Finally—at last! global protests against the perennial hoaxes of Big-Business and the so-called “free markets of invisible, intelligent design”! Here is a page or two worth pondering by my fellow Mormons (and others) from the book, Approaching Zion.
Surely, the “sacredness of property” must be reviewed in light of how much has been acquired through oppression, deceit, coercion, corruption, collusion, injustice, and unpunished criminal acts.What kind of justice is it when the nobleman, the banker (goldsmith), the money lender, in short, those who do nothing productive, glory in riches while day laborers, teamsters, blacksmiths, carpenters and field workers, whose work can not be dispensed with for a year can sweat out a miserable existence at a level below that of beasts of burden? Our animals do not work so long, are better fed and have better security than they do, for our workers are pressed down by the hopelessness of the situation and the expectation of beggary in old age. What they are paid does not cover their daily needs, and to save anything for old age is out of the question. So we find shocking waste, luxury, triviality and vanity [the lives of the rich and famous] on the one side and utter abject misery on the other.46So as things are, we get the worst of both worlds.
… when I consider this, then every modern society seems to me to be nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, who while protesting their interest in the common good pursue their own interests and stop at no trick and deception to secure their ill-gotten possessions, to pay as little as possible for the labor that produces their wealth and so force its makers to accept the nearest thing to nothing. They contrive rules for securing and assuring these tidy profits for the rich in the name of the common good, including of course the poor, and call them laws!47"But after they have divided among themselves in their insatiable greed all that should go to the society as a whole, they still are not happy."!48
The law can avenge but never hinder the deceptions, thievery, riots, panics, murders, assassinations, poisonings, and so on, all of which spring from one source—money. That is Thomas More writing—and it cost him his life.
It has been the same story all along, only suddenly we have reached a new level. For the first time selfishness goes by its own name: "The virtue of selfishness" is the testament of Ayn Rand, the guru of Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, and James Watt, long the favorite reading of BYU students. "No other civilization has permitted the calculus of self-interest so to dominate its culture," writes R. L. Heilbroner; "it has transmogrified greed and philistinism into social virtues, and subordinated all values to commercial values."49 This is exactly what Thomas More said: "What has heretofore passed as unjust, … they have turned upside down, and in fact proclaimed it publicly and by law to be nothing less than justice itself."50 Mr. Ivan Boesky, in college convocation, commended "healthy greed" as a virtue to be cultivated by the young.51 That's a virtue! A frenzy of privatization now insists that the only public institution with a reason for existence is the military, to defend us against societies more committed to sharing, and to root out those among us who doubt the sacredness of property. [End of quote.]
Let us, in light of current events and omnipresent déjà vu, take up the task of rethinking the economic theories (of Babylon) and finally admit that men and women have far more to offer the world than self-interested, profit-driven excuse. Why in rejecting the tyrannies of socialism/communism do we so readily accept the inevitable tyrannies of (corporate-driven) capitalism—as if those were the only two choices?
Footnotes from pp. 486 of Approaching Zion
46. [Thomas More, Utopia, tr. Robert M. Adams, 2 vols. (London: Yale University Press, 1964)], 2:88-89.
47. Ibid., 2:89.
49. See Leonard Silk, "The End of the Road?" New York Times Book Review, a review of Robert L. Heilbroner, Business Civilization in Decline (New York: Nolton, 1976).
50. More, Utopia, 1:25.
51. Mariann Caprino, "Healthy Greed Was Boesky's Undoing," Salt Lake Tribune, 20 November 1986, D9.
(Hugh Nibley, [**] Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 466-7.)
** For those who wish to disparage the life, scholarship, and POV of Hugh Nibley because of the accusations of Martha Beck, I refer you to: