Friday, November 12, 2010


The Jubilee laws of the Old Testament are really important. In Torah times, the main form was capital was land. When Israel entered the land, it was divided evenly between families. This means that capital was fairly evenly distributed. This is an important principle. God prefers capital to be evenly distributed, so everyone has a similar chance to succeed or fail.

The Jubilee laws allowed people to work hard and expand their capital. They rewarded productivity. The Jubilee laws also allowed people to make mistakes and recognised that some would fail. People were accountable for their decisions.

The huge benefit of the Jubilee system was that after every second generation, the distribution of capital was restored back to a rough equality again. This meant that the new generation got a fresh start, without being encumbered by their parents or grandparents mistakes. Jubilee provides for a second chance for the new generation.

The jubilee laws clearly led to a change in the distribution of capital. However, the Torah does not create any authority with power to enforce these laws. Nor does it specify penalties for people who ignore the Jubilee requirements. OT history suggests that they were mostly ignored. Certainly, by Jesus time, land was accumulated in the hands of a few.

The Jubilee was a voluntary requirement. It is not a justification for compulsory state redistribution.

The challenge for Christians is to find a way to make a voluntary jubilee principle work in our modern world where capital is most plant and equipment, rather than land. I have shown in Secular Capitalism that free market capitalism solves the production problem, but it leads to concentration of wealth, because it rewards the successful, and punishes those who fail. It needs to be complemented by a process that pushes capital out and down to those who do not have any. State redistribution does not work, because it kills incentives, creates corruption, rewards failure and consumes capital.

Christian Generosity is a better solution. The consequence of the gospel should be enhanced giving and sharing. Christians should be finding ways to voluntarily redistribute some of their capital, so that capital is more evenly distributed, and people whose parents lost their capital get an opportunity to be more productive. Unfortunately we have not been very imaginative in this area.

No comments: