American Welfare State

A couple weeks ago, I came across an article written about the effects of the American welfare state.1 Its provocative title immediately caught my attention since it seemed related to previous posts.2

Greetings from the Welfare State The article is a review of Edgar K. Browning’s Stealing from Each Other: How the Welfare State Robs Americans of Money and Spirit. Mr. Browning is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Professor of Economics at Texas A&M University. His analysis of the welfare state is based on the economic concept of opportunity cost. First developed by John Stuart Mill, the economic opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative foregone as the result of making a decision. Accordingly,

What do we give up by the choice to have the federal government engage in widespread income redistribution?

Browning’s answer is: a great deal of output. He estimates that U.S. GDP would be at least 25 percent larger if it weren’t for the host of programs and taxes constituting the welfare system. He regards it as a bad tradeoff and makes a powerful case for abolishing federal income transfers and adopting a “just say no” policy toward any suggestions for more of them in the future. (Browning is fine with states’ running whatever welfare programs they want; he respects the Constitution’s federalist plan.) “A non-redistributive federal government,” he writes, “would permit more of the productive potential of the American people to be realized.”

Based on this premise, the welfare system causes the economy to lose output in a number of socially destructive ways. Some of these include:

  • Welfare recipients are strongly deterred from working by the high implicit tax rates they face on income they earn.
  • Social Security has reduced GDP by 5 to 10 percent when hidden costs are taken into consideration.
  • Unemployment-insurance taxes lower the paychecks of all workers to provide the funds that cover unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs.

One of the outcomes of “America’s 75-year dalliance with federal income redistribution” is that it “has made it a poorer country than it would otherwise be. It has also made America a far more politicized and contentious one.” For example,

By their nature, transfer programs ensure that people have diametrically opposed interests, and opposing interests are often divisive. Social Security pits the young against the old, the federal income tax positions the wealthy against the middle class, affirmative action sets whites against minorities, and so on. . . .

In summary, the reviewer concluded:

I must also commend Browning for not making his book exclusively about the economics of redistribution. He also questions its morality. He contends that when the state taxes Person A in order to transfer the money to Person B, it is stealing. The fact that it’s accomplished through democratic politics doesn’t change the morality at all. And to those who are inclined to view wealth accumulation by free-market activity as morally suspect, Browning replies that in the market, rewards correspond to a person’s contribution to the betterment of other people’s lives. Come up with a product that millions want very much and you earn a lot. If you do nothing, you earn nothing. Overall, that’s pretty fair.

It may be politically impossible to escape from the quicksand of the redistributive state, but Edgar Browning has made it clear that everyone would benefit if we could do so — everyone except for the interest groups that have an interest in maintaining the status quo. There’s the real problem.

Quicksand indeed, especially since America’s welfare state is based on redistributive programs which foster an environment of getting something for nothing and taking from those who have, under a supposedly democratic and legal system of plunder.

Sources:

  1. Leef, George C. “Robbery and the Welfare State”. 28 Oct 2009. The Future of Freedom Foundation. 14 Nov 2009.
  2. See for example, the many similarities between Leef’s article and the themes presented in the post on the Gadianton Robbers.

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  1. Rob Osborn’s avatar

    Gee, doesn’t sound much different than the church welfare system- it’s all about redistributing the wealth of rich members to the lower income familiy members.

    Why are so many people against the government helping out the less fortunate? Should we just let these people starve? Maybe if Americans weren’t so greedy with their spending money on excessive toys (boats, cabins, atv’s, second homes, expensive RV’s, fancy clothes and jewlery, expensive cars and excessive homes and lavish furnishings) we wouldn’t need a welfare system- neighbors would truly help each other pay the unseen bills, medical costs, and other costs inflicted due to “living”. The sad part is that if we didn’t have the government helping us, the divide between the rich and poor would be so gross, it would be likje living in a third world country where on one side of the street you have a luxury three story home while on the opposite you have a cardboard hut. I am not quite sure how we as Americans are getting robbed. I pay my taxes because it’s the law and we are counsled by the Lord to obey the laws of the land. Our taxes truly do go to help the poor and create social systems that make life easier for the less fortunate, elderly, disabled and unemployed. Personally I like our system, it seems to work great. In any society you are going to have loafers and lazy people.

  2. Greg’s avatar

    Hi Rob. I’m sure you’re aware there are key distinctions between the two systems. Elder David B. Haight illustrated these differences over 30 years ago:

    In 1936 the First Presidency explained that the purpose of the Church welfare plan was, in large measure, to counteract the effects of the depression. This plan was to establish a system, directed by the leaders of the Church, which would do away with idleness, abolish the dole, and foster industry, thrift, and self-respect among our people. The major objectives of this plan were to help people to help themselves and to re-enthrone work as the ruling principle in the lives of Church members.

    Some undoubtedly questioned that such a visionary plan would ever succeed. After all, the Church then was relatively small and its resources limited. It depended entirely on voluntary efforts for money, leadership, and strength. Nevertheless, the intent and guiding principles were clear, and the promise was that faithful adherence to these principles would meet people’s emergency and temporary needs.

    It is significant to note that about this same time, when the Lord established his way of caring for those in need, the “world,” or government, introduced its form of dole assistance—a counterfeit alternative to the Lord’s way. In most instances, the world’s way dismissed the principle of individual work and family responsibility and adopted the philosophy that “the government will take care of our needs” or “the government owes us a living.” Individual and family initiative was supplanted by government handouts. The true spirit of love for our neighbor and concern for others as taught by the Savior had been generally ignored.

    A brief look at statistics highlights how far government has taken us down the road toward bankruptcy while at the same time destroying the will and incentive to work and earn what is received by the sweat of our brow.

    The total cost of government welfare assistance in the United States has risen from $5.7 billion in 1945 to $177 billion in 1975—a thirty-fold increase. (See “Reshuffling Income—Government’s Growing Role,” U.S. News & World Report, 4 Aug. 1975, pp. 32–33.)

    What has this monstrous thing called government welfare done to the people? Today we have second- and third-generation welfare recipients. Millions have learned how to live off the government. Children are growing up without knowing the value and the dignity of work. The government has succeeded in doing what the Church welfare program seeks to prevent.

