Nibley on the Redistribution of Wealth

Part 8 of 11 in the series Notes on Socialism

Yesterday, I read Bryce’s post A Prophet Declares “Redistribution of Wealth” is Socialism. If you read through the comments to that post, you may have noticed it generated quite a debate that eventually ended with ad hominems and a closure of comments.

Despite the fact that this debate once again reminded me of Hegelian Dialectic that has come to dominate political discourse in our society, a number of comments were made about what Nibley supposedly believed, taught, and wrote concerning the redistribution of wealth. So today I thought I would go back and check what Nibley actually had to say about the matter.

Dr. Nibley summed up the problem of the “redistribution of wealth” after quoting Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. He summarized More’s beliefs in this way:

He points out that laws limiting ownership, sumptuary laws, laws against corruption in government, and so on – none of these will cure the fatal disease as long as we have private property, which indeed is the disease.1

GM Factory Redistribution of Wealth and Private Property

If private property is in fact the disease which is core to the issue of the redistribution of wealth, what is private property? In the same volume, Dr. Nibley gave this insightful commentary:

The words property and private have the same root (prop = priv by Grimm’s Law) and emphasize the same thing – that which is the most intimate and personal part of an individual. The Oxford English Dictionary specifies “privatus–peculiar to oneself . . . that belongs to or is the property of a particular individual; belonging to oneself, one’s own.” And “proprius–own, proper, . . . property, the holding of something as one’s own.” Both definitions fall back on Old English agen (German eigen), “expressing tenderness or affection . . . in superlative, very own.” Webster has “Latin privatus apart from the state . . . of or belonging to one-self, . . . single, private, set apart for himself.” What is privatum or proprium is therefore peculiar to one person alone (not a corporation). It is something that I could not do without, under any social or economic system, and that would have little interest for anyone else, such as my clothes, shoes, books, notes, bedding, glasses, teeth, comb, and so on. Because they are personal and indispensable to me and of no value to anyone else, they must be inalienable to me, for there is great danger if they fall into the hands of another. The bully on the block who grabs another boy’s glasses can get him to do almost anything to get them back, because he must have them, and the bully knows it. The mill-owner who threatened to withhold lunch from the workers could always get them to work on his terms, claiming their lunches as his private property to dispose of as he chose.2

In other words, “these two totally different views of private property” are in stark contrast with each other.

Hugh W. Nibley

In this same article, Dr. Nibley points out that the law of Moses “deals impressively” with the concept of private property. In fact,

The closing chapters of Deuteronomy describe point by point the calamities that will befall Israel if every item of the law is not scrupulously observed. It is the exact reverse of the list of blessings promised if the law is kept. And these terrible things are more than warnings; they are specific prophecies of just what is going to happen, and just what did happen to Israel, “because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deuteronomy 28:47). The identical situation obtains in the Book of Mormon . . .3

In characteristic flair, Dr. Nibley elaborated just what the Lord meant when he first instituted the law of consecration:

I do have private property under the law of consecration, but it is the terms private and property in the private and proper sense, of something intimately and personally necessary to one’s functioning in the world. “Thou shalt not take thy brother’s garment; thou shalt pay for that which thou shalt receive of thy brother” (D&C 42:54). This is what is meant by private and property: something intimate, personal, and indispensable, like a person’s garment, the sort of thing everyone must have for his own under any economic system. One may not accumulate property, for then it ceases to be property and falls into the forbidden category of “power and gain.”4

This type of covenant,

. . . is made by the individual to the Father in the name of the Son, a private and a personal thing, a covenant with the Lord. He intends it specifically to implement a social order – to save his people as a people, to unite them and make them of one heart and one mind, independent of any power on earth. If I as an individual offer all I have to the bishop and ask him to meet all my needs in return, he must consult higher authority before he can accept; the plan is so designed that we must all be in it together.5

In other words, this covenant is the same as – or similar to – the covenant that Wilford Woodruff made in 1834 when he covenanted with the Bishop and sought to become an heir to the celestial kingdom (see Wilford Woodruff and the Law of Consecration).

