Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 10 December 2008


By Jim Jordal

 Beware lest thou forget Jehovah thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his ordinances, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: lest, when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thy heart be lifted up, and thou forget Jehovah thy God, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; who led thee through the great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not; that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end: and lest thou say in thy heart, My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember Jehovah thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as at this day

Deuteronomy 8:11-18 (ASV, emphasis mine)

In the above passage Moses warns Israel of the dangers inherent in what we might call the arrogance of wealth. After reveling in God’s deliverance from slavery and accepting His gift of the Canaan land overflowing with milk and honey, Moses feared that the people might begin to forget God and to labor under the idolatrous delusion that their abilities and risk-taking militarism had gained them their wealth. So he urged them to remember that their power to gain wealth came, not from their own efforts, but from God’s favor.

Today’s purveyors of plutocracy would like us to accept the same delusion: that all wealth is earned through individual effort and good fortune, and therefore belongs solely in the hands of those gaining it. This mistaken belief leads many wealthy people to consider taxation as a curse to be avoided at every opportunity. Their view is that "I earned it and therefore I should keep it."

But this view is flagrantly false. Unless you alone can dig enough gold to create a fortune, or mint your own money, you cannot become rich by yourself. Every fortune comes into existence through a partnership between individual or group entrepreneurs and the common culture, which provides the human capital and friendly environment that allow wealth to be created.

Beginning in 1980 with the Reagan administration, this nation has seen a concentrated effort by people of power to manipulate legislation and governmental action so as to maximize their own already-favored positions in society. This they accomplished through successful political implementation of the neo-conservative economic ideology. Their strategy was to proclaim that because free markets always policed and disciplined themselves business (especially banking) should be free of troublesome government regulation. They also insisted that government was too big and should be reduced through privatizing various public functions. (As Bush advisor Karl Rove put it: "I want to reduce government to the size where I can drown it in a bathtub"). But perhaps their most extraordinary success was to roll back the top federal tax rate from 70 percent when Reagan came into office to the present 35 percent.

None other than the world’s wealthiest man, investor Warren Buffett, has openly admitted that he owes much of his success to the time and place of his birth. In an article in The Nation (Dec. 15, 2008), author Mark Engler paraphrases Buffett as saying that to a great extent he owes the accomplishments of his professional life to the manifold contributions of other people, known and unknown, past and present. They have collectively done Buffet enormous favors, affording him security and education, providing modern infrastructure, science and communication systems and creating a sophisticated market in which he could do business. Because of this, Buffet claims, "society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I’ve earned."

So much for the myth of individually earned wealth. If it’s true that Warren Buffett owes much of his success to others, how much more so the rest of us? Of course, the question then arises: If extreme wealth comes at least partially from the skills and abilities of others, why then should not those persons possessing that wealth be expected to share a significant portion of that wealth with society? Yes, Why not!

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 December 2008 )