, wholly isolated and independent of outside intellectual and philosophical influences, all I can say to this is...

Please.

Your views here are hardly unique, and they predate you within the Roman Catholic and mainstream Protestant Left by generations. Your specific versions of them, *** applicable to LDS theology, represent only slight modifications. They were well developed when I was a young adult and you were still on your mother's knee learning nursery rhymes.

The one place David, your particular interpretations of scripture and the doctrines/practices you believe they imply or mandate, cannot be found and do not appear obvious to the vast majority of those who read the same scriptures, is in the Church. That is where we walk through a desert seeking justification for your scriptural exegesis, but the desert continues to stretch on before us into the horizon, no matter how far we go. We seek in the writing and talks of our General Authorities - generations of them - and cannot find. We look in our official manuals, handbooks, and teaching resources for local and regional priesthood leaders, and cannot find it. We go back to the scriptures themselves, and find that much of what you are teaching here is inconsistent with what the Brethren have taught regarding the very same scriptures throughout the history of the Restoration.

First Presidency messages, Conference talks, devotionals, official church educational resources' Nowhere save within your particular theoretical template do we seem to come to the same conclusions as you have. The farther we seek, the less we find your teachings represented anywhere within the Church.

That is the fork in the road you have presented us with here.

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My perspective is that when the wealthy hoard resources, they do actively harm the poor

I agree with this, but this usually occurs more so when there is crony capitalism.

Cronyism, I fear, is often conflated with the market in the minds of many.

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It seems to me there are many different ways to live the Lord's command to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Probably an infinite number. Creating wealth and thereby giving someone a job is one. Philanthropic giving to the poor is another. These are not contradictory or incompatible. They are complimentary. When we see any human political system or theory as intrinsic (or inimical) to the Gospel, we necessarily distort the Gospel in the process. The Gospel must transcend human political theories, which will all pass away one day when God's kingdom comes. The Lord's command to "Love your neighbor as yourself" can be lived in a capitalist society, a communist society, or a concentration camp. It is not a political or economic system that permits for forbids you from living the Great Commandment. It is our own greed and clinging to the natural man.

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It seems to me there are many different ways to live the Lord's command to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Probably an infinite number. Creating wealth and thereby giving someone a job is one. Philanthropic giving to the poor is another. These are not contradictory or incompatible. They are complimentary. When we see any human political system or theory as intrinsic (or inimical) to the Gospel, we necessarily distort the Gospel in the process. The Gospel must transcend human political theories, which will all pass away one day when God's kingdom comes. The Lord's command to "Love your neighbor as yourself" can be lived in a capitalist society, a communist society, or a concentration camp. It is not a political or economic system that permits for forbids you from living the Great Commandment. It is our own greed and clinging to the natural man.

Well put.

We are still dealing with the leftover mindsets of WWII and the Cold War and fail sometimes to move past the capitalism vs. socialism paradigm.

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As you remain incapable of responding to or substantively engaging intellectually serious critique and argument regarding your philosophy and its implications within the context to which they are directed (actual social/economic policy within the UO and what you see as scriptural mandates regarding how Latter Day Saints should be living now, as to the application of these principles (Acts 4: 33-35 and what you claim are its proper understanding and application for the entire restoration Church in this dispensation etc.)), I hope you too, have that same "good life."

Note: if you actually believe that I am going to swallow whole the claim that your iconoclastic interpretations of scripture, and the particular form they have taken in your thought, are the result of purely individuals thinking, wholly isolated and independent of outside intellectual and philosophical influences, all I can say to this is...

Please.

Loran, if you would just stick to telling us what your beliefs and ideas mean and leave to others to do the same for their own beliefs, I would find your posts much more interesting and worthwhile.
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Loran, if you would just stick to telling us what your beliefs and ideas mean and leave to others to do the same for their own beliefs, I would find your posts much more interesting and worthwhile.

Interesting Cal, as on my other thread you have relegated yourself solely to refereeing and interpreting the arguments and intentions of a rather wide swath of the board's posters.

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