Oakland Temple A New Order of Things

This order of things was to be implemented in a specific manner:

The conditions of sharing demanded by the Lord can only be satisfied by complete equality, a point that is ceaselessly repeated. The purpose and intent in the order is “that you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if you are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things” (D&C 78:5-6). “Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal” (D&C 70:14). “And let every man esteem his brother as himself. . . . For what man . . . saith unto the one [son]: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there – and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?” (D&C 38:24-26). You must follow my instructions, saith the Lord, and “I am no respecter of persons” (D&C 1:35). He explains that he made the earth and made it rich and there is no excuse for poverty; everything we have is a free gift from him, “and I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, . . . a land of promise, . . . flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh” (D&C 38:18). Why should there be a curse on the land? In the first vision the Lord declared, “behold, the world lieth in sin,” and the reason for that is given in D&C 49:20: “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.”

Substance is shared on the basis of need alone. “And you are to be equal, . . . to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs [that is, the things he happens to lack that everyone should have], inasmuch as his wants are just” (D&C 82:17). Note that the question of the deserving poor never arises. Who decides what is necessary for your support? You do; you are accountable for that decision; that is your stewardship (D&C 42:32-33, 55). The presiding bishop “also should travel round about and among all the churches, searching after the poor to administer to their wants by humbling the rich and the proud” (D&C 84:112). We cannot be equal, as the Lord commands, and live on different levels of affluence. True, some are stronger than others, some are smarter than others, but our gifts and talents were given us to be put at the disposal of our fellowman, not to be put at our disposal in the manner of Nimrod. “This is my work and my glory” to see to it that others get a full share of the glory and the work–to bring about eternal life and exaltation (Moses 1:39). The Lord descended below all things that he might raise all the others up. The bishop is assisted by agents “to do his secular business” (D&C 84:113), which is also spiritual in nature in this context: Ye cannot be one in spiritual things if ye are not one in temporal things (D&C 70:12-13). “And . . . more than is necessary for their [his family's] support . . . is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop . . . to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants” (D&C 42:33). The most concise statement of the law is that of King Benjamin: “Render to every man according to that which is his due” (Mosiah 4:13). Something is due to every human being, and something is due from every human being. What is it? “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath . . . to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26). Everything depends, of course, on the spirit in which this is carried out. “You shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of . . . the Spirit shall be withheld” (D&C 70:14). “God had often sealed up the heavens [and no revelation given] because of covetousness in the Church.”6

Socialism and Redistribution of Wealth

Socialism also seeks to achieve a similar set of objectives. According to the 18th Congress of the Socialist International:

Democratic socialism is an international movement for freedom, social justice, and solidarity. Its goal is to achieve a peaceful world where these basic values can be enhanced and where each individual can live a meaningful life with the full development of his or her personality and talents, and with the guarantee of human and civil rights in a democratic framework of society.7

And almost all socialists advocate:

  1. That private ownership of the means of production be abolished and put under the control of the state.8
  2. That the power of the state be used to achieve these policies.
  3. That a change in the control of industry will cause a change in the motives of those who operate the present system.

Glenwood United Order The United Order vs. Socialism

In early LDS church history, various “united orders”9 were established in an attempt to implement the “law of consecration”10 among church members and to establish Zion in anticipation of the Millennial reign of Christ on the earth.11 Over time, many have noted the similarities between these united orders and socialism. (See Introduction to Notes on Socialism.)

For example, both systems deal with the production and distribution of goods, seek to eliminate economic inequalities, and envision the elimination of selfish motives in private capitalistic systems. Even though both systems seek to achieve a similar set of outcomes via the redistribution of wealth, there are some key and fundamental differences between the two systems. These differences include:

  1. The cornerstone of the United Order is a belief in God and an acceptance of him as Lord of the earth. In contrast, socialism is founded in the wisdom of men and theoretical constructs.
  2. The United Order is implemented by the agency of men as evidenced by a consecration of all their property to the Church.
  3. The United Order is operated upon the principle of private ownership and individual management whereas socialism operates under the principle of state ownership and control and deprives man of his agency.
  4. The United Order is non-political. In comparison, socialism is political in its very nature.
  5. A righteous and virtuous people are prerequisite to the United Order which seeks to exalt the poor and humble the rich while socialism presumably seeks to replace the evils of the profit motive.