    The Lord’s way is different from government programs. The inspired Church welfare plan is administered on the principle that an individual is responsible to care for himself; where his resources are not adequate, family members are to assist. Where the family is unable to meet the needs of the individual, the Church stands ready to help. The Lord’s way emphasizes individual work and responsibility and encourages people to help themselves. (Haight, David B. “The Stake President’s Role in Welfare Services“. Nov 1978. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 15 Nov 2009.)

    Additionally, the Declaration of Independence did not set up an eleemosynary form of government to feed and clothe the nation’s citizens. (See the many quotes at “Welfare State“. Inspired Constitution.)

  3. Jeremy’s avatar

    Rob said, “Why are so many people against the government helping out the less fortunate? Should we just let these people starve?”

    It’s not about allowing people to starve, but how they are helped. Benjamin Franklin stated that the way to get people out of poverty is to make them uncomfortable in their poverty. The government is doing exactly the opposite – they are making it easier and easier to be dependent on others and generally apathetic.

    Take, for example, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In less than one month after the devastation, private donations surpassed $1 billion, most of which went directly to private aid organizations that quickly provided relief. FEMA, on the other hand, doled out $6.3 billion in taxpayer money, with nearly a quarter of it going to known scammers. Cash went to inmates, people who said they lived in cemeteries or P.O. boxes, and people were “reimbursed” for rent in hotels that FEMA was already paying for. On top of that FEMA provided those ridiculous debit cards that were used not on food and shelter, but on jewelry, travel, and porn. FEMA also reportedly lost debit cards totalling $762,000.

    People have become accustomed to the idea that the government must always come to the aid of everyone. However, in too many cases, our government does a shotty job of it. The people support the government, the government should not be supported by the people.

    I believe that when individuals personally sacrifice to help each other, it not only makes us better people, it makes us a better country. It forces us to notice need instead of simply hiring corrupt politicians to notice it only when they can exploit, publicize, or politicize it.

    I posted something similar here:

    http://theseerstone.blogspot.com/2009/09/health-care-reform-step-towards-welfare.html

  4. Jeremy’s avatar

    Correction:

    The people support the government, the government should not support the people.

  5. Rob Osborn’s avatar

    I would certainly not agree that the government welfare system is a “counterfeit alternative” to the church’s. That would mean that Satan was the founder. I agree that the government isn’t the best at the welfare system, but they are improving. They do help. I think its a fallacy to believe that the governemnt welfare system hinders more than it helps. Like I said before- there is lazy loafs in every society.

    I just get tired of people bashing our welfare system, its the greatest in the world. If you don;t like it, go live in Colombia or Mexico. If you are going to remain living here stop complaining and go help fix those things you see wrong- this is a free country, and the welfare system isn’t racist- they will hire you. If it’s laws you want to see changed, go run for office- any American without a criminal record can get into office and change laws it happens all the time.

    I have a bishop in my ward that works for the social service system in the government, certainly he isn’t working for th ewrong side is he?

    I will agree that the church welfare system encourages work ethics. The government may be a bit slow but things are changing for them too- becoming more educational oriented in trying to educate and help the poor and needy to get better jobs or jobs in general.

  6. Greg’s avatar

    Rob – You are free to choose who and what you believe. However, could you provide evidence refuting Mr. Browning’s data in support of your contention that the U.S. welfare system is the “greatest in the world”? Upon what objective measure is this claim made?

  7. Dear Rob,’s avatar

    I have been blogging about this very issue because I see that so many people have not yet come to the realization that all redistribution of wealth programs that use force- like taxes, are a part of a bigger agenda, and yes, it is Satan’s agenda. Does that mean that we should stop paying our taxes? NO. It just means that the welfare programs of the world are corrupt and are working against the very people they desire to help. The intention of the social/ welfare program workers is good, but the system is bad. It is Satan’s system because it is compulsory- you are forced to give. That was Satan’s plan in the preexistence, remember. Force is Satan’s way. The Lord’s way is that we all become generous and GIVE freely, of our own free wills, and that we are all edified and taught the value of work. There is a mountain of quotes from prophets and general authorities about this. The welfare state is evil. It is a plan that controls us and teaches us to take instead of to give. It rewards laziness. It takes away our ability to give because they already take. It leads in large part to socialism. That is the goal of socialism- a counterfeit plan to consecration- in which rather than being edified we are forced into financial equality and everyone on equally miserable and right-less. God’s plan never fails. Socialism always fails. They are opposites, but one is masquerading to look like the other so that we will be deceived and call good evil and evil good. This is the great evil plan of Lucifer. Please read the many quotes from the prophets about this. We all need to educate ourselves so that we can become un-deceived. Check out http://www.latterdayconservative.com/ and read up. Here are 2 for thought:

    “What Is Wrong With A “Little” Socialism? In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn’t go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime.” – Ezra Taft Benson

    “It is significant to note that about this same time, when the Lord established his way of caring for those in need, the “world,” or government, introduced its form of dole assistance—a counterfeit alternative to the Lord’s way. In most instances, the world’s way dismissed the principle of individual work and family responsibility and adopted the philosophy that “the government will take care of our needs” or “the government owes us a living.” Individual and family initiative was supplanted by government handouts. The true spirit of love for our neighbor and concern for others as taught by the Savior had been generally ignored. A brief look at statistics highlights how far government has taken us down the road toward bankruptcy while at the same time destroying the will and incentive to work and earn what is received by the sweat of our brow.” -David B. Haight (1978)

  8. Sophie’s avatar

    The world’s idea of welfare doesn’t work. The only way it works without bankrupting countries is when people do it of their own free wills between individuals. Nobody wants to see anybody starve. It is a very pessimistic view of humanity to say that if the government doesn’t do it then nobody will. That’s just plain rude considering that I am a Christian and I try my best to give and be charitable.
    Communism/Socialism is the greatest anti-Christ power in this world, according to David O McKay. With that in mind, please read Revelations Chp. 13, and see what we are in for under Marxism, and if you don’t know the theory of Marxism please google it. It includes disintegration of the family, replacement of all religions with statism (atheism that worships government), We’re on our way swiftly there by way of the welfare programs that are being called “great.” It’s SCARY that any Mormon would think that the programs of the devil are great just because the deceived people that run them are not necessarily bad people. This is serious stuff!!!

    By the way, social services is very different from welfare/ food stamps/ socialized health care, etc.

  9. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    “It’s SCARY that any Mormon would think that the programs of the devil are great just because the deceived people that run them are not necessarily bad people. This is serious stuff!!!”

