Economics of Morality: Economics of Moses, Economics of Jesus
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An integrated system of economic theory and policy allowed for the free market price of land to cyclically go down to zero and facilitated the restitution of the land to the original possessor on the year of the Jubilee. A similar dynamic construct allowed for the cancellation of monetary debts every seven years. These are the primary characteristics of the economics of Moses. The economics of Jesus is a restatement of the economics of Moses. Their purpose was the avoidance of hoarding. To generalize, the primary tool used in both doctrines was the capillary application of economic justice and therefore of morality in daily economic relationships among human beings.
This paper has value in that it serves to highlight the major problem that has occurred periodically and repeatedly in Ancient,Medieval,and Modern economies over time-the problem being hoarding where money is not used either for the consumption of present goods using fixed capital goods(machinery,equipment,tools,computers,robots,nanotechnology,etc or the production of future goods .Specifically ,it is the hoarding of money ,as opposed to the hoarding of goods,that is the necessary precondition for engaging in speculative behavior.Gorga needs to tie in the wisdom of the ancient Hebrew Israelite prophets and Jesus,as well as the very similar positions of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle,and Islamic theoreticians ,on this issue to the modern work done by Adam Smith and J M Keynes.
Keynes identified the M2 demand for money,the speculatiove or asset demand for money,as the cause of involuntary unemployment.Keynes’s mathematical proof is presented on pp.303-306 of the General Theory.A summary of the argument ,in written English ,is provided by Keynes in Part IV of chapter 15 on pp.207-209 for readers who did not have the necessary mathematical training to follow his technical analysis,which was presented in the form of elasticities.Eliminating/minimizing M2 balances,where M=M1 +M2, auutomatically reduces/eliminates the amount of involuntary unemployment .
Keynes’s M2 category refers to loans made to speculators and rentiers.Keynes’s category is thus identical to Adam Smith’s category of borrowers who are not to receive any bank loans at any time ,which was comprised of projectors,prodigals ,and imprudent risk takers.Smith’s theory of money and banking revolves around minimizing/eliminating the amount of loans extended by the private banks to projectors,prodigals ,and imprudent risk takers.Instead , the vast majority of loans must be given to the “sober” small business ownwers who create the vast majority of jobs in any economy.Smith is very clear that.the deposits of the bank’s customers will be wasted and destroyed if lent to projectors,prodigals ,and imprudent risk takers.This ,of course,leads to recessions and depressions.Thus, Smith’s policy is to use the central bank,which will make sure that there are a very large number of small banks charging a low rate of interest ,as opposed to the current situation where there is a very small number of gigantic banks, to reinforce a policy of credit restriction against speculators.or,as Keynes stated,the unsatisfied fringe of bank BORROWERS MUST ALWAYS CONSIST OF SPECULATORS AND SPECULATORS ALONE..
In summary,Gorga needs to tie in the ancient wisdom of the prophets to the modern wisdom of Smith and Keynes.
Opposing Smith and Keynes would be Jeremy Bentham and his modern disciples in the economics profession at the University of Chicago’s Business school and Department of Economics.
I would recommend that the paper be published if the above topics are incorporated in the text of the paper.
I will be happy to incorporate Michael Brady’s suggestion in the body of the paper. That both Adam Smith and Keynes reached similar conclusions as those outlined in the text, only confirms the validity of the systems of thought as well as the economic acumen of both Moses and Jesus. As I have informally been pointing out to friends and relatives, in my paper there is only economics—no religion.
ECONOMICS OF MORALITY
This paper attempts to demonstrate that there was once a system of thought in which morality and economics were totally intermeshed.
I find three major problems with this paper.
First, the author never really defines Economics and Ethics. This is an important point because prices, markets and money existed before human societies started to think or theorize about “the Economic system”. Thus, the presence of these social objects does not entail ipso facto that we are in the presence of societies that think about economic systems, economic theory and policy. Seeing an economic system every time we see markets and prices implies projecting our mind set into every society even if it did not think of itself as comprising an economic system. And this can lead to serious confusions when thinking that economics and ethics coexisted and “were totally intermeshed”.
This is not a minor point. A system has its own laws and its own rationale, and the position of individual agents in this context does not relate easily to ethics: the reason is that in ethics there is a need for personal accountability, whereas in a “system”, with its own laws, this personal accountability is basically dissolved. This is why in economic theory, morality is not essential: agents may not know how economic laws operate, but they will endure their effects as soon as they get to the marketplace. That they know or ignore the way in which these laws operate is irrelevant for the analysis of the economic ‘system’. This is not the way in which we start the analysis in ethics.
Second, the paper is based on a very weak treatment of economic theory. For example, it asserts that
“going as far back into recorded history as possible, one finds two systems of economic thought whose moral values are inherent and inseparable from them. They are the economics of Moses and the economics of Jesus. Analysis reveals that they are so integrated into each other that one can speak of one system of thought: the economics of morality. We have seen that this system of economic theory ran seamlessly into economic policy and, merged with the Aristotelian doctrine of economic justice, reigned in one form or another from Moses to Adam Smith.”
This paragraph encapsulates several key difficulties. Two thousand years of historical and intellectual distance are brushed aside here. The idea that Aristotelian doctrine and the teachings of Moses share (seamlessly) the same cultural and analytical space with Adam Smith’s works is quite problematic. I would like the author to explain how is Aristotelian doctrine of ‘economic justice’ or Mosaic Law articulated with Smith’s theory of gravitation of market prices around the axes of natural prices? This is something that would require a very precise analysis and clarification.
An additional question concerns the nature of this “economic system”. What is this economic system? Is it capitalism? Is there no history here or are we to suppose that the economic system did not change between, say 800 BC and 1776? The reference to factors of production on page 18 makes me think that the author finds capitalism ready to go at the time of “the economics of Moses and the economics of Jesus”.
The author appears to think that there is a single system of economic theory that runs seamlessly into economic policy and merged with Aristotelian thought and ran from Moses to Adam Smith. This is confirmed by his view that “the inner mechanism of the economics of Moses becomes clear as soon as it is realized—as modern economic theory from Adam Smith onward has made clear—that freedom is an essential component of economic growth.” But this implies that economic theory has not evolved at all and that it is a sort of monolith of ideas and concepts. It ignores the fact that Adam Smith has a theory of prices that is radically different from the one transmitted by today’s mainstream general equilibrium theory. It also ignores the fact that both Smith and general equilibrium theory are radically different from the theory of prices of production used by Sraffa to unravel the inner rationale of social conflict in capitalist societies. And that these theories are all different from Marx’s theory of prices based on his views about class exploitation in capitalist societies. Now, all of these theoretical constructs have serious problems, but I have to ask, which is the theory that merged Aristotelian thought with Moses and Smith? Or, in other terms, how many ‘systems of economic thought’ does the author think exist or have existed? He appears to think there is only one. His reference to the notion of factors of production (page 18) apparently shows he is thinking of marginalism as the economic theory that achieves this seamless fusion between Aristotle, Moses and Smith. I hope not, for marginalism has been scientifically discredited. It would be advisable to show more caution when talking about systems of economic thought.
The third problem concerns the analysis of the price determination related to the Jubilee. The paper states (page 3) that
“the price mechanism of the Jubilee calls for close attention. Since the price of land decreases with the passage of time, the arrangement reveals that there was the observation of an inner coordination of events in the application of the Jubilee: first, everyone obeyed the mechanism; since there is no evidence of compulsion, everyone obeyed it voluntarily; and since the price of the land decreased over time, it was clearly responding to a framework of economic analysis. What was this framework? The process of price determination becomes reproducible and decipherable as one looks at the economic, the legal, and the moral context into which the purchase and sale of land was taking place.”
The author finds the ‘purely economic’ aspects of the Jubilee are confirmed by the existence of sales and purchases of land during the 49 years preceding the Jubilee, the existence of price and the existence of market. The price of land goes down as we approach the Jubilee. The author asks: “How is that accomplished?”