Summary of Redistribution of Wealth

The blessings of the United Order and the law of consecration are clearly set forth in latter-day revelation:

And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion. (Moses 7:16-19).

If the world’s experience with socialism in the 20th century portends anything, the blessings – if you can call them that – of socialism are undeniable. Where has it ever brought freedom, justice, and peace to people?

Sources:

  1. Nibley, Hugh W. “The Utopians“. Approaching Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989. 501.
  2. Nibley, Hugh W. “Work We Must But the Lunch is Free”. Approaching Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989. 221.
  3. Nibley, Hugh W. “Work We Must But the Lunch is Free”. Approaching Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989. 223.
  4. Nibley, Hugh W. “Breakthroughs I Would Like to See”. Approaching Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989. 396.
  5. Nibley, Hugh W. “Law of Consecration”. Approaching Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989. 468.
  6. Nibley, Hugh W. “Breakthroughs I Would Like to See”. Approaching Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989. 396-397.
  7. Declaration of Principles“. Socialist International. 29 October 2008.
  8. For example, see my post on Socialism.
  9. Israelsen, L. Dwight. “United Orders“. 1992. Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
  10. Hirschi, Frank W. “Consecration“. 1992 Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
  11. See Orson Pratt’s comments in the post the Redemption of Zion.
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  1. john willis’s avatar

    In the 1950′s the noted economist Clarence Ayres from the University of Texas was hauled before a committee of the Texas Legislature investigating “subversion” and “communist inflitration” in Texas Unviersities.
    He asked by a a hostile legislator “Do you believe in Private Property?”
    He answered “Yes and I believe everyone should have some.”

  2. Brad Kramer’s avatar

    Nice work.

    I wonder what Ezra Taft Benson thought of those who advocated the abolition of private property…

  3. Greg’s avatar

    John – Thanks for your comments. It is interesting how the field of economics has been used to promote socialist principles in our educational institutions.

  4. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Brad. It would be interesting to know firsthand what he thought, but I think that his writings give us some indication. I seem to remember reading some statements that indicate he had great empathy for people who may not have understood the issue of private property as he did.

  5. Brad Kramer’s avatar

    You’re right, Greg. I should have used more careful language, since in spite of his often radically passionate beliefs, he was a compassionate man toward those who did not share his views. What I meant to say was, I wonder what he thought about ideas, philosophies, or policies that advocated abridging or abolishing private property.

  6. Greg’s avatar

    Brad – From what I’ve read, I believe he was against any abridgment or abolishment of private property. His position is consistent with the statement in D&C 134:2: “We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.”

  7. Brad Kramer’s avatar

    Just to be clear — we’re talking about Benson, and not Nibley, right?

  8. Greg’s avatar

    Yes – my comments are in response to your original post about what Ezra Taft Benson thought “of those who advocated the abolition of private property…”

  9. John’s avatar

    “If the world’s experience with socialism in the 20th century portends anything, the blessings – if you can call them that – of socialism are undeniable. Where has it ever brought freedom, justice, and peace to people?”

    Several countries have been quite successful in implementing socialism. What has failed is communism, but more libertarian forms of socialism have done very well. For example, the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden and Finland) are Social Democratic, a form of socialism which allows for a mixed economy while allowing the means of production to be jointly controlled by owners and workers. They have a higher level of democratic participation, a higher per capita income, a higher standard of living, less abortion, less homelessness and poverty rate, less crime, and less prisoner recidivism than the United States. Canada has also moved in the direction of social democracy with similar results, and while Spain’s parliament was controlled by the Socialist Party recently, they also surpassed the US in standard of living.

    Many assume that socialism automatically calls for state control, but there are many forms of socialism, and many of those forms take on a libertarian approach. The main component of socialism is not state control, but the means of production being controlled by the workers as opposed to the capitalists and owners as it is in a strictly capitalist society.

