"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ancient Wisdoms - Modern Economy

I’ve written quite a bit lately about the flaws in our economic system. What are the alternatives?

This is where I believe we can find inspiration from Ancient Wisdoms.
You don’t have to be religious to be able to appreciate the wisdom of spiritual texts in the context of the twenty first century. The Bible teaches that money is first and foremost a tool for us to use wisely for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. But what if you don't believe in God? The Old Testament sets out principles of economics relating to the management of land and debt that in their essence are clearly designed to promote and maintain healthy relationships and prevent the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a minority. That to me sounds enormously relevant for today’s world, whether or not you believe in God!

The Jubilee Land laws
When the Israelites entered Canaan in the fourteenth century BC the land was carved up between them per capita, and the Jubilee Land Laws were formulated.1 No freehold sales were allowed and every fiftieth year, the Jubilee Year, the land had to revert to the original family freeholder, 2 at which time the people were to return to their own clans.3 At this same time bonded servants or debt slaves were released. This sound albeit informal welfare system ensured that the disabled, elderly and infirm were cared for, and the extended family was kept together, maintaining personal dignity and self-reliance for all.
Then there were the laws that gave freedom from debt servitude. There was an interest ban on loans between Israelites (not applicable to refugees and immigrants) and the loan would be cancelled every seven years. This kept the wealth within a family unit and worked to keep the family together.
Lending was about helping the poor and needy through financial crises. Loans were for helping in the short term, they were not intended to cause any hardship to a borrower over the longer term.
These laws for periodic debt cancellation and the return of family property protected a family’s roots and avoided wealth concentration and economic dependency. The laws underlined justice on the one hand with redistribution rules and the importance of relationships on the other, with families being rooted in their own areas. ‘There is hope for your future, says the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.’4
This is quite the opposite of the global mobility encouraged today in the workforce. Such mobility brings with it the inherent disadvantages of losing family cohesion, not knowing others around you in society and not feeling part of any community. When people generally do not feel loyalty and attachment to a particular area there can be an increase in crimes against the person and an increase in violence against the environment.
Many of us believe that there is an inextricable link between religious faith and social values, between theology and sociology, between the spiritual and the political. But we must have the courage to uphold these values in our lives. If we do not do so we fail society, and we fail God.5

Comments welcome!

1. Holy Bible, RSV, Joshua chapters 13 to 21
2. Ibid, Leviticus 25.
3. Ibid., Lev 25.10
4. Ibid., Jeremiah 31.17
5. The Rt. Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, in his foreword to Schluter, Michael and John Ashcroft, Editors, Jubilee Manifesto: a Framework, Agenda and Strategy for Christian Social Reform, Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005, p. 11.

The photo, by the way, is of tobacco being dried in the Dordogne.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011


4granted said...

Great post. Ancient wisdom can teach us so much--not about how to gain the whole world, but about how to avoid losing our souls. Jim Wallis, in his book Rediscovering Values, writes about the Jubilee tradition, and how caring for the poor is a facet of every major world religion. His book calls us back to this generous and God-honoring way of caring for the poor, of seeing all we have as a gift from God.

Eleanor said...

Thanks for that - I have reviewed Jim Wallis' book at Amazon - it offers very sound advice to a consumer mad society. Our whole life and world would be better if informed by Ancient Wisdoms. My own book is all about healing souls, becoming more vulnerable and compassionate and spiritual, finding our souls, in everything we do.And I think the key is ultimately in providing a holistic education for all our youngsters. I have written much on that and will be picking up that theme again soon.
cheers Eleanor

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