    It’s SCAAAAARRRYYY that anyone that professes to follow Christ would sit in judgment and question the Mormon-ness of her fellow church members based on their political preferences. Especially in light of multiple church statements that the Church does not take political stands and that there is good to be found in the platforms of all political parties.

    Many Mormons believe in a reasonable government welfare system. The brethren know this and don’t care. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many on the right in the Mormon community.

    BTW, you all should know that the other brethren worked on many occasions to keep Benson from inserting his personal political opinions into church literature.

    http://theldsleft.blogspot.com/2009/09/ezra-taft-benson-end-of-all-political.html

  10. Anne’s avatar

    Jeremy- that’s a very interesting link, thank you.

    I’m in the UK and have grown up under the welfare state, from the cradle to the grave, from free milk and vitamins as a child through healthcare free at point of delivery to the prospect of an old age pension awaiting me. IMHO, Satan’s plan is not the welfare state but was what we had before- people unable to see a doctor and dying unnecessarily from minor ailments which weren’t treated through lack of means, middle aged women wearing nappies because they had no access to surgery, needless child mortality and elderly who should have been with their families longer, dying far too early.

    To fund this welfare state I pay less in contributions from my wage packet each month than I pay in tithing. And if I don’t like it, I have the freedom to vote out any high taxing government.

    Personally, I am more than content to make contributions each month knowing my fellow citizens aren’t starving, and gain reassurance in the knowledge if I fall on hard times, a safety net is in place for me. Healthcare and welfare benefits – ie life and death of men, women and children-are too important an issue to be left entirely to the whims of others who may or may not feel like contributing to charity each month.

  11. Rob Osborn’s avatar

    I am sorry but I do not see the evil in government welfare systems. Its a complete fallacy to believe that social institutions that help out the poor, needy, etc are based of of Satanic evil practices. In the scriptures warning us of our dau we see no mention of this. Instead we are warned about becoming too wealthy, not helping our neighbor, pride, secret combinations, etc.

    I will ask again- The bishop who lives in my ward and works for the social system in our community, has he sided with the so called evil “socialistic” government?

    Satan doesn’t want to help anyone- especially the needy and poor. To think that Satan is behind some socialist welfare system in America, is basically calling oneself un-American- against freedom and value- against what is morally and ethically correct in society.

  12. Greg’s avatar

    Anne – Although people are free “to vote out any high taxing government”, almost all citizens are forced to fund the welfare state through taxation and redistribution. Since most of these programs are administered by the state, they create large-scale inefficiencies ($Billions in Medicare/Medicaid Lost to Fraud, Abuse) and crowd out more efficient private charity organizations. The History of Socialized Medicine in America has its basis in the “decaying Roman Empire welfare state legislation of over 1,500 years ago” (J. Reugen Clark, Jr. on Health Care Reform) and is based on the notions of Health Care Collectivists.

  13. Greg’s avatar

    Rob – I’m sure you’re familiar with the proviso contained in D&C 21:5. In that context, please review the myriad of quotes about the welfare state at The Welfare State – Creeping Socialism and at Socialism (Inspired Constitution. 29 Nov 2009.).

    Additionally, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.’s comments in Pharaoh’s Dream – A Modern Interpretation illustrate that “The fundamentals of this technique are as old, certainly, as Joseph, who was sold into Egypt” (see Genesis 47 for additional information).

  14. Jeremy Jensen’s avatar

    I don’t know whether private charity is truly more efficient than government programs, but I don’t think there’s any question that they are more far reaching. If we depended on private charity for all social programs, far fewer people could be helped. I sincerely doubt that if we got rid of all government welfare programs, that all of a sudden people would give all, or even a significant portion, of the money collected in taxes for welfare to private charities.

  15. Greg’s avatar

    I agree Jeremy – perhaps that is because of the natural consequences of the welfare system as Stephen L. Richards pointed out years ago:

    However well intentioned such policies, I am confident they are destined to result in weakening of moral fiber, increased dependencies, and, more importantly and worse than all, eventually, a destruction of the fundamental concepts and philosophies that have been responsible for the progress of humanity in the world. (The Welfare State – Creeping Socialism. Inspired Constitution. 29 Nov 2009.).

    Once a people have lived under the auspices of a welfare state or system of redistribution for a period of time, it is unlikely they will choose otherwise as history attests.

  16. John’s avatar

    First and foremost I would like to point out that despite the rhetoric, most welfare goes not to the poor and needy, or even the poor and lazy (as those on the right like to characterize them), but to the wealthiest segments of American society. This comes in numerous ways such as subsidies to giant corporations, financial institutions and corporate agriculture, but also comes in the form of tax breaks for the affluent. On top of this, the large majority of “redistribution” of wealth gets redistributed away from the people and pumped into our bloated military industrial complex.

    Yes, bureaucrats will and always have been wasteful, dishonest, and corrupt, and although the US has made great headway in this area, there is still much work to do. However, private capital wishes to convince Americans that the answer is to do away with the progress that has made America a great place for the average person to live. They want us to forget that before welfare, social security, labor laws, environmental regulations, monopoly laws, consumer protection regulations, etc, that the vast majority of Americans lived in third world conditions. They want us to forget that people literally starved to death in the US before the introduction of welfare. They want us to forget that the elderly, the mentally disabled, and the handicapped were left to fend for themselves prior to social security. They want us to forget that workers had to work 12 hours days with no benefits, meager subsistence wages in dangerous working conditions with no disability insurance if they were injured or maimed. They want us to forget that it was only after people like Mother Jones marched hundreds of crippled and maimed children into Washington DC that private industry was forced to end child exploitation and child labor and forced to stop lying to the American public that child labor was not a problem. They want us to forget that they fought tooth and nail against public libraries, and public schools. Since they could afford to educate themselves and their children, they saw no need in their money being collected to do away with ignorance for masses. They also want us to forget about the unsanitary and horrid conditions that private industry created prior to environmental regulations (in fact, the entire city of Chicago had to be raised because the filth poured into Lake Michigan turned the city into a pit of disease and filth for all those that could not afford to live outside the city, or at least away from the filth).

    The problem with private industry is that there is little to no democratic controls, and what little control the people do have over private industry, they wish to destroy. This nonsense about the market regulating private industry is just untrue. The market may be able to regulate itself when we are talking about small mom and pop business, but not when we are talking institutions so large and so money heavy that they have greater control over governance than any private individual.

