Monday, February 04, 2013

Economic Life (9) Honest Trade

All buying and selling must be done honestly.

Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly (Deut 25:13-16).
This command was given in a context where coins were not available for trade. Payments for purchases and sales were made by weighing out gold or silver. A clever way to defraud people was to use scales that weighed light when making payments and a different set of scales that weighed heavy when getting paid.

The command applies to everyone who is selling goods or services. They must represent the stuff that they are selling. Selling flawed goods as if they are good quality is wrong, because “God detests anyone who deals dishonestly”. There should be no “rip-offs” among God’s people. They should be known as honest traders giving "value for money".

We are not entitled to take whatever price we can get, even if it is greater than we think that the goods are worth. Nor are we entitled to pay the lowest price possible, if less than we thing the good is worth. We cannot buy goods from China and just ignore the fact that the people who made them were paid a pittance.

Two comments are common in business:
  1. 1. Let the buyer beware.
  2. 2. What the market will bear.
They have no place amongst God’s people.

This command has a broader application. It means that bank policies that inflate the currency are immoral. In biblical times, kings devalued their coins by mixing silver into gold coins and other cheaper metals into silver coins. The coin appears to have the same value, so people still use it, but the king has stolen some of their gold or silver. This is immoral. In modern times, currencies are deflated by central bank policy, but the consequences are the same. People holding the currency are robbed of some of their wealth. Inflation is always immoral, regardless of means used.

The person with the scales has the power. Most people dealing with them would have to trust their honesty, because they would not be able to afford their own scales. God gets really upset when people with power use it dishonestly.

Kings and central banks have power. God detests counterfeiting coins and he detests central bank money creation because they are the same economic transaction in different form.

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