    I hate to reference Wikipedia, but they do have a rather informative summary of Social Democracy in the following link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

  10. Greg’s avatar

    Hi John, thank you for your comments. Your points are well taken. There are many countries that have seemingly achieved a symbiosis of social democracy and market socialism. And as you mention above, they have been able to produce laudable results.

    Recently, I was reading John Taylor’s The Government of God in which he stated that there are many forms of government which are suitable to a variety of people, etc. So in this light, I concur with your analysis above. Thank you for making this important point.

    The other side of the coin to this issue is that some estimate over 100 million deaths occurred under regimes operating under a socialist philosophy. See Marx and Darwin as one example. I should have been more clear in my comments above that it was to these groups I was speaking.

    And while it may appear that communism has failed, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was not in fact a communist nation (assuming this is what you had reference to), but a group of “socialist republics” operating under the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. These republics were set up in order to prepare a people for true communism. I suppose one could argue that this is a more extreme form of socialism.

  11. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    The problem with the USSR wasn’t socialism, it was militarism and totalitarianism.

  12. Al’s avatar

    I appreciate your careful analysis. It was a joy to read through and to learn from.

    A crucial piece that I think needs to be kept in mind that nations that have adopted socialism in any measure leads to a decrease in their basic freedoms. John praises “libertarian” socialism and points to European countries stating that they have done “very well” under this form of government. First of all I don’t know what a libertarian socialism is; it seems to me a contradiction of terms. Second, to conclude that those countries have done “very well” depends on your definition of prosperity. It seems clear to me that any time that there is strong governmental oversite this makes the economy less effiecient and, ultimately, less free. Now, granted, they have prospered in terms of reducing the number of unmet basic needs, but at what cost! When was the last time you heard of countries investing in a socialist country? The bottom line for me is it seems self-evident that in order for our countries to become richer (and thus better able to meet the needs of the poor among us) our economies must both be independently sustainable (like theirs largely are, and like ours used to be) and sucessfully interdependent in their commerce.

    To priase socialism in any form is to support a series of restrictions in freedoms in not only the economic sector but also in social liberties that we in US society widely embrace as “basic freedoms” (press, religion, peaceful demonstration, etc.)

    Please look much further than Wikipedia in your praise and support of socialism in any of its forms… I fear that if we don’t we will find that we have ourselves adopted socialism one slice at a time and justify this move by saying, “well, look at Norway, they aren’t doing so bad.” A closer look reveals that over the last few decades these countries have become much more restrictive in social liberties extending even to what can and can’t be publically declared (such as the recent example of the Catholic priest that was arested for preaching against homosexual behavior).

    Although we could learn some good lessons about how these and other countries operate the way their government reduces the efficiency of their economy and restricts their liberties is not one of them. Socialism does not lead to long-term prosperity.

  13. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    “It seems clear to me that any time that there is strong governmental oversite this makes the economy less effiecient and, ultimately, less free. ”

    The reason why our economy has fared so poorly recently is because there wasn’t enough government oversight. If a reduction in economic freedom for big corporations means we don’t get into as many situations like we have now, I’m all for it. Furthermore, sometimes government oversight reduces economic options for large corporations, but opens up economic options for small business owners. For example, strong anti-trust law results in fewer small businesses being crowded out of the market. Your analysis is far, far too simplistic.

    “Now, granted, they have prospered in terms of reducing the number of unmet basic needs, but at what cost! When was the last time you heard of countries investing in a socialist country?”

    People in the social democracies in Europe experience investment just like we do. I really don’t see where you’re coming from here.

    “To priase socialism in any form is to support a series of restrictions in freedoms in not only the economic sector but also in social liberties that we in US society widely embrace as “basic freedoms” (press, religion, peaceful demonstration, etc.)”

    How so?

    “A closer look reveals that over the last few decades these countries have become much more restrictive in social liberties extending even to what can and can’t be publically declared (such as the recent example of the Catholic priest that was arested for preaching against homosexual behavior).”

    This was trumped up right-wing talking point and no one was convicted of anything. This case is your evidence that civil liberties are trampled on in European social democracies? There’s far more examples of the United States trampling on civil liberties, Guantanamo being the most obvious example I can think of.

