Ten years ago, Great Britain celebrated Elizabeth II’s jubilee. The Commonwealth marked her fiftieth year as queen. This is an example of today’s use of the word; a jubilee is a celebration of fifty years of some on-going event.
The concept of a fiftieth-year celebration comes from an important set of economic laws given to ancient Israel. Moses told the people of the new nation to count six years of work, planting and harvesting their fields, then take a sabbatical every seventh year. They were NOT to work but to rely on what grew voluntarily.
After the seventh such sabbatical year (the forty-ninth), the fiftieth year was to be a major celebration – a Jubilee. During that year, all farms sold away from families in order to pay debts were to be returned to those families. Any family members sold for the same reason were to be released from bondage. “…proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”
Imagine a poor family whose farm has been sold to a wealthy neighbor to cover debts incurred over the years. Still unable to obtain money to pay off further debts, the family members are sold into bondage – but not actual slavery. On the Day of Atonement in the fiftieth year, the family members were to be set free and returned to the farm that was theirs once again.
What a significant economic opportunity! The family again would have capital (the farm and tools) with which to produce wealth.
The United States today suffers from a widening gap between the wealthy few and the many poor and not-so-wealthy. The Occupy Wall Street protestors accuse the wealthy of unfairly earning much more income than 99% of other Americans.
Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J. Adler, the authors of the Capitalist Manifesto, wrote that those who own capital and give jobs to other people justly earn the wealth they create. Their capital rather than the work of their employees produces the wealth for them. It follows that for poor people to justly become wealthy, they must own capital themselves.
Injustice exists, Kelso and Adler said, when the rich concentrate capital – not the wealth it earns – into the hands of the few. They argued that economic justice requires more equitable distribution of capital to less-wealthy people.
This was the intended effect of the Jubilee laws. Those poor who had lost their capital (farms and tools) and their economic freedom (working to produce wealth for themselves) again received their freedom and ownership of capital. They could try again to produce wealth for themselves as Yahweh had intended.
How, then, can capital be distributed to the poor and not-so-wealthy so more and more Americans can grow wealthier? Kelso and Adler suggest that estate and gift tax laws should be changed so as to prevent concentration of capital into the hands of the few. Rather, lawmakers need to find ways to distribute capital to the poor. Let them earn their own wealth.
I have been told this is Marxist doctrine. Certainly, if the State were to take the capital and become the owners of means of producing wealth, our country would become as Communist as the USSR. We know that didn’t work. What Kelso and Adler suggest is that estate and gift tax laws favor distribution of capital to economically disadvantaged people and discourage concentrating the capital into the hands of those who already own so much.
I have been told poor people just don’t have what it takes to manage capital wisely and to produce wealth for themselves. Certainly, most have proven this true by remaining in their state of poverty. However, this did not stop Yahweh from commanding they have their capital returned. They would have the opportunity to do better than before; they would not be disadvantaged by the lack of capital. Good education and training would enable many more people to do well with their capital. The rest could have their capital managed for them just as wealthy owners often do with trustees.
In the end, the gap between the rich and the poor could be reduced equably without theft through taxation or socialist dependence on the government.
If someone died and left you $1000 worth of stock in a popular company, what would you do with it? Sell for the cash value? Hold it for future sale at a higher price? Or would you hold on to receive the dividend payments?
Would you hire someone to manage your stock for you? Would you let them educate you how to get the best return on your capital?