That’s a good question. In spite of allocating five full pages to explain how this comes about, the question remains unanswered. The first part of the explanation provided by the author is a simple description of an equivalence relation, not of a price formation process. Although we are told that the process was dynamic, at the end of the description we still do not know how the equivalence relation is established.
The paper states (page 6) that “the process of price determination for the land established an equivalence – in conditions of equilibrium, a constant one to one relation – among three elements: price times quantity of land, price times quantity of product and price times quantity of money.” Does this mean that this process of price determination is always operating “in conditions of equilibrium”? That is a bit strange. Even if that is the assumption, this does not explain just why the price of land is going down. The explanation comes one sentence later: “Over time the price of the land went down, because—clearly—the cumulative quantity of fruit to be derived from the purchased plot of land went progressively down to zero as the end of the 49th year approached.”
So it appears that the exhaustion of fertility or diminishing returns settle in and this affects the amount of produce and therefore the revenue that producers obtained from the land. The author thinks this is the “economic basis of the sliding scale for calculating the price of the land: “there was less fruit to be gathered as time progressed”. Of course, this has to be accompanied by several other assumptions in order to make the process intelligible: there is no technical change (no improvements in cultivation and land management), no variations in the price of fruit and no variations in the value of money.
The bottom line is that exhaustion of fertility is according to the author the main reason for this reduction in price over the span of 49 years. According to the author, this is thus the economic basis of the sliding scale” used to calculate the price of the land. Unfortunately, the paper does not quote the exact biblical passage where this reference is found. After checking the passages in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers (quoted in page 2), I could not find a single reference to this phenomenon of fertility reduction. I have no background in biblical studies, so I would welcome some clarification here. In fact, there are indications that this is not the key problem: isn’t the seventh year of fallow land specifically designed to let land recover its productive properties?
The paper then continues to say that “the economic system relied on two hidden independent relationships: the price of the product and the value (quantity times price) of money in their relation to the quantity of money.” In order to justify the assumption of a constant unit value of the fruit of the land the author introduces the following conditions: “zero initial capital expenditure, constant labour costs, no technological innovation over time.” It is indeed very difficult now to understand just how these assumptions and conditions have anything to do with a ‘system of economic thought that runs seamlessly’ from Aristotle and Moses to Adam Smith.
I aim grateful for the detailed comments of Professor Alejandro Nadal. We share a major concern: the status of modern economic policy and its relation to ethics. To see this convergence, the reader has to read some of Professor Nadal’s works and has especially to go to the opening page of his personal website.
There the reader will find a very imaginative description of our topics: There is an elephant in the conference room. And we know the meaning of this imagery; the elephant represents modern economic policy. This is such a complex topic, and each blind person in the room can touch only a part of it, but is certain to grasp the whole elephant.
The image is significative especially because, in the picture, there is no indication of ethics, the second item of common concern. Ethics is nowhere to be found in the picture.
Clearly, this is the first concern that Professor Nadal finds with my paper. He states: “First, the author never really defines Economics and Ethics.”
But, what is the central point of my paper? The central point is that “from Moses, through Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas, all the way to Adam Smith, economic thought was dominated by the doctrine of economic justice.” And what did this doctrine do? It unified ethics and economics. There were not two topics in writers’ and readers’ minds for all that time. One was the shadow image of the other.
With its separation from morality, economics paid a high price: It became a totally abstract science—and, together with ethics, it disappeared from the conference room. It was no longer capable of controlling economic policy. Whether in its higher or lower (political) forms, such as capitalism or socialism, economic theory has become irrelevant to explaining such fundamental facts of economic life as inequality and poverty. Modem economic theory, the economic theory developed on the basis of Adam Smith understanding of saving (and dismissal of hoarding), even interferes with the reading of economic literature. Do orthodox economists truly understand the vast heterodox literature? Do they even care to understand? They are prisoners of their own constructs.
A specification might further allay Professor Nadal concern. I do not maintain that the practical implementation of such unification existed in every land of our planet, but only in the little land of Moses. This is the land in which the jubilee—in its various manifestations—was conceived and implemented for a certain amount of time. The question is: Does not the economics of the jubilee manifest a total integration of economics and ethics?
