Friday, April 15, 2011

My comment at Jon Acuff's place

The early church created one of the most sustainable and effective social programs in history, i.e. the daily distribution of food to widows. The early church also provided aid to each other in times of famine. I do not know of any other not-for-profit institution that achieved this type of aid network without the coercion of government (for example the Templars provided a sophisticated financial system in their day, but I think they took a significant vig out of that activity).

The American church of the last couple of centuries built most of the universities and hospitals of their day. As theism gradually faded from the scene (props, Nietzche?), so did the capacity of the church to feed, clothe, house, educate, and heal the neediest in local communities. And once the income tax was instituted (it was unconstitutional during the big boom in church hospital and university building), the opportunity costs became too high to compete. Churches collect 4% of the wages of their congregants; government collects closer to 10 times that amount. Now churches seem to be relieved that there are food stamps, social security, medicare and medicaid, judges and social workers from the state.

I think that if we can reform US entitlement systems, from the Ponzi schemes they currently are to something sustainable–like the food stamps program–then perhaps our democracy won’t be committing suicide in the next 100 years.

There is a moral hazard (of free riding, and of employment disincentive) that comes with an indiscriminate redistributive program, as previous commenters have pointed out. I still believe that 2 Thess 3:10 is relevant today: if a man does not work he should not eat.
Jon's post here.

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