    We know from experience that having no government regulations whatsoever has lead to horrible consequences. We know that a purely statist solution has failed as well (USSR for instance). In my opinion, it is not hard to maintain the freedoms that arise from capitalism while either doing away with or alleviating the side effects, or in other words, the terrible costs capitalism inflicts on the disadvantaged portions of society. This is where welfare systems come in. I think it is unfair and misleading to call a society a “welfare state” simply because social services are there to help those who need them. Is Salt Lake City a “welfare state” because they have a fire department? or because they have a police department? what about a water district, sewer services, public libraries, parks and recreation? No! Is the US a “welfare state” because they provide social security to the elderly, the mentally disabled, and the handicapped? Will we become a “welfare state” simply because we decide that healthcare should not be determined by how big one’s wallet is? I don’t think so.

    I’ve already gone on and on here, so I’ll wrap it up, provide some sources for anyone that is willing to actually take my point of view into consideration, and throw a few quotes out there (I noticed others have been throwing out some rather onesided quotes already and my guess is they are trying to make the impression that the Church is in fact partisan, simply because SOME of it’s leaders have agreed with their position on this issue…emphasis on the word SOME). The last point I wanted to make is that charity is thrown around alot in these discussions. In my opinion, charity is helping someone when it is not necessary. However, when someone is literally starving, dying, etc. then helping is not a charitable act, it is a humane act. If someone had a hatchet stuck in their skull, I wouldn’t be patting myself on the back about how charitable I was because I chose to drive them to the hospitable. It’s not like mowing an older persons lawn. The same is true of social services. It is literally providing the minimal amount of assistance to ensure people aren’t dying or going hungry simply because they are poor, disadvantaged, or unable to meet their most basic needs on their own. There is plenty of opportunity to act charitably without leaving peoples lives in the balance, so let’s not confuse charity with simply being a nation that treats it’s citizens as human beings. Nations that are much poorer than ours have lower infant mortality rates, their citizens don’t file bankruptcy because of medical costs, they have decreased their crime rates, find no need to incarcerate large percentages of their populations, etc. If they can treat their citizens humanely, why are we fighting against doing so ourselves?

    “There is only one thing in man’s world that can offer any check on the unlimited power of money and that is government. That is why money always accuses government of trying to destroy free agency, when the great enslaver has always been money itself.”
    -quoted from Hugh Nibley’s essay “Beyond Politics”

    Mosiah 29:26
    “Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.”

    “The experience of mankind has shown that the people of communities and nations among whom wealth is the most equally distributed, enjoy the largest degree of liberty, are the least exposed to tyranny and oppression and suffer the least from luxurious habits which beget vice.”
    “One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously, and which they bequeathed to us as a priceless legacy, are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few individuals and a few powerful corporations. By its seductive influence results are accomplished which, were it more equally distributed, would be impossible under our form of government. It threatens to give shape to the legislation, both State, and National, of the entire country. If this evil should not be checked, and measures not taken to prevent the continued enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution and want among the poor, the nation is likely to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin.”
    -Quoted from a pamphlet distributed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in 1875 to promote the Church’s cooperative ventures. The entire text can be found in volume two of “The Messages of the First Presidency” which, although being out of print, can be easily purchased through Amazon and other online book sellers.

  17. John’s avatar

    I have heard from others that the author of this blog has a tendency to moderate out whatever he disagrees with, so I hope this will not be the case with my own views. We’ll see.

    Also, I almost forgot to add those sources for anyone interested, so here they are:

    “Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-Day Saints”
    -by Church Historian, Leonard J. Arrington

    “Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation Among the Mormons”
    -By Leonard J. Arrington also

    “Approaching Zion”
    -by BYU Professor Hugh Nibley

    “Brigham Young Challenges the Saints”
    -by Hugh Nibley as well

    “Wealth and Poverty”
    -an essay by BYU Professor Richard E. Johnson (http://uticapowerhouse.blogspot.com/)

    “Economic Democracy and Mormon Workers”
    -by Professor Warner Woodworth, BYU’s Marriott School of Business
    (http://www.themormonworker.org/articles/issue2/economic_democracy_and_mormon_workers.php)

    “Free Lunch” and “Perfectly Legal”
    -both by David Cay Johnston

  18. John’s avatar

    Sophie said:
    “if you don’t know the theory of Marxism please google it. It includes disintegration of the family, replacement of all religions with statism (atheism that worships government)”

    If it is possible to oversimplify something as complex as Marxism, than I don’t know how. It is almost as misinformed and twisted as an anti-Mormon saying “Mormons believe Joseph Smith was more important than Christ. Just google “Mormonism’ and you will read all sorts of accurate information on the subject”. Ridiculous!

    Marx’s theories were complex and covered a whole array of topics from economics, to political structure, to philosophy and religion. In fact, they are so complex that there are almost as many interpretations and parties that have stemmed from his ideas as there are Christian religions and churches that have stemmed from the New Testament.

    If people want to become informed on just what Marxism is, they should read what he had to say from his own writings. Taking a quote out of context here, or a quote out of context there is not the proper way to learn about anything, whether it be Mormonism or Marxism.

  19. Greg’s avatar

    John – Thank you for providing a very well reasoned response to this post. It is refreshing to read an insightful review of the many problems associated with capitalism and corporatism.

    I’m interested in your views of the Origins of the Welfare State in America and what you think of Murray Rothbard’s analysis in which he attempts to trace the history of the welfare state. For example, he stated:

    Where are we to look for the causal forces? In the first place, we must realize that the two most powerful motivations in human history have always been ideology (including religious doctrine), and economic interest, and that a joining of these two motivations can be downright irresistible. It was these two forces that joined powerfully together to bring about the welfare state.