Far from me the denial of the validity of Professor Nadal’s assertion that “Seeing an economic system every time we see markets and prices implies projecting our mind set into every society even if it did not think of itself as comprising an economic system.“ I am in full agreement. In fact, allow me to put my position in Professor Nadal own terms: It is not sufficient for a society to think about its economic system, and therefore develop ideas concerning economic theory and policy—no matter how integrated these two presentations might be. It is essential that society give its utmost attention to the building of a just economic system.
Within such a system alone there will never be a split between the laws of the system and one’s personal accountability. All combinations and permutations about the ethics of individual action, unless built on the solidity of a “just economic system,” can be elegant ethical analyses, but they remain totally abstract constructs.
The second concern of Professor Nadal, the concern that “the paper is based on a very weak treatment of economic theory,” is indicative of our modern cacophony of sounds about economic theory. We talk too much. We judge actions, not as each individual action ought to be judged whether it does or does not respect the principles of economic justice. Rather, we judge each action through the prism of a large variety of economic theories—and many times we do not take the time to distinguish between propositions of economic theory from proposition of economic policy.
So, Professor Nadal is right. My interpretation of the economic theory and practice that ruled the world from Moses to Adam Smith is certainly not dictated by marginalism. Neither Smith, nor Marx, nor Keynes, what they said and what their followers think one of them said, affect my analysis. Besides these authors and their culture live outside the purview of my paper. They lived after the intellectual disintegration of the theory of economic justice took place.
My analysis is ruled by the theory of economic justice.
I was astonished to find—again, in the Bible, a religious text—an economic theory and policy that combined ethics and economics as no other theory that I know does.
The third concern of Professor Nadal is this. Why does the price of land go down to zero at the end of the 49th year? The factual answer is simple: The land was returned—free of charge—to the original possessor. I was fascinated by the internal dynamic and organic relationships that made this economic system work, and made the integration of morality and economics work.
The return of the land to the original possessor performed a series of moral actions: It prevented hoarding (it prevented the creation of the latifundia—and monopolies); it gave employment to the original possessor (and members of his family) and thus allowed for the execution of participative justice; it gave expression to the highest manifestation of distributive justice (it equalized the field every 50 years); and it laid the groundwork for the operation of commutative justice (the original possessor, now a producer again, was ready to purchase the product of other producers relying on his own income rather than public or private welfare).
All these mechanisms of economic justice were thrust into place every seven years in relation to money as well, when the correction of human errors committed in the management of money, i.e., running into debt (rather than mismanaging the farm) occurred.
Writing this paper gave expression to one of my deepest passions, the passion of the archeologist. Can you imagine the reward felt by Schliemann at Troy or by Carter at the first sight of the Tutankhamen’s Tomb? I laid down the shards from the Old and New Testament that related to economics. The first question that arises is this: Did I discover
all the shards that are there? Another is: Could the pieces be arranged in some better way?
My position is clear. My results, as in standard scientific research, can be duplicated. On the basis of those shards, I reconstructed the inner mechanisms of the system of economic justice that was conceived and executed by the Israelites in their ancient land.
The reader is of course entitled to ask about the methodology I followed. The short answer is that I assumed that we all have a basic objective understanding of the factors of production. Therefore I gathered all the shards I could find that related to land and I put them in one basket. The same did I do for all shards that talked about labor and money.
Then I put the pieces together in a kind of amphora that, given its institutional framework, to my mind contains all that we need to know to analyze the dynamic reactions of people when confronted with economic issues—and want to solve them in a matter that is sustainable and just for all concerned.
Can a more perfect theory be built than the theory of economic justice? Can this theory be more perfectly implemented than through the institution of the jubilee? These are interesting questions.
I have read this paper carefully, and also Nadal’s comments. In my opinion, the three ‘major problems’ identified by Nadal are serious.
