"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, 21 July 2011

The Jubilee Land laws, Lehman Brothers, and the Eurozone crisis.

The Lehman Brothers collapse two years ago sent shock waves around the world. The European currency and economy is heading for a crisis that will have deep implications way beyond Europe. Isn't it time we reexamined the very basis of the way our economy is operated?

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. No freehold sales were allowed and every fiftieth year, the Jubilee Year, the land had to revert to the original family freeholder, at which time the people were to return to their own clans. 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.’
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.
I make no apology for repeating this message, examined in rather more detail in my blog back in May.
Because we cannot keep going on propping up businesses and banks for ever. We need to examine the underlying malaise. The answers may well be found by looking again at Ancient Wisdom.

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