    Labor unions were an effect rather than a cause of the welfare state, at least in the United States.” Ideology was propelled by an intensely held religious doctrine that swept over and controlled virtually all Protestant churches, especially in “Yankee” areas of the North, from 1830 on. Likewise, a growing corollary ideology of statism and corporate socialism spread among intellectuals and ministers by the end of the 19th century. Among the economic interests promoted by the burgeoning welfare state were two in particular. One was a growing legion of educated (and often overeducated) intellectuals, technocrats, and the “helping professions” who sought power, prestige, subsidies, contracts, cushy jobs from the welfare state, and restrictions of entry into their field via forms of licensing. The second was groups of big businessmen who, after failing to achieve monopoly power on the free market, turned to government — local, state, and federal — to gain it for them. The government would provide subsidies, contracts, and, particularly, enforced cartelization. After 1900, these two groups coalesced, combining two crucial elements: wealth and opinion-molding power, the latter no longer hampered by the resistance of a Democratic Party committed to laissez-faire ideology. The new coalition joined together to create and accelerate a welfare state in America. Not only was this true in 1900, it remains true today (11 Aug 2006. Mises.org. 29 Nov 2009.).

    Also, thank you for referencing the so-called 1875 Proclamation on the Economy by the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles. What are your thought’s about Orson Scott Card’s rebuttal in Document Does Fine on Its Own, in which he states the following:

    So even though I liked the proclamation’s message, where it made sense, I didn’t trust it. It smacked of folk doctrine and stank of fraud.

    So I did what I always do — I consulted a historian, forwarding the letter with a “truth or nonsense?” query. The historian, who also happens to be my father-in-law, James B. Allen, was as skeptical as I. But he was much more industrious. He found the original text.

    It was originally a pamphlet published by the church as a kind of “five-year-report” on the Zion’s Co-operative Mercantile Association — which eventually grew into ZCMI. In those days, though, it was a league of Mormon merchants who, instead of competing with each other, cooperated, buying from each other.

    But that didn’t mean it was noncompetitive. It is not unfair to say that it was partly designed to freeze out non-Mormon merchants — so it was certainly competing with them.

    The idea was to keep Mormon money inside Mormondom instead of bleeding it away to non-Mormons. It was protectionist — and I have no argument with protectionism in struggling economies. Historically it’s a stage that all the robust economies of today have passed through.

    However, this pamphlet — a ringing endorsement of the ZCMI enterprise — was not a statement of general church doctrine or a comment on the American economy, which Utah barely participated in at that point. It was an attempt to convince the Saints that ZCMI was going strong but needed them, as a matter of good sense and solidarity, to be loyal and shop with the ZCMI merchants. What difference does this make? A big one, I think.

    You can get the full text of the original pamphlet at GospeLink.com, as part of “The Messages of the First Presidency,” vol. 2. (You have to be a GospeLink.com subscriber to see the full document there.)

    Or you can consult the print version of that book.

    What you very quickly learn from reading the whole text is that the versions floating around as the “Proclamation on the Economy” are highly edited. No, let’s be accurate. They’re chopped to ribbons — 2,400 words cut down to less than a third of that length.

    There are two cut-down versions circulating. The most common is the one you can find posted online by “Mormons for Equality and Social Justice” (MESJ), but also and perhaps earlier at LDS Cooperative, where Stephen Wellington is listed as the person responsible.

    Only one of the online sources I found (Messenger Magazine) even bothered to show where sections had been cut out. One posting even claims that the text is reproduced “in its entirety,” which is simply false (though the person posting it might not have known that).

    The title “A Proclamation on the Economy” is entirely spurious. It was clearly made up in order to borrow the authority clinging to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which is commonly referred to in the church as “The Proclamation on the Family.”

    That genuine proclamation is a clear statement of doctrine and will, I trust, eventually be incorporated into our scriptures by the uplifted hands of the Saints. Until then, it stands as a message from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve that speaks for the church as a whole.

    No prophet ever signed any document called “A Proclamation on the Economy” and consisting of the text as presented under that title.

    What really frustrates me about this is that they didn’t have to do it.

    If these folks had just said, “Look what was published over the signatures of the First Presidency and the Twelve in 1875″ and then quoted the relevant passages, I think it would have been helpful to their cause. I certainly was glad to read those words.

    Instead, they had to soup it up by pretending it was an official doctrinal declaration. They also cut it down to make it a quicker read … or perhaps to conceal the true nature of the original document.

    In other words, they turned a useful source of wisdom from the past into a big fat lie.

    Shame on those who did it knowingly. Those who did not realize they were being given a fraudulently presented and cut-down text, I hope in future you’ll do your homework before you spread a doctrinal “proclamation” that no one ever heard of before (18 Sep 2008. Mormon Times. 29 Nov 2009.).

  20. John’s avatar

    In reference to the “Proclomation on the Economy” I was very clear not to make that misrepresentation and did not call it by that name as others have. I even included where one can actually read the unedited pamphlet in it’s entirety. I will quickly quote myself here to show just what I mean:

    “Quoted from a pamphlet distributed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in 1875 to promote the Church’s cooperative ventures. The entire text can be found in volume two of “The Messages of the First Presidency” which, although being out of print, can be easily purchased through Amazon and other online book sellers.”

    The important thing to point out is that the text stands on it’s own, and I agree with Card that editing takes more away from it and than anything else.

    As to the idea that welfare and social services were based on ideology and religious convictions, I strongly agree. This is not just my opinion, but I feel it a historical fact and closely ties into what was called “the Social Gospel”. The Social Gospel was a religious movement in America that involved religious people looking at the gospel as more than a her-after thing, but as something that should inspire a more just here and now. The Social Gospel was promulgated by such people as Jane Addams, Dorothy Day, Henry George, and Edward Bellamy (whose utopian socialist novel “Looking Backward” was written after visiting Utah and talking with Lorenzo Snow about the Church’s cooperative ventures…see the book “American Moses” and even the Church’s own publication “Church Histoy in the Fulness of Times”).

    I highly doubt that those who advocated assistance for the poor, the needy, and the disadvantaged were sitting in a dark corner, rubbing their hands together and laughing menacingly as the Murray Rothbard seems to imply when he says the following:

    “Among the economic interests promoted by the burgeoning welfare state were two in particular. One was a growing legion of educated (and often overeducated) intellectuals, technocrats, and the “helping professions” who sought power, prestige, subsidies, contracts, cushy jobs from the welfare state, and restrictions of entry into their field via forms of licensing. The second was groups of big businessmen who, after failing to achieve monopoly power on the free market, turned to government — local, state, and federal — to gain it for them.”

    To claim that labor unions were an effect and not a cause of the social services enacted in the early 1900′s is incorrect in my opinion. I hold this opinion for several reasons. First, the labor movement existed long before it was legalized in the early 1900′s when these social services were enacted. Anyone ever heard of the Pullman Strike? how about the Molly McGuires? Even back then they were clamouring for labor laws, unemployment insurance, disability insurance, health and safety regulations, shorter work days and higher wages. What the New Deal and other social services did though, was make organizing or belonging to a union a much less deadly practice (no more being mowed down by national guards or Pinkerton Security agents…at least not openly).

