Saturday, July 12, 2014

Joseph Blast: "A Founding Father Profit Sharing Fix for Inequality"

From The Daily Beast here. A taste:
In fact, while Adams drafted the new Massachusetts Constitution, some of his political colleagues considered changing the name of that state to Oceana, the fictional commonwealth of political philosopher James Harrington, where wide property ownership helped secure political liberty. Like all the Founders, Adams wanted property rights protected and he wanted everyone to be a property holder. 
Land was the main form of capital at this time, and the Founders’ preferred idea of spreading capital ownership through land was expressed in repeated far-reaching governmental actions. Washington asked Jefferson to draft a liberal approach to the sale of public lands to citizens which commenced, albeit with some complications. They moved against the institution of primogeniture, a key plank of European feudalism,...
Admittedly, I'm less well read on the Founders & economic policy than I am on the Founders & religion; but I see two strains of competing thought on the former: 1. The more individualistic "liberal" laissez faire notion that accepts applying equally a set of rules to individuals with differing talents results in vastly different outcomes, and that's okay as long as the same set of rules applies to all; and 2. The more collectivistic "republican" notion that demands some kind of redistribution or indeed, wealth based "affirmative action" to undo some of the unfairness of the history of aristocracy. Abolishing primogeniture was a first step ....

And as Eric Nelson has shown the Bible, particularly the Hebraic writings, offers more for an egalitarian redistributionist republicanism than did Greco-Roman republicanism, whose teachings eschewed economic redistribution.

As I teach my students, the dialog in Western Civilization on individualism v. collectivism traces back to the very beginning and runs the entire length. Marx didn't invent it.

Indeed, I think we forget the origins of the term "utopia." It was the Christian Thomas More who coined the term while defining the concept. In More's Utopia, both wealth and poverty were abolished, which looks something like Marx's economic "equality according to need." Marx was More stripped of his Christianity. It was Marx's atheistic dictated utopia that was novel, not his notion of economic leveling. (Atheists weren't appreciated in More's Utopia.)

(But Leo Strauss would probably see More as a secret esoteric atheist anyway.)

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