Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; (D&C 98:10)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Capitalism and Consecration

There is an interesting discussion here about how capitalism and consecration can work together. 

First off I state the short conclusion of Geoff  B in another post "capitalism is the least worst system available to us — until Zion can be achieved"

If Zion is what we are working towards what is it? How might we define it in terms all people might be able to agree on? I think you might say that Zion or utopia is where every one is free to do as they will and are able. Those that are more able are willing to help those that are less able to assist them in becoming more able. Those that are less able are willing to accept help and responsibility to become self-sufficient and then pay it forward.

In order to freely give you must first truly own.

one needs to actually have property (or a substantial amount of property) as well as freedom to be ABLE to live consecration. The morality of libertarianism is freedom and the right to reap what you sow. The morality of consecration is to freely give of your reaping to others and have that be a blessing to the giver and the receiver. You can’t really have one without the other, in my view, which is why I think that individualism plays a big part in the gospel. Libertarianism doesn’t tell you what you are supposed to do with your property, or that you can’t be a collectivist. But it does give more freedom and means to actually be a collectivist if you so wish it. Could we not substitute individualism in a political sense for agency in a gospel sense and find a similar set of values? (Pierce)

It is not really up to only ourselves to decide who to help and how

If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that at times, we are selfish. Regardless if you believe in a Supreme Being, we all are alive now because of the willing gift of someone else. Someone to care for us as infants and children. We should look to a Greater Good when trying to discern how to best lift others and to be lifted ourselves.
I think a lot of those member think that it is up to them as individuals how and to whom they are to redistribute wealth and property, whereas the law of consecration tells us that it is up to the Lord and His church to do this. These are two very different moralities and right-wing members too often confuse the two. (Jeff G)
How many Mormons are willing, right now, to scale down their living style and actually give the excess to other poor LDS families to the point that the other families would be on a similar socio-economic footing as them?
Probably none. (Pierce)

The Lord intends the poor to be exalted and the rich to be made low

 15 ...it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
 16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
 17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. (D&C 104:15-17)

Giving is better than Coercion 

fundamental to democracy, and fundamental to capitalism is a religious sense, is a religious life. And out of that grew this idea that what we have to enforce the unenforceable. You have to voluntarily choose to be honest. You have to voluntarily honor a contract. You have to voluntarily care about what the course of your community is, or the integrity of your leaders. We can’t hire enough policemen to do that. You can’t get a government oppressive enough or large enough to manage all of that. That has to be something from the human heart. That has to be something from the soul. And that’s what a morally honest and a religiously oriented people do for democracy. ("A Conversation with LDS Elder Jeffrey Holland", Jeffrey R. Holland, Feb 2015)

What do we do with those who do not want to give?

We do, in fact, live in a modern society. We do have a responsibility to take care of the poor and disadvantaged, and the combined charities (including all churches) do not have the wherewithal to do so. This is one reason why we have governments. 
It is, therefore, not confiscation (I think that’s the word you were after, not compensation) when the government taxes us in order to create some sort of minimum level of suffering in society as well as provide all the things we think government ought to do (streets, libraries, police, etc.) It is simply the price of living in a modern society. 
The hyperidealistic delusion of libertarians that we still live in the wild west where rugged individualism reigns and everybody is able to make it on his or her own is a utopia that never existed and never will. 
Consider please that even the city of Enoch had a government and required certain things of its citizens. (Lew Scannon)
It seems that we have one of two choices or somewhere in between.

One, we could kick out anyone who is not willing to freely give what has been gifted to them from God. I imagine that this is what the Celestial Kingdom is. Only those that are full willing to give all that they have can be in such a perfect society.

Or two, We could compel those in the society to give.

It seems to me that the first option is preferable, this gets to the crux of "capitalism is the least worst system available to us — until Zion can be achieved".

Consecration is based on voluntary giving and then receiving private property by mutual consent

Jeff, my understanding of the United Order is a bit different; so please let me know if I’m wrong. But as I understand it: 
1. The United Order *did* entail private property–you deeded your property to the Church on entry but then had a stewardship–often the same land/house you’d consecrated–deeded right back to you. 
2. Periodic contributions of “surplus” to one’s ecclesiastical leader were not based on an assessment from a bishop who arbitrarily decreed that one “had enough”; but by mutual consent between the member and the bishop. The ability to improve your lot in life over last year provided continuing incentive for work even after one’s own basic needs were met–an incentive that altruism alone doesn’t have a great track record of providing. 
3. If you look up the D&C passages regarding “idlers”, they are actually quite harsh. I don’t know that the United Order would have completely cut such people loose and leave them to their own devices for sustenance, as many libertarians seem willing to do; but I think that (with the possible exception of medical care) they’d be afforded a standard of living somewhat below what can be had through American government assistance programs (and far below what can be had through similar programs in western Europe). 
There are most likely conservatives who use libertarian theory as a crutch to justify personal stinginess (as King Benjamin himself noted); but I don’t think conservativism/libertarianism is uniquely uncharitable. Both sides essentially provide a theoretical “other” who should do my alms for me–“the taxpayers” (a group that, statistically, has a 53% chance of *not* including me) in the case of the left, and “private charities” (a group that includes me only if I want it to) in the case of the right. (JimD)

Capitalism (and Collectivism) is concerned with how to acquire goods and services not what to do with them

I think a relevant question is how to acquire goods. The gospel doesn’t tell us how to acquire goods in an economic sense–only what to do with them once we have them. Capitalism, on the other hand, teaches how best to acquire goods, but not how to use them. So I don’t think one can merely separate the two and say that adopting capitalist doctrine doesn’t follow the gospel, since the gospel doesn’t deal with acquiring goods, and capitalism doesn’t tell you what to do with the goods. The gospel merely picks up at the point of “once you have goods, you need to impart it to the poor and live for the good of the group.” 
There’s no doubt that most members are selfish (how many of us live on what we need and donate the rest?) and that can be reflected in our politics (how can we get more for ourselves?), but that really has more to do with acquirED goods rather than acquirING goods. I still think individualism plays a crucial role in gospel/church instituted collectivism. 
Especially with libertarianism, the mantra regarding collectivism is: individuals can do it better than a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy. So the more we retain (from the government, not necessarily for ourselves), the better it will be for everyone. (Pierce)

What might be some good guidelines for a modern implementation of consecration?

- Entering into the Order is voluntary
- Once a year, you consecrate all your possessions to the church. Then you and the bishop council together to see what is best to deed back to you. I see the consecration as an act of faith. That the counseling together the bishop, acting as the Lord's representative, is in the driver's seat. If there is no mutual consent, I imagine that you may just leave with what you came in with, but that would certainly bring a lot of consequences. Such as being kicked out of the order. And peer pressure from family and friends.
- You may leave the order at any time. In fact in fact you are really only formally a part of the order when you give a donation.

This arrangement seems to require someone with a Zion-heart and a critical mass of these kinds of people to start and sustain the order. This is why I have so often fallen back to "capitalism is the least worst system available to us — until Zion can be achieved"

1 comment:

Pierce said...

I'd say you summed up the whole conversation very well.