We have been studying Micah in our Bible study here in Limon (audio available here if you’re interested). The main thing Micah has been rebuking Judah for is that the powerful, whether economically or politically, oppress and exploit the poor. It might even be better, rather than “the poor”, to say middle class, since those that are being oppressed are losing houses and farmlands. Micah describes their actions as being like cannibalism in Micah 3- they strip the meat off God’s people, break the bones, and throw the meat in the pot. God’s judgment against them will be fierce, the prophet says.
With that in mind we read Psalm 72 this morning and there it says that the just king (prophetically speaking of Christ) will “judge the poor” and protect them from deceit and violence. This gave support to what I’ve often thought, that what the poor primarily need from the government is justice. They need to be protected from the strong in society, who too often take advantage of the weak to enrich themselves.
Instead, what we have in our society is a political class that buys votes with welfare programs, in the guise of caring for the poor. This actually accomplishes the opposite of what they say. It weakens the poor, as it makes them dependents of the government that they think is there to support them. It destroys their independence and takes away their ability to be protected from oppressors. If the government would simply work to ensure justice and equity for the politically weak in our own nation, it would do far more to ensure prosperity for the poor than any welfare program would ever do. Amos 5 says that justice would water the land like a river.
As it is, tax money and privileges are diverted to politically favored classes. The government decides who can work and for what wages. Licensing, regulations and labor requirements create barriers to entry that protect the big corporations from competition from startups, so that fewer and fewer players control more and more of the production of the country. Everyone suffers as a result, except for the privileged few, and the poorest suffer the most. They’re bought off by welfare programs so that they don’t recognize that the very people they keep voting for are the very people exploiting them and impoverishing them. Just like the communist party members in Russia who said they were the vanguard of the proletariat, the protectors of the people, but for some reason were the only ones who had their own cars and got to shop at private stores that were always well stocked with western goods while the people all had to wait hours in line just for a loaf of bread. Socialism in every form has been nothing more than a smokescreen for exploitation of the poor and middle class, for the enrichment and empowerment of the elite