  14. Gerald’s avatar

    “The reason why our economy has fared so poorly recently is because there wasn’t enough government oversight.”

    HARDLY! The problem was greed without any checks of moral restraint.

    This is not so much a political discussion! Rather it is a moral/religious/spiritual one clearly outlining what happens when people (and nations) stray from their moral moorings and try to impose equality.

    Please save your pro-socialistic rantings for some other blog!

  15. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    “HARDLY! The problem was greed without any checks of moral restraint.”

    So, you’re suggesting that the government not take the necessary steps to ensure that people don’t abuse positions of power to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else? You’re saying we should just trust that people are going to behave well, even if the consequences of them not behaving well is worldwide recession? This is beyond irresponsible. We don’t let people drive 100 mph because there are real consequences for other people. Similarly, we shouldn’t let corporations do whatever they want in an unmonitored way because there are real consequences for other people.

    If I’ve misinterpreted your position, please feel free to clearly restate what your position is.

    “This is not so much a political discussion! Rather it is a moral/religious/spiritual one clearly outlining what happens when people (and nations) stray from their moral moorings and try to impose equality.”

    It’s clearly both a moral discussion and a political discussion. Furthermore, what goes on in social democracies is not an attempt to “impose equality,” but rather an attempt to make sure that everyone’s basic needs are met and that all people are given a real chance to contribute to and benefit from the society as a whole. There are still rich and poor in Sweden and Germany, it’s just that being poor doesn’t mean you go without health care or good educational opportunities. It means you don’t get the biggest flat screen TV or 15 pairs of high-end shoes. That’s the way it should be.

  16. Greg’s avatar

    Gerald – Please allow Jeremy to express his point of view. Dr. Nibley’s “The Utopians” in Approaching Zion is an excellent treatise on various Utopian societies and how they sought to solve the “redistribution of wealth” and “private property” problem.

    As I hope to point out in a future post, Dr. Nibley suggested that capitalism is based on a similar foundation. From my own point of view, perhaps the solution to these problems will come with the Redemption of Zion.

  17. Chance’s avatar

    “We don’t let people drive 100 mph because there are real consequences for other people. ”

    Actually, we do let people drive 100 mph. They just go to jail afterwards. All this is a question of free agency. I believe there should be a basic set of laws governing the public affairs of the land, but the people should be allowed to move about freely, messing up, getting better, hurting and being hurt, speaking as they will and so forth. These activities are analogous to the purpose of life and should not be infringed save they should frustrate the agency of man. People need to stop legislating to control and legislate to grant freedoms, even more than we have. So we go thru a bit of hardship? So what, I worried less about money in the last 10 years and was able to focus on my family and peace. Thank you capitalism. Now lets pick up the pieces and move into the next era of prosperity. Again, thank you capitalism. We have had an unprecedented period of relative calm and prosperity, I want that back for the peace of my family and communities. I believe capitalism is the only system that has been proven to provide results that allow for the least amount of worry attributed to money problems. (in the history of mankind, as far as we know, there has never been as prosperous of a people than the Americans, and we want to change that???) Not if I had a say. I am ok with controls at the top of a company that limit executive compensation to a point, but I am a tru-blu trickle down economics advocate. I was happy to ride the coat tails of large companies like GM, Exxon, Ford, etc as they became successful. I like my toilet paper, my car, house and big screen TV. Thank you very much.(capitalism)

  18. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    Chance,

    All the things you talk about are the result of regulated capitalism. Laissez Faire capitalism does not yield that kind of standard of living. Furthermore, they also have those nice things in social democracies like Sweden and Germany, it’s just that they also have universal healthcare and all the basic needs of life met for all their citizens. IMO, the best approach is to let private enterprise do what it does best (deliver goods and services that one can profit from without hurting society) and let the government what it does best (deliver goods and services that the society needs but that aren’t, or shouldn’t be, on a for-profit basis).

    One last comment. You say that capitalism is the system that yields the least amount of money worries. Well, social democracies are the countries where that is actually that case. If you lose your job you don’t have to worry about losing your healthcare, your housing, or your supply of food.

