Monday, January 21, 2008

No Poor Among Them

I recently listened to a podcast that discussed a movement to focus on the description of Zion as the following, "...there was no poor among them." Many times I have seen this emphasis put forth on various blogs, essays, books, etc. and I see it as a good direction to head, indeed, more than good. As the podcast interviewee put forth his argument I began to disagree with his vision of "no poor among [us]." As I see it, he states that we have a democracy of political power, but not a democracy of financial power, thus we have the disparity of rich and poor. This separation of socio-economic classes should be reversed according to the interviewee and all people should be equal rather than capitalistically trying to make our situation as good as possible for our self and family. Being equal would mean that we all work the same amount and receive the same recompense. That is where I begin to disagree, and for two reasons that I'll detail out below. Hypothetically, in this society you would set a standard "X" for work that needs to be done in order for everyone to have the proper amount of goods to live a standard "Y" of lifestyle.

Problem 1: not everybody is going to want standard "Y" lifestyle. Some people will want and be happy with less, some people will want more. Of course, no one should be left without having standard lifestyle "Y" (food, shelter, health care, recreation, etc.) which is a big problem with life as we now know it. But, how do you deal with the inevitable variance in desired lifestyles? If you say those that want to work more get more then that seems to be back at a capitalistic approach again.

Problem 2: not everybody is going to want to work the same amount. Some people are not going to want to put in the standard "X" amount of labor. Do they still get "Y" lifestyle, and therefore get a free ride? Some will want to work more. What do you do with the extra goods produced by those that do the extra labor and the motivation that opportunity creates?

For these reasons I disagreed with the interviewee's desire for an anarchistic social system. I still believe that due to a wide spectrum of lifestyles and work ethics that a capitalistic society is still the best. But to be a good Christian capitalistic society we should do more to define an appropriate "Y" lifestyle, ensure that all who will do "X" labor receive it. If you aren't willing to do "X" labor then you get your percentage of "Y" lifestyle according to the percentage of "X" you completed (being physically and mentally capable of course).

I'd be interested to know others thoughts on this and their ideal social structuring system.


Shelley & Jake said...

Hi! Angela mentioned she posted on this site, so I looked it up. I agree. Capitalism is functional and I feel it helps us to be our best in many ways. Perhaps we become more materialistic, but I think we also work harder and put more care into our work. However, I do think that even those who refuse to work ought to have access to food, shelter, and health care, even if it's not the same quality as people who contribute more. I just don't think people should be starving, freezing, or dying of minor diseases when we have the means to help them, even if they won't contribute.

Carson Calderwood said...

Good point. So, maybe a standard of living X with food, shelter, health care, recreation, etc. and standard of living 1/2x that has food, shelter and health care.

I agree that a negative side effect of capitalism is materialism. I think that if we focused more on assuring that all had basic X lifestyle it would temper that side effect.

Cody said...

Not to be cold hearted and a jerk Carson, but why should people be "guaranteed" recreation time and opportunities? I think Americans in general have such a skewed paradigm on "needs" for a happy life. Going to the Dominican Republic this past summer reminded me of what it really takes to be happy in life-and that is most definitely not money, possesions and recreation.
The difference in the countenances of the poor, village dwelling people that came to us for their medical needs compared to the wealthy Americans when we arrived back in the States was very drastic. It was the same in my mission in Mexico. Even though they are poor, they are still happy and have a positive outlook on life, whereas the wealthy Americans are so obsessed with the possesions that they don't have that they walk around grumpy and frowning. I know this sounds like an overgeneralization, but it was a surprising truth that I realized again this last summer.
In response to your question, I think a guaranteed minimum of health care, housing, clothes and food should be pursued more thoroughly in this country-but with stipulations and guidelines. I love the attitude of the church regarding the welfare. Everybody can do something. Even if you are bound to a wheel chair, you can type, write, transcribe, something. Unless you are a completely bed ridden, deaf, mute, blind, quadrapalegic you can contribute in someway to society and as such should do so to receive these minimum requirements. A socialist attitude of guaranteed living standards for nothing in return breeds laziness and apathy and that is the kiss of death for a society. One of the most shocking examples of this is the Czech republic. Before they were overtaken militarily early in the 20th century, they were one of the worlds leaders in culture and philosophy. They were known back then as Bohemia. Many people have heard of Bohemia, but few recognize and know what happened to that once beautiful culture once communism took over.
Now the Czech republic struggles to regain its once wonderful heritage and culture and they battle to overcome a few generations of socialist attitude of apathy and laziness.

Anonymous said...

great questions. Charity that is not forced (as in a communist/socialist system) makes it more difficult/rare/rewarding. If you look around you you'll find many opportunities to engage in meaningful, sustainable voluntary wealth redistribution.

Here are some great things to read for those interested in this question:

H.D. Thoreau - walden
Hugh Nibly - approaching Zion
Mosiah 4 -benjamin's sermon
Matthew 5 - sermon on the mount
Doctrine and Covenants 42 - law of consecration
3 nephi 6:12-14

thomas more, Robert owen and √Čtienne Cabet(founder of the Icarians who strangely enough moved to Nauvoo after the mormons left)

Carson Calderwood said...

Very interesting comment, "Charity that is not forced (as in a communist/socialist system) makes it more difficult/rare/rewarding."

Also, HDT is one of my favorite thinkers. I went to Walden's Pond while in Maryland and it was a beautiful day with the leaves changing. I had a serene moment by myself at the water. Very nice!

Anonymous said...

Lets hypothetically say our government ceases all entitlement programs (such as medicare, medicaid, social security, maryland homeheating aid, food stamps etc.) and instead encourages citizens to contribute what they would have paid in taxes to those less fortunate. These contributions could be made personally, or through organizations such as the red cross, a church, or a soup kitchen... would enough people's conciences be piqued in order to maintain your X level standard of living? I would much rather give in this way than be compelled to give by a government or organization. I wonder how this would affect my attaining that ideal to not judge those to whom I give. I have a friend who has, with his family, seriously and honestly evaluated their needs and wants. They go out of their way to give of their time, talents and money to those around them who need. at the end of the year the excess is given to the LDS church as a fast offering donation. What is right for him is not necesarily right for you, but if we're to have no poor among us it will take a lot more personal honesty and compassion than I currently see in the world.

Carson Calderwood said...

Very good again. I had not heard of that idea before and I think it would do a lot of good. We all know how much easier it is to do something we want than what is expected/forced. I think that if that plan were in place we would probably end up giving more than the required amount by seeing first hand what our efforts do. I do various pro bono dental work and every time it makes me want to do more rather than less, both as I do it and when I'm done.

When are you going to jump on someones ticket as VP?

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