Gorga seems not to understand the relation between economics – regarded as a scientific enterprise directed to understanding the relations among production, exchange and consumption in human societies, and ethics – regarded as a philosophical enterprise directed to understanding right conduct in human societies. These two inquiries are quite distinct. ‘Economics of Morality’ is the same kind of idea as ‘Chemistry of Music Criticism.’
Each of these heuristic enterprises has changed and developed over the past three millennia, and it is only a slight exaggeration to say that the former – as a self-conscious discipline – was virtually unknown before the 18th C. It is anachronistic to suggest, as Gorga does, that the Ancient Hebrews had any scientific conception of ‘the economy’ or of its working.
Like Nadal, I am puzzled by Gorga’s attempt to explain the decline of land prices by ‘a framework of economic analysis.’ Gorga’s own attempts to elucidate this ‘framework’ are unhelpful to the professional economist.
In addition to the objections raised by Nadal, I have a few of my own.
(1) Gorga ignores the literature in this field. At the least, he should be aware of the work of Michael Hudson, a leading authority, e.g.
A Philosophy for a Fair Society (with C. J. Miller and Kris Feder) London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1994. See pp. 33-79: ‘Land Monopolization, Fiscal Crises and Clean Slate: ‘Jubilee’ Proclamations in Antiquity.’
‘Economic Roots of the Jubilee,’ Bible Review 15 (Feb. 1999): 26-33, 44.
Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East (ed. with Marc Van De Mieroop) Bethesda: CDL Press, 2002. See pp. 7-58: ‘Reconstructing the Origins of Interest-Bearing Debt and the Logic of Clean Slates.’
‘Debt Forgiveness and Redemption: Where do the Churches now stand?’ Geophilos 2 (Autumn 2002): 8-33.
In addition, he would profit from reading some of the work of the late Barry Gordon, e.g.
The Economic Problem in Biblical and Patristic Thought. Leiden and New York:
E.J. Brill, 1989.
Economic Analysis in Talmudic Literature (with R.A. Ohrenstein). Leiden and
New York: E.J. Brill, 1992.
Ancient and Medieval Economic Ideas and Concepts of Social Justice
(ed., with S. Todd Lowry). Leiden, New York, Köln: E. J. Brill, 1998.
(2) The remarks about money are ill-informed. Every textbook contains a definition of ‘money,’ usually in terms of the functions it usually fulfills and its general acceptability in these functions. To be sure, one can argue for a chartalist account. But simply to assert it as Gorga does, without recognising the objections that have been raised, is anti-intellectual. This passage, it seems to me, illustrates a communication gap between Gorga and the economics profession. Economists recognise one another by the fact that they find it profitable to disagree. For example, though I recognise the force of Nadal’s second objection to Gorga, I believe he is wrong about the history of price theory. That gives us something possibly fruitful to talk about, because we are both participants in the same conversation, know the rules of the game and expect to learn something from our disagreement.
(3) The history of the Ancient Near East in general, and in particular that of the Semitic tribes whose myths and legends are reported in the OT, has only recently been reconstructed, and much of it is still conjectural and uncertain. We don’t even know for sure, for example, whether a Jubilee as mandated in Leviticus ever actually took place. What we do know is that during the two millennia BC the territory roughly known as ‘Palestine’ was usually under the imperial domination either of Egypt or first, of Assyria, then Babylon, then Macedonia and finally – by NT times – of Rome. The OT accounts of the Davidic monarchy may have some basis in fact, but even a reading of those books which record its story leave us in little doubt that it was normally a client state of one of its imperial neighbours. The Maccabean episode was brief, and never wholly successful in achieving anything like autonomy. In this context, it is hard to know what Gorga could mean by ‘freedom.’ Slavery was routine, property rights in land vested in tribal chiefs or heads of large, patriarchal families, and local potentates subject to some foreign overlord. It seems anachronistic to talk about ‘freedom’ and ‘economic growth’ in that kind of society.
(4) All we know about Jesus of Nazareth is contained in the books of the NT, written by his disciples during the century or so after his death. And it seems to me that the picture of Jesus we can piece together from this evidence makes it appear highly improbable that he was ever in the least interested in any kind of ‘economics’ – not to mention ‘investment,’ ‘wealth creation’ or the putatively adverse effects of ‘hoarding.’ Jesus, or at any rate the first generation of his disciples, believed that the parousia would occur very shortly. This world would come to an end within the lifetime of his hearers, therefore there wasn’t much point in taking its concerns too seriously. As Tertullian put it (with characteristic exaggeration) at the end of the 2nd C: ‘I have no interest in this life except to depart from it as quickly as possible.’
My most sincere thanks to Professor Anthony Waterman for his interest in my paper and his detailed comments on it. He is allowing me to review various points and to perhaps succinctly make them clearer.
The thesis of my paper is not that economics and morality are joint exercises today. The thesis of my paper is that economics and morality were joint exercises once—in the economics of Moses and the economics of Jesus. This unification, my paper maintains, was shared by Aristotle and was kept as a constant belief through Thomas Aquinas all the way to the Doctors of Salamanca. I understand this to be standard economic history. My effort is to understand the economic mechanisms that allowed for that unification to be achieved in the economic world of the past.
Differences in opinions generally are generated by differences in assumptions. Here are my assumptions:
a) The economic system is a constant: It has been, is, and forever will be the same. It is an integration of things, ownership/possession of things, and money—or wealth that functions as money;
b) Theories about the economic system are legion. When politics and ideology get into the act of describing the system confusion and contradictions prevail;
c) From Moses to Adam Smith the theory that explained the economic system and dictated economic policies was the doctrine of economic justice. There were two principles to this doctrine: the principle of distributive justice and the principle of commutative justice. Many laws and most customs conformed to these legal and moral principles. These principles were dictated by a common understanding of the economic system. Observance—or lack of observance—of such laws and customs created objective economic consequences;
d) The doctrine of economic justice was an amalgam of economics and ethics—just as any action that occurs in the market today is and forever will be an amalgam of economics and ethics, because any action in the marketplace has and forever will have effects on one’s pocketbook as well as on one’s moral make-up;
e) To confirm, the above statement has nothing to say about the fact that any action in the marketplace can be now and for an indefinite future remain good for one’s pocketbook and bad for one’s moral make-up, or vice versa.
On the understanding that—thanks mainly to the work of Adam Smith—the unification of economics and morality does not exist today, Professor Waterman joins Professor Nadal in the belief that such unification was impossible in the past. Here are some of their assumptions. Professor Waterman says, “It is anachronistic to suggest, as Gorga does, that the Ancient Hebrews had any scientific conception of ‘the economy’ or of its working.”
These concerns touch upon a terribly complex methodological issue that is composed of many parts. Just because they were in charge of the economy, did the Ancient Hebrews require full knowledge of any economic theory or set of theories? Clearly, driving a car does not require knowledge of the laws of acceleration and deceleration, aerodynamics, and the like. A driver does not require knowledge of any theory. The driver only needs to act; only needs to know how to drive.
Professor Waterman says, “[I]t is only a slight exaggeration to say that (economics) – as a self-conscious discipline – was virtually unknown before the 18th C.” One question might suffice: What is the doctrine of economic justice, if not a theory of economics?
Professor Waterman says, “Like Nadal, I am puzzled by Gorga’s attempt to explain the decline of land prices by ‘a framework of economic analysis.’ Gorga’s own attempts to elucidate this ‘framework’ are unhelpful to the professional economist.”
The resistance that Professor Waterman and Professor Nadal seem to have to accepting the economics of the Jubilee resides perhaps in their assumption that the Jubilee needs to be analyzed exclusively as an economic event. And then it needs to be observed in light of modern mainstream economics. Since mainstream economics cannot envisage the price of the land going down to zero; the fact must have not happened.