  19. Chance’s avatar

    My buddy lives in Canada, and he says that their Health care system sucks. Sometimes, he cannot even get in to see a doctor for months and has a huge copay. He would gladly trade it for a health care system of his own choice, but they will not let him. Also, I have aquantances in teh UK who echo more of the same. If Socialized health care is sooooo good, why then are the complaints so baaaad?

  20. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    I have plenty of friends who say they wouldn’t trade their universal healthcare system for anything. Their health care systems are rated far higher than ours by the World Health Organization. They do have problems in these countries, no system is perfect, but our system has far worse problems. Also, these countries pay 40 – 60 percent per capita what we do. I would gladly trade longer wait times if it meant cutting 60 – 40 percent from the cost.

  21. Chance’s avatar

    WHO? You have got to be kidding….They will say anything to advance the liberal socialist agenda. They work under the UN after all, the org who says it is ok to mildly beat your spouse. I suppose it is your word against mine on the “universal” health care. I cannot buy into the idea that it is better. I have had too many people tell me that the standard is quite low. Right now, I have a PPO under Blue Cross. I do pay dearly for it, but at least I have the choice! I can go to any doctor of just about any type, whenever I want to. No questions asked. It is great to have the option. I have no problem with a socialized health care system as long as they allow me to keep my private options. People should have a “choice” should’t they? Maybe if the socialists would drop the word “universal,” it would be easier to legislate for Health care. Another point…Liberals are all about choice when it comes to things like abortion and Gay rights, but it seems they will forfeit the options for their political opponents when it comes to the bullet point of health care….forcing us all to subscribe to their ideas through legislation. I don’t know if you are a liberal, but it sure sound like it. Please don’t be offended. I just want to get it out there…..and yes, I am a conservative Christian clinging to my guns and religion. :)

  22. Chance’s avatar

    Also, as a conservative, you may be surprised to know that I am all for government regulation of the largest Health Care companies. (as well as some others.) I suppose that when a company like Microsoft begins to monopolize the nation with their bundles, it is time to check and balance a bit. I just feel strongly that we are on very slippery slopes right now.

  23. Chance’s avatar

    Jeremy stated-
    “The problem with the USSR wasn’t socialism, it was militarism and totalitarianism.”

    The irony rests in the order by which you have placed those words in your sentence. When have you seen socialism when it was not escorted by militarism and totalitarianism? Examples?

  24. Chance’s avatar

    I await the day when the United Order can be implemented under Christ. The governments of man cannot properly and honestly administer it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is my fear of socialism.

  25. Greg’s avatar

    Hi Chance, you might like to read the Redemption of Zion. I think many people look forward to that day.

  26. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    “When have you seen socialism when it was not escorted by militarism and totalitarianism? Examples?”

    Look up the terms “Social Democracy” and “Democratic Socialism” and you can answer your own question.

  27. Greg’s avatar

    Chance & Jeremy – This post about the redistribution of wealth has generated a lot of comments. I am glad it has generated debate over an important topic. From my own point of view, I believe the redistribution of goods and services is part and parcel of the gospel. I also believe that government can have a role in that process and that its efforts can often bless the lives of many. An upcoming post will show – at least I hope it will show – that capitalism and socialism/communism have more in common than many suppose. Keep an eye out for this post on dialectical materialism. I also hope it will clarify Hugh Nibley’s writings on this subject.

  28. Trish’s avatar

    Greg, Jeremy: One of the worst aspects of social democracy is the high tax rate. In the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 7:22 it declares what is in effect a 50% tax rate, in the next verse it says “And now, is not this grievous to be borne? And is not this, our affliction, great? Now behold, how great reason we have to mourn.”

    The tax rate in Sweden ranges from 28% to 59%, in the Netherlands it is up to 52%. Norway is up to 47.8%,in the UK it is up to 50%, and in Denmark they are up to 63%. (I got my information from Wikipedia, so take it for what it is worth.)

    The burden of having so much of your earnings go to taxes diminishes freedom, no matter whether or not you have your health care paid for or free food to eat. It is discouraging to have your income confiscated and used in ways you may not always be able to influence.