    I do think, however, that once businessmen and capitalists realized that social services were going to be enacted whether they were involved or not, they did jump in and used their influence to steer those reforms in a direction that was much less radical than what the people wanted and more conducive to their own interests.

    Anyway, I also wanted to post a link to a great article written in the Mormon Worker. The article is about how the US welfare system was based on the Church’s welfare system:

    http://www.themormonworker.org/articles/issue6/the-gospel-of-redistribution.php

  21. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    Regarding Marxism and its interpretation, one of the best books on the subject, in my opinion (and I’ve studied many of Marx and Engels writings, including much of Lenin, Mao, etc.) is, _You Can Trust The Communists: To Be Communists_, by Schwarz. See:

    http://www.schwarzreport.org/ycttable.htm

    Marxism also has many parallels, or counterfeits if you will, to the plan of the Gospel. As outlined (not comprehensive) by myself at:

    http://sites.google.com/site/heavenlybanner/communism–satan-s-counterfeit-of-the-gospel-plan

  22. John’s avatar

    The thing about a counterfeit is that it has to be so close to the truth, or possess just enough truth that it can pass as being the same thing or extremely similar. The problem is that many conservative members have a tendency to call communism a counterfeit but then attack all the correct principles along with the incorrect. A classless society where there are no poor and no rich; true principle. A society where religion has been entirely abandoned; incorrect principle. I wouldn’t say “A classless society is just as heretical as a society that entirely abandons religion and spirituality,” simply because an ideology that opposes religion embraces the idea of a classless society. How’s that saying go about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

    Whatever you think about Marx’s ideas, he was right on several things. First, that money is not always in circulation as Adam Smith and others theorized in a capitalist society, since the wealthy can take their money out of circulation and let it accumulate. Second, that as capitalism develops, wealth and the means of production become more and more centralized into fewer and fewer hands. Third, that as fewer and fewer people control the means of production, the population will be made up more and more of proletariats (in other words, more and more people will become workers..employees dependent on someone else for their daily bread).

    Also, the article I linked to in my last post was not the one I thought it was, although it is still a good read. What I was looking for was an article I’d read about the Church’s involvement in advising the government on their welfare program during the New Deal. If I locate it again, I’ll be sure to post it and clear up any confusion I may have caused from my last post.

  23. John’s avatar

    When I was reading what Greg posted from Murray Rothbard, I was thinking of Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged”. For anyone who is not familiar with Ayn Rand, she was an influential right-wing thinker and writer, and an avid atheist. She is purhaps most famous for her books “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. While I have not read “The Fountainhead” I have read “Atlas Shrugged” but was very disappointed. Basically, it outlines Rand’s political philosophy through a fictional tale about an industrialist and his less successful brother.

    I had always heard how influential this book was, so I read it. The main thing that stood out to me was that her characters had no real depth. She portrayed her main characters (the right-wing capitalists) as being perfect, while portraying the left-wing or liberal characters (what I guess you could say she portrays as the “villains”) as having really being concerned with seeking “power, prestige, subsidies, contracts, cushy jobs from the welfare state, and restrictions of entry into their field via forms of licensing” (I’m quoting Rothbard here to make my point). I read this book before I was even very political, but even then I realized that Rand’s characterization about the motives of liberals and leftists was a misrepresentation based on her bias.

    Anyway, Rand’s philosophy (known as Objectivism) to this day is perhaps the most influential philosophy behind the modern conservative movement and economic libertarian movements. This is why her writings are often referenced by economic conservatives and right-wing politicians.

    Anyway, my point is that Greg’s post quoting Rothbard smacked of Ayn Rand, so she was already in the back of my mind. Then later on, I came back and read Steven Montgomery’s link about communism and satan and yet again Ayn Rand popped into my head. This time, however, it was the fact that I remembered that Objectivism, the right-wing philosophy of Ayn Rand that is so influential in the modern conservative movement, is the official philosophy of the Church of Satan (the actual Church for satanists started by Anton LaVey, the author of the “Satanic Scriptures”). This is why famous Satanists, such as Marilyn Manson, are very publicly Republicans since their religious beliefs specifically reference right-wing ideology. In fact, Anton LaVey has stated that he was highly influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand when he wrote the “Satanic Scriptures” and formed the Church of Satan in 1966, and his son has also stated this publicly.

    Anyway, while we were on the subject of Satan’s plan, I thought it would be important to point out that according to the actual Church of Satan, right-wing ideology is the stated plan of Satan. So perhaps left-leaning members of the Church, and right-wing members of the Church should stop using the “Satan’s Plan” argument every time they discuss politics.

    Anyway, in terms of my take on Ayn Rand, the Church of Satan, or many other right-wingers, I think Paul was right when he wrote the following in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verse 5:
    “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
    There is no doubt in my mind that many right-wing conservatives would have us believe that “gain is godliness,” whether they be actual Satanists or not.

  24. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    John stated: “The thing about a counterfeit is that it has to be so close to the truth, or possess just enough truth that it can pass as being the same thing or extremely similar.”

    To which I reply: That may be true, but both Marion G. Romney and Ezra Taft Benson used the term “counterfeit” to refer to Communism. Here’s the quote:

    “Communism is Satan’s counterfeit for the gospel plan, and . . . it is an avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest Anti-Christ power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our peace but to our preservation as a free people.”

  25. Greg’s avatar

    John – I apologize for ascribing the reference above to the 1875 pamphlet to you. Thank you again for responding. I think this is a really important discussion and will touch on a few points you made that caught my eye.

    1 – Concerning the “growing legion of educated (and often overeducated) intellectuals, technocrats, and the ‘helping professions’ . . . “, the Veritas Foundation – a group of Harvard alumni – published two books that seem to confirm Rothbard’s assessment that these two groups did indeed help form the basis of the American welfare state (The Great Deceit: Pseudo Social Sciences and Keynes at Harvard: Economic Deception as a Political Credo).

    2 – I understand your position about labor being a cause of the social services that were enacted in the early 1900s. I thought it interesting that Rothbard felt otherwise and saw that business (read private capital) could use government to achieve their needs.

