Discussion Tuesday

Mixing up some religion and history into our economics

Jesus was an early applied economist

Once again, remember that these are points for discussion – I am not saying I agree or disagree with them.

  • long time listener, first time caller:

    Maybe the big J was interesting in understanding why people made different choices in maximizing ‘utility’, and the difference in short term and long term utility maximization. And then using his insight to make suggestion on how others could change their behavior to to gain better results?

    Or maybe he had an agenda on what maximised ‘utility’ was, and it was different from the masses?

    I could somehow believe the social physiologists would also would suggest he was well practiced in the art of ameliorative and transformative change. One is it help the current victims of a wrong, and the later is to change the system to remove a wrong.

    The it’s usually the later the applied economist are trying to understand, bring about, and the accused of not caring for those already wronged, by looking at their big picture. In some ways the transformative process can eliminate the alliterative role, thus they can be opposed to each other. A little like the baptist and the bootlegger, but here the bootlegger is an agent of ‘assistance’

    So back to Jesus, sent down to study the situation on the ground and write a report suggesting policy change. Or maybe it was not to suggest policy change but they report was misconstrued by those in power of the day.

  • Elinor_Dashwood

    He was a terrible economist – eg the story about the vineyard workers who worked a whole day ad complained that people who had only done half a day were getting paid the same. He said the whole-day workers had been paid according to terms they agreed and should not concern themselves with what others were getting. He might care to go back to the same vineyard later and see how many people turn up prepared to do a full day’s work once that story gets around.

    And what is it with the parable of the talents? The one who gets given the most, invests them wisely and is rewarded. The one who gets given the least, does nothing with it and is punished. Very happy for the moral to be drawn that one should use one’s resources wisely, but that is not what the Bible actually says the moral of the story is. What it actually says is that “For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him”. Don’t think much to that for a creed

  • Michael Reddell

    Have to agree with Elinor. Economics is precisely not the point. The message of the gospel – and the Old Testament for that matter – is of grace, unmerited favour. Allocation isn’t the theme – that is a this-world matter – but abundance is.

  • Elinor_Dashwood

    Further to Michael’s remark, I’m seeing that Jesus’ message, in economists’ terms, is that God’s love and mercy is not a scarce resource, and so economic questions about how it is to be distributed/earned do not apply. Not sure how He could then be claiming to be following on from the Old Testament, which abounds with evidence that God’s patience and forgiveness is a very scarce resource indeed, and one that’s very inequitably distributed! But that’s a theological, not an economic question …

  • Michael Reddell

    No one in the Old Testament earned salvation – that is, worked for it and paid the price. Salvation – and membership of God’s kingdom – was by grace alone. That offer was, for a time, available only to the Jews, but it still wasn’t a matter of scarcity (in a economic sense – nothing anyone (no price, no labour, no did could change God’s allocation of grace).
    One parallel is Chrismas. The Christmas presents I give are unevenly distributed too – my children get them from me, and other children generally don’t. It isn’t that my children earn them; it is just an expression of my love for them. So although I don’t give presents to everyone, there isn’t a scarcity issue in economic terms: price or effort won’t change who gets Christmas presents from me.

  • Elinor_Dashwood

    Hmm, I am no theologian as will be apparent, but surely even those who were within God’s grace, ie Old Testament-times Jewish people, had to continue to earn it, or at least ensure they didn’t lose it, by obeying the Commandments and all the other laws about not eating pork and shellfish etc? There are certainly examples of God withdrawing His grace from (presumably Jewish) people whose behaviour He didn’t like, eg Lot’s wife, everybody except Noah and his family etc

  • michael reddell

    I guess the way I think about it is “no one is righteous, no not one”. No could be good enough to earn salvation. But, yes, people could reject the gift, and any person accepting the gift didn’t create a scarcity problem – there was no less room in God’s kingdom for others.
    The best way to think of the OT law is as a way of illustrating man’s sinfulness, and articulating a vision of holiness or apartness. A right and fitting response to love – God’s or a parent’s – is to seek to live in a way pleasing/honouring to the giver. Doing so fully is impossible this side of heaven, but as St Paul put it “grace abounds even to the chief of sinners”.
    Choices matter, but there is no economic scarcity about God’s love, then or now.

  • Excellent comments guys and gals, excellent!

  • OLO

    So chasing the moneylenders out of the temple was an early example of financial regulation…