    In addition, serving your fellow man is a stewardship we all share as followers of Christ. When the government removes that responsibility by confiscating your free income and allotting it as they see fit, they rob you of the opportunity to fulfill your stewardship to the fullest.

    The biggest difference between the United order and any degree of socialism is the limitations on freedom. It is the difference between Satan’s plan and the Plan of Happiness. We need our freedom, even though it means harsh consequences for us as we experience the misuse of that freedom by others.

  29. Heidi’s avatar

    From Nibley’s Article: “Note that the question of the deserving poor never arises. Who decides what is necessary for your support? You do; you are accountable for that decision; that is your stewardship (D&C 42:32-33, 55).”

    From the definition of Socialism: “And almost all socialists advocate:

    That private ownership of the means of production be abolished and put under the control of the state.8
    That the power of the state be used to achieve these policies.
    That a change in the control of industry will cause a change in the motives of those who operate the present system.”

    I appreciate Trish’s point. The Lord’s way is to change who you are through the atonement of Christ, making you unwilling to put yourself above another. The world’s way is to have someone else make those decisions for you. When you are not able to make decisions for yourself or be accountable for those decisions you cannot have joy because you have not willingly given of yourself and your will to the Lord.

    So, while the goals of Socialism as outlined in this article are laudable, the very means they propose to use them automatically limit their ability to bring peace and joy to the world. The Savior is the only one who can change the nature of man.

  30. Greg’s avatar

    Heidi – The purpose of the article was to point out the glaring differences as well as the subtle similarities between the two systems. A personal loss of agency and a system where something can be had for nothing (i.e. entitlements via wealth redistribution) should be deplorable to anyone concerned about liberty and economic freedom.

    Thank you for your comments about the Savior’s atonement. As Ezra Taft Benson said:

    The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.

    In your comment you referred to my response to John wherein I noted that Social Democracies “have been able to produce laudable results.” Your timing is impeccable. Just a day or two ago I came across the following statement you might find interesting. Since John mentioned Sweden as an example where socialism has been successfully implement, here is what Ezra Taft Benson said in relationship to this country:

    The present anti-anti-communist line is: criticism of socialism is criticism of countries like Sweden with its socialistic government and that efforts against communism create disunity. The claim is that it divides our people and therefore should be discouraged. Many of our people—some in high places whose influence is far-reaching—fall for this anti-anti-communist line of reasoning.

    That we might face up properly to such a campaign of lies and name-calling, we should accept the advice of Thomas Jefferson who warns us as follows:

    If we suffer ourselves to be frightened from our posts by mere lying, surely the enemy will use that weapon . . . . The patriot like the Christian, must learn that to bear revilings and persecutions is a part of his duty; and in proportion as the trial is severe, firmness under it becomes more requisite and praiseworthy.

    Certainly a true American cannot have too much patriotism. Surely Americans who have respect for our traditions, who support our freedoms and are willing to fight to preserve them have been called patriots from the very beginning of our nation. (Benson, Ezra Taft. “Communism—An International Criminal Conspiracy“. Prophets, Principles, and National Survival. Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1964. 250.)

  31. Trish’s avatar

    Hello! You mentioned an upcoming article about this subject. I thought you might be interested in this article about it : http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-6/mswv6_30.htm

    Dialectical materialism is basically the idea that change is inevitable, and that the world is material, not spiritual.

    In searching for a quote to embody what I was trying to say, I stumbled upon this curious website : http://home.igc.org/~venceremos/index.htm

    As I was reading the various pages the common theme was change–the main point of dialectical materialism. What was the main theme of Obama’s campaign? Change.

    I know it is considered an epithet to call someone a socialist or communist, but reality is reality. We are being taken somewhere and told we are not at the same time. It is Orwellian doublespeak at its best.

  32. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks for the references Trish. I am still working on that article btw. If you haven’t had a chance, you might want to review the material in Hegelian Dialectic for other examples.

    Although the current President’s rhetoric appears to follow a particular political and economic philosophy, as you study these fundamental principles, you might be surprised at how pervasive they are used in political dialogue across a broad spectrum of participants.

