Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Jubilee

I am not sure how the Jubilee can be applied in the modern world (Leviticus 9:8-13). Every time I ready the Jubilee passages, I get the sense that I am missing something really important. I plan to keep seeking till I find it, but here are a few preliminary thoughts.

The jubilee is a marvelous principle. It means that every second generation, got access to some capital to use for their economic development. They get another chance, no matter what their predecessors have done.

The jubilee tells us something about human nature. The assumption is that if the Father “loses the plot”, his son will think the same way. The land comes back to the third generation with the hope that foolish thinking has been broken by the season of poverty.

Another implication of the Jubilee is that when helping the poor, it is not enough to give aid. Poor people need to be given access to capital. This theme has be been developed by Herman De Soto.

Perhaps in countries with oil or mineral wealth, instead of this being owned by the government, every citizen could be given an equal share in the company owning the resources. People could use this equity as security to get started in business.

One of weakness of free-market capitalism is that the successful people accumulate capital, while the rest do not. The children of the successful get a head start over the children who have no capital. This inequality can often create envy. Even Christians look at this inequality of opportunity and say it is unfair (though it is hard to fault parents helping their children). The jubilee, if it could be made to work in some way, would roll back this inequality and give everyone and equal opportunity start.

I do not see the jubilee laws as justifying enforced redistribution by the state. Maybe we need to develop a voluntary process for making the jubilee process work. Maybe Christians who have been successful in business an accumulated a lot of capital could look for young people with potential and provide them with capital to get started in business. This might be a combination of gleaning and jubilee.

I am interested that as Bill Gates has reached his jubilee, he has lost interest in trying to get Windows to work, and is more interested in helping the poor. Maybe, when an entrepreneur gets to a certain stage in life, they become more interested in providing capital to third generation people who need a leg up.

1 comment:

Steve Scott said...

I see parallels between bankruptcy and jubilee. By having one's debt forgiven (i.e. becoming free), it is difficult to get credit or to be able to borrow. When one is free, the borrower being slave to the lender doesn't apply. Freedom is a fearful thing to we moderns.