    3 – Capitalism and socialism/communism seem to be based on the same philosophy of materialism. Capitalists want to control the means of production while socialists/communists seek the same. Do you believe it’s a zero-sum game? Do you see any similarities in this and Nibley’s comments in Polarization in the Book of Mormon?

    4 – Thanks for the links to some great articles above. Since most have to do with various aspects of the United Order, what are your thoughts about Elder Marion G. Romney’s comments in Is Socialism the United Order?

    5 – Is The Mormon Worker somewhat of a modern equivalent of Dorothy Day‘s The Catholic Worker, but for Mormons?

    6 – Why did you link Rothbard to Ayn Rand? I thought that an interesting connection to make. Is one reason because Rothbard “came to view Marxism as a secularized Christian heresy and American Progressivism as secularized post-millennial Protestantism” as Lew Rockwell suggested (Rand v. Rothbard)?

    7 – Sometimes it seems that the labels “right-wing”, “left-wing”, conservative, and liberal appear superfluous. Hopefully the conversation focuses on the “principles” although it is understandable that some principles are advanced more prominently by one party versus another.

    8 – Some believe that the Federal Reserve – like other central banks around the world – has helped fund the American welfare state. Congressman Ron Paul quoted John Maynard Keynes in End the Fed who wrote:

    Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose. (p. 171 – quoting Keynes. The Economic Consequences of the Peace. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1920. 235-236.).

    Also, Mr. Paul also points out that “Marx’s Fifth Plank of the Communist Manifesto mandates a strong central bank monopoly. This was seen as necessary to maintain power over the entire economy and to protect against the encroachment of capitalism” (p. 172; see also 10 Planks of the Communist Manifesto). Hasn’t this process been in effect since the Fed’s founding in 1913?

    These are just some of the questions that came to mind as I reviewed your comments. I hope you don’t mind responding.

  26. John’s avatar

    Well, I think I might be coming across as the resident Communist or something, and so I want to clarify something:
    I am not a Communist.
    Now that I’ve cleared that up, I do want to point out that although I am not a Communist, I do think Marx had some good ideas…along with some bad ideas yes, but nevertheless, I agree with Brigham Young that truth, even when found in Hell, belongs to Mormonism since our religion embraces all truth.

    What I don’t like is lists pointing out how “Communist” we are becoming. Besides, I don’t think it’s the end goal of communism that is false (a classless society where equality and brotherhood have made government unnecessary and where each contributes according his ability, and recieves according to his need). I am more of the school of thought that the Bolshevik’s methods, tactics and theories about achieving such a lofty goal were what was out of whack. This is why I don’t shriek in horror when people make lists about how much closer we are to enacting legislation similar to what Communists sought (“Oh no! Universal healthcare and education! Run for your lives!”) Instead, I think to myself “Great! Unlike the Soviet Union, North Korea and China, we were able to achieve a society that cares for the poor, the needy, the sick, and the disadvantaged through peaceful and democratic means, rather than through state police, torture, terror, and violence. Good for us, and in your face Bolshevik’s!”

    As to item 1 in Greg’s post, the main point I was trying to make is that Rothbard seems to be making quite an assumption. It is clear from the quote and the language he uses that he dislikes those who supported government social services (I hesitate to refer to it as the “welfare state” as I don’t think minimal services to help those in need qualifies as being a “welfare state”). For instance, he starts out by taking a jab and calling them “overeducated”. Is it possible to be overeducated? Should we just educate ourselves a little bit and then hold back when we become too knowledgable? Anyway, he then goes on to attribute motives to these “intellectuals and technocrats” that are entirely negative, as if he could read minds. Desire to end misery and affliction? Of course not, they must have just been looking for cushy government jobs right? Wanting to alleviate the ills of poverty? Why, that would be ridiculous, since Rothbard apparently knows that these Americans (who often made great sacrifices) were just in it for sinister reasons.

    I find it hard to swallow, even if I try to avoid Rothbard’s contemptuous tone and obvious bias.

    As to point 2 from Greg’s post, I do not disagree that business and private capital tried as hard as possible to use government to achieve their needs. In fact, this was a common complaint from the left about the New Deal and FDR’s administration. They felt the needed reforms were being hijacked by big business and private capital. It’s like a sailor using a gust of wind to his advantage. The sailor knows he can do nothing about the gust of wind, and fighting against it could destroy him and his ship. Instead, the sailor steers his vessel just right so that he can use the gust to his advantage. It is my opinion that much like the sailor, business knew that they couldn’t go on fighting against the “gust” of reforms…reforms such as the right to organize, health and safety regulations to protect workers, shorter workdays, better wages, etc. They had spent plenty of time violently opposing these reforms for decades, but now the public wasn’t standing for it anymore and there were even threats of revolution if something didn’t change. So what did they do? They turn their sails and steered the reforms. So instead of social security kicking in when most workers retired, they raised the age to above the average lifespan of a worker. Does that mean social security was a bad idea? No, it just means the benefit of a social security system, instead of being non-existent, at least covered those who lived beyond the age requirements.

    So what am I saying? I’m saying that despite business’ involvement in shaping the welfare system, America was still better off then they were before social services ever existed.

    Now bullet number 3: I do think communism and capitalism have much more in common then their adherents like to admit. Also, I wouldn’t lump socialism with communism (socialism is a broad term and I think lumping it with communism simply because they are both left-wing ideologies is just as misleading as me lumping fascism and corporate capitalism, two right-wing ideologies). For example, while giving lip service to the workers, the Soviet Union ended up just replacing the capitalists with the state (which China is doing now I might add). Although there were great improvements compared to life under the Czar, and the early years of the Soviet Union were quite successful, the workers were not much nearer to owning the means of production in the USSR then they were under the capitalists.

    As for me personally, I agree with Martin Luther King Jr. “Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both.”

    I think there are some great examples of this “higher synthesis”. Sweden, Norway, and Finland have done quite well in this area. Other countries have done well also, although not a progressive as the Scandinavian nations, these include Germany, Israel, France, Canada, Spain, and others. I would love to go into this more some time, but I’m already staying up late just to address the above post.

    Okay, here we go. Now I’m addressing number 4. I think Marion G. Romney makes some good points…after all, the United Order is not socialism. Socialism is an economic and political theory whereas the United Order is a religious institution. I don’t think Catholics want the government run like a monestary, even if their religious beliefs tell them it’s a better way to live with each other. The same is true of the United Order. However, I think this talk was very much influenced by Romney’s own politics, the political environment of that time period, as well as the fact that historically Mormons were considered politically, economically, and socially radical (in fact, it’s not uncommon to come across the word “Communist” and “Socialist” being used by anti-Mormons in the early history of the Church, and the term was used specifically as a bad word much the same it is today by people like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh). Let’s not forget that Utah was one of the first states to have a strong Socialist Party. Not only that, but Apostle Moses Thatcher had come out in favor of socialism, the Church had been almost a tourist trap for early European socialists interested in the Church’s cooperative communities like Brigham City, and Edward Bellamy’s bestselling socialist book slash pamphlet was known to be inspired by his visit to Utah and late night talks with Lorenzo Snow. None of this made the Church look good during the McCarthy era, when everything even remotely left of center was being attacked as “unAmerican”.

    Number 5: Yes, the “Mormon Worker” was inspired by Dorothy Day’s “The Catholic Worker” and issue number one explains in further detail.

    Number 6: Although I’d like to say I thought out my comparison between Ayn Rand and Rothbard in detail, I can’t claim that. The connection I was making was just this; Rothbard and Rand both want their readers to just assume that those who favor social services and government regulation are a bunch of “do gooders” who are secretly and solely motivated by such sinister things as power, prestige, and “cushy government jobs”, and so and so on. As I made clear earlier in this post, I think this is the equivalent of an atheist telling people that religious individuals are motivated to do good not because they have the Spirit or have developed charity, but because they just want to get into heaven or avoid hell.

    And lastly, number 8. I think Keynes was a jerk, and it’s not like he even tried to cover this up. Has anyone ever read his writings? He pretty says openly that those in power should use inflation as a sort of secret tax. Anyway, I think the Fed, along with the financial industry in general, are certainly going to promote the interests of the wealthy over everyone else. After all, do they make money off of poor people or rich? I wouldn’t want to debate the Fed however, as I don’t feel educated on the subject well enough to do it justice. I’ll leave that for others. However, I will say that when Joseph Smith ran for President of the United States, his platform included a national bank that he believed the government should operate which would be accountable to the people through representative democracy. He believed a national bank was necessary to protect Americans from the abuses of a private financial industry.

    I hope I answered and responded to everything here. I’ve got an 11 day old son, a full time job, am attending a university currently and just bought a new house. Pulling myself away to write this was quite a task, so I hope my response is sufficient as I probably will be backing off for a little while.

    If anyone is interested in reading more about my perspective on politics and religion, I have written two articles for the LDS Left newsletter and corresponding blog. One is about Ezra Taft Benson and the trouble his political opinions stirred within the Church, and the other is a satirical piece where I point out that the Church has quite a few troubling things in it’s history if someone wants to believe the Church is and always has been economically conservative. Below are the links for anyone interested. Oh, and sorry about any typos, I’m too tired to go back, reread my post, and make adjustments…what you get is what you get.

    The satirical article:
    http://theldsleft.blogspot.com/2009/09/screwtape-letter-on-mormon-politics-by.html

    The article on Benson:
    http://theldsleft.blogspot.com/2009/09/ezra-taft-benson-end-of-all-political.html

  27. John’s avatar

    Sorry, one last thing that I forgot to mention when I wrote the above. In regards to number 4, In my opinion it is a gross misunderstanding to push economic equality aside by saying something like “Well, that was the United Order, and we all know that only Christ can reign over such a system” hinting that we should all just sit around and let inequality increase, and never mind those in need since Christ will fix it for us at some point in the future. While I believe it is true that a perfect system won’t exist until Christ reigns and we all “see eye to eye” I don’t believe this exonerates us from the responsibility of working towards a more just and equal society.

    Also, the United Order is not the Law of Consecration, but instead it is one of many attempts by the early Saint to establish a more egalitarian community after failing to keep the Law of Consecration. So when people say that the egalitarian communities described in the Book of Mormon were the “United Order” it is literally false, since the United Order was not even invented until the Saints were in Utah. Not only that, but often in the Book of Mormon we read that these egalitarian forms of government were made up of both members and non-members, and since the Law of Consecration and the United Order are both covenants that are made between members of the Church, my conclusion is that they had achieved a better form of governance that was secular, or at least separate from Church membership.

    We also can’t assume that when the First Presidency published that pamphlet encouraging members to participate in ZCMI in 1875 and said “The experience of mankind has shown that the people of communities and nations among whom wealth is the most equally distributed, enjoy the largest degree of liberty, are the least exposed to tyranny and oppression and suffer the least from luxurious habits which beget vice,” that they were talking specifically about communities and nations that live the United Order. Instead, it is a broad, and in my opinion accurate, observation. The same goes for another quote from that pamphlet “One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals.” I highly doubt they were talking about Utah when they said “our nation”.

    I don’t agree with your observation Greg about my links where you say “most have to do with various aspects of the United Order”. While some do, MOST do not.

  28. Greg’s avatar

    Thank you John for clarifying and providing a much-needed counterbalance to some of the information on this site. While I certainly didn’t expect you to address each and every point – especially in the short period of time in which you responded – I am glad you took the time to provide us your thoughts. In fact, I find it amazing you had any time at all to devote to this subject given the circumstances.

    You have single-handedly touched on many important themes in this thread that will be the subject of many future posts and commentary around which additional discussion can take place. You have also significantly contributed to this conversation around America’s version of the welfare state. We hope you and others feel welcome here as we continue to explore these issues over the coming months and years.

    Taking care of the poor and needy is a fundamental teaching of the Savior’s gospel in all dispensations and if ignored, incurs unique consequences (Sodom and Gomorrah). How we as individuals and as a society choose to assist has been the subject of utopians throughout the world’s ages. It is hoped we can learn from those who have gone before and grappled with similar issues.

    Congratulations on the new addition to your family. Best wishes.

  29. Joyful St’s avatar

    Loved the conversation between John and Greg. So wonderful to see a thought out and considerate dialog upon this ever important topic. Gives me much to consider.

    I do agree with John in principle, but I believe that it should be applied on a much smaller level than the federal govt. I think keeping welfare local helps alleviate some of the problems of corruption. I am going to be reading the book: Beyond Socialism and Capitalism. I think it will address some solutions?

  30. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Joyful.

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