  33. Trish’s avatar

    Oh, I agree with you one hundred percent!!! I used to irritate my husband with my “Bush is a socialist” statements. (He is a Bush loyalist)

    We ARE a socialist nation, we have been there for a long time…say about 80 years.

    We have just been told that it is not actually socialism that we have, and most of us have believed it.

    I have been reading and thinking quite a bit on this subject of late. I remember an interview Mike Wallace did with Aldous Huxley (here is the link : http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/huxley_aldous.html) in which Mr. Huxley discusses the concern that at that time (1958) everything that was necessary to create a totalitarian society in which the people were actually “happy” with their lives, much like his book, existed. The way the Mike Wallace pressed him, made it seem as if Mike himself was in favor of the USSR. (You’ll have to watch the interview yourself to understand what I mean).

    Are we being controlled by the media? I say YES!! It is so pervasive in our lives. This is how we are being told that we are not a socialist nation, that we are still under the same government our forefathers left to us, and most of us just accept it.

    As for the political spectrum, I am inclined to believe the writings of Caroll Quigley in which he says that the two party system was preferred by the oligarchs as a means of ensuring control of the political process while maintaining the illusion of participation in an adversarial process.

    Besides, who was it that first took over a company? It was Bush, not Obama.

    I am inclined to remember Pres. Benson’s talk in which he discussed Kruschev’s statements on the future of communism in America. It seems we are in the “ripe fruit” phase, are we not?

    How ironic : “Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he would like to meet with “dissidents” when he visits the U.S. next week.

    Russian news agencies quote him as telling a group of visiting foreign experts that “I believe there are dissidents in the United States.”

    ITAR-Tass quotes him as saying: “Let them tell me what problems the United States has. That won’t be bad, considering the Soviet experience.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/09/15/international/i112544D70.DTL

    I am extremely frustrated by the apathy about this subject most of the people around me display!!!

    It is as if we are the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling water.

    Will we boil before we force ourselves to wake up and smell the cooked frog legs?

  34. Greg’s avatar

    Ahh, The Frog Principle. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I first read it used in a political or governmental sense. Since then it took on a much different meaning.

    Dr. Nibley’s insight into the Old Testament definition of private property probably doesn’t equate with more modern definitions – which is striking in any discussion of private property and the redistribution of wealth – since it puts both the capitalist and socialist in a bind.

    Here’s the link to the Mike Wallace Interview collection since the link above only works as a popup.

    Thanks Trish. I enjoy reading your comments. While it is not always clear as to the identity of the Gadianton Robbers, we do know they exist because we see their effects in government and society.

  35. Trish’s avatar

    Thanks for the link to the Ensign article!

    In contained a great deal of food for thought.

  36. kh’s avatar

    I found this at the Constutional Society website and I think it is interesting to say the least about the realistic lost of property by the government. “The Proclamation 2040 by President Roosevelt issued on March 6, 1933, sometimes called the Emergency and War Powers order. This act, codified as 12 USC 95(b), effectively declared the Constitution suspended and conferred dictatorial powers on the President, a situation which continues to this day. Senate Report 93-549, written in 1973, said “Since March 9, 1933, the United States has been in a state of declared national emergency.” It goes on to say:
    “A majority of the people of the United States have lived all their lives under emergency rule. For 40 years, freedoms and governmental procedures guaranteed by the constitution have, in varying degrees, been abridged by laws brought into force by states of National emergency. In the United States, actions taken by government in times of great crisis have … in important ways shaped the present phenomenon of a permanent state of National emergency.”…
    “These proclamations give force to 470 provisions of federal law. These hundreds of statutes delegate to the President extraordinary powers, ordinarily exercised by Congress, which affect the lives of American citizens in a host of all-encompassing manners. This vast range of powers, taken together, confer enough authority to rule this country without reference to normal constitutional process.
    “Under the powers delegated by these statutes, the President may: seize property; organize and control the means of production; seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transportation and communication; regulate the operation of private enterprise; restrict travel; and, in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens.” We live under a dictatorship. The rights of the people have been suspended since 1933. No president Republican or Democrate has ended the “State of National Emergency” and given back our Constiutional rights.

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