The Jubilee was not ordained in accordance with the principles of modern mainstream economics. The Jubilee was an integral part of a singular moral and religious culture that ordered the land to be returned to the original possessor every 50 years. The price of the land went gradually down to zero on the day of the Jubilee, because the price of the land was determined by the usufruct, the value of the fruit of the land. On the day of the Jubilee, the current possessor could not extract one apple from that land. The land reverted back to the original possessor free of charge. Incidentally, the price of the land went automatically back to its maximum value on that day, because on that first day the possessor of the land legally was entitled to 49 years of usufruct.
The complex internal economic dynamics of these facts I have tried to reconstruct in my paper. The process is reproducible. The reasoning and conclusions can thus be verified or disproved.
(1) Concerns about the literature
I know the work of Michael Hudson; I have personally communicated with Chris Feder. Their work proves the value of Henry George. It does little to understand the inner mechanics of the economics of the Jubilee.
The focus on money, just as the focus on land in much of the literature cited by Professor Waterman, is not helpful in letting us see the integrated understanding of the economic life that Moses and Jesus shared. In a watered down version, this understanding was shared also by and Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and the Doctors of Salamanca. They all worked within the demanding intellectual framework of economic justice—economic justice, that is, not social justice, meaning perhaps the “right” to a vague minimum wage and the right not to wear a bra. Economic justice is primarily concerned with access to money and natural resources.
Now that a professor of economics, Professor William Gissy (“Do Merger Restrictions Promote Social Development?” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 3 No. 19; November 2013, pp. 150-159) has recognized it, I can add a full disclosure on this account. I am the one who has immodestly made manifest an implicit plank in Aristotle’s doctrine of economic justice, the plank of participative justice, and thus transformed the doctrine of economic justice into the theory of economic justice.
Professor M.L. Burstein used to call me the “hoarding maven.” I know a thing or two about hoarding. The conversation that I had with Professor Modigliani for 27 years at MIT centered on hoarding; it is now enclosed in a number of files holding Professor Modigliani’s papers at Duke University. There is no emphasis on hoarding in the literature on the Jubilee.
Indeed, there is no integration of hoarding into the current economic literature either. And yet, as everyone knows, $5 trillion are hoarded in the coffers of large corporations. This is not a trifle; this amount is larger than the GNP of Germany.
(2) Concerns about money
Professor Waterman says, “The remarks about money are ill-informed. Every textbook contains a definition of ‘money,’ usually in terms of the functions it usually fulfills and its general acceptability in these functions.” Again this is a complex issue. Again, one observation might suffice: The functions of money tell us as much about the definition of money as the description of what a cat does tells us what a cat is.
(3) Concerns about the history of the Jubilee
To my understanding of things, the construction of the economics of the Jubilee is more important than its practice. The imagination that created the economics of the Jubilee has a value for ever. Whether the Jubilee was practiced once or never is immaterial.
As to freedom, I am of course speaking of economic freedom for the country as a whole; and as to economic growth, it seems to me that very few countries were as frequently plundered by their neighbors as the land of the Hebrews. There must have been something there to plunder and some institutional memory on how to restore growth.
(4) Concerns about the “purity” of Jesus
Professor Waterman says, “All we know about Jesus of Nazareth… makes it appear highly improbable that he was ever in the least interested in any kind of ‘economics…’”
Is not the person who hoards wealth the only person whom Jesus harshly sends straight to hell—no trial, no appeal? Do we not know that Jesus came to bring “the good news to the poor”? Is not Our Father concerned about things “on earth as…in heaven”? Are not the Prophets clamoring for justice—meaning economic justice—and inveighing against the usurious and murderous habits of the wicked?
To believe that Jesus had no interest in economics is to assume that Jesus was unaware of the power—for good as for ill—of political economists of the past, the present, or the future. How to put this power in high relief? Perhaps the following apocryphal story does that. President Khrushchev upon reviewing the May Day Parade asks his secretary: “I understand the function of tanks and cannons; but what do those two guys closing the parade do?” Secretary: “Sir, they are economists; you cannot imagine how much damage they can cause!”
An apology to Professor Nadal, Professor Waterman, and the Editors of ET for not citing more of my publications in my paper, but I am like a burned cat that will not go back on the stove. Once I was accused of citing too many of my papers. Some day, I hope, I will do this just right.