Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where is Biblical Inerrancy When We Need it?

In general, I’m not reassured that the Republicans have put a Christian fundamentalist on their national ticket. Sarah Palin holds beliefs about such matters as creationism and God’s will (Jesus pays close attention to natural gas pipelines) that make me cringe. But I would suppress all that if she would make the connection between biblical teachings (Leviticus, chapter 25, various verses) and disorder in financial markets.

The passages I’m thinking of describe a jubilee which is to take place on the fiftieth year; all debts are foregiven, property (particularly in humans, as was common back then) redistributed, and liberty proclaimed. From a narrow economic point of view, periodic dissolution of debt claims has the virtue of avoiding the sort of overly leveraged, and therefore highly fragile, financial structure that is a recurrent threat to prosperity. This is the one “thou shalt” that we really should.

Incidentally, I think that in this, as in other matters, we should prefer a loose reading of scripture. If the jubilee were entirely predictable in its fifty year rotation, the credit mechanism would collapse as the big event approached: who would lend if there were a certain date on which a universal default was scheduled? But maybe Einstein was wrong and God really does throw dice. In that case, we could interpret Leviticus as advising us to establish a stochastic jubilee, such that in each year there would be a 2% chance of its occurrence. This could be done by picking an envelope out of a drum on nationwide TV. (Imagine the ratings: you could take in a lot of revenue just by selling the advertising.) The downside is that an extra 2% risk premium would be attached to all loans, but we could learn to live with it.

So why is it that those who proclaim their belief in every word of the bible conveniently forget its most far-reaching economic proposal?


Eleanor said...

I like this idea. Wasn't there a mini-jubilee every seven years also?

I have written several stories about the Goxhat, an alien species who regard capitalism as a game. Every 16 years they pause, count all the chips and declare the current game's winners, who get statues and poems in praise of their achievementments. Then wealth is redistributed, and the game begins again.

Jack said...

What a great, but peculiar, idea. People would actually live in accordance with their christian beliefs. Or better still, they live by the words of Jesus. This does not apply to only Christians. If all people lived by the words attributed to their gods we'd be liviing in a far different world. Unfortunately we tend to see people placing the blame on their gods for their own self serving behaviors and the ill that follows.

watchman said...

When will Republicans realize that even the Churches are living in a post Bible world! They are dinasaurs living in an age long, long, ago.