"Spread the Wealth Around": I Don't THINK So…


I did my patriotic duty yesterday. It took me exactly three hours from the time I entered the Early Voting line until the time I emerged from the building, having held my nose and voted, not so much FOR John McCain as against the woefully inexperienced Barack Obama and the “spread the wealth around” economic ideas that could send America hurtling ever faster toward the moral chaos known as “socialism”. Not that I don’t think we won’t end up somewhere in that neighborhood anyway; this anti-capitalistic, anti-American bailout may just be the tip of the iceberg that’ll sink the Titanic of USAmerica.

But it’s particularly ironic that my reading material while in line was a classic work that I’m re-reading (something I, to my great discredit, almost never do: re-read a book for a second time). The book is entitled Idols for Destruction, by Herbert Schlossberg. Chances are you’ve never heard of it, which makes it one of the best books you’ve never read. Written in 1983, the weakness of having dated examples is more than made up for by the prescience of this man, writing a quarter-century ago, on the subject of “Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society”. The book is so titled because Schlossberg uses the biblical terminology of idolatry to describe what is taking place in our society, and it couldn’t be more apt. I felt, as I read today on the Idol of Mammon, as if he were writing in response to so many of today’s headlines including, but not limited to, Obamessiah’s above-mentioned comment, the bailout, inflation, you name it. Unfortunately, this book is out of print; you can get it on Amazon.com and probably pay a price that is a fraction of its value. I know I’m sometimes given to hyperbolic overstatement, but this book is clearly one of the ten best I’ve read in my life. I can’t imagine a Christian reading this book and then turning around and voting for Obama (then again, it’s tough enough to imagine a Christian reading this book and voting for McCain, but the choices this year aren’t exactly appealing, are they?).

At any rate, I began this post in order to quote a little from the book; I’m seriously considering scanning this book page by page and saving it as a PDF document, so as to be able to share it with friends (if it’s out of print, I’m not depriving the author of a sale, now am I?). Anyway, speaking of the Idol of Mammon, Schlossberg writes,

“As we see below the surface of the modern political-economic system, it becomes clear that to associate redistribution with the doing of justice is a sham. The principle that determines the actions of both those who seek money and favors from the state and those who distribute them is self-interest. Justice has little to do with the process, except to serve as a cover…in our society, people call the arrangement that meets their demands “just”. When Irving Kristol, editor of The Public Interest, asked a number of outspoken proponents of greater equalization of income to describe for publication an income-distribution curve that was just, he could find nobody who would accept the challenge. That is an impossible task, because redistribution is determined by the principle of interest, not that of justice. Some want resources to be taken from the prosperous and given to those who are not. Others want the welfare cheats off the rolls but are happy with federal schemes that confer privileges on themselves or that restrict their competition. Justice is a stranger to all of this.
“Since government produces no goods, it can distribute only what it takes from others. This process is indistinguishable from theft. When an election, or in some countries a coup, changes the identity of plunderers and plundered, yesterday’s injustice becomes today’s justice. In a redistributive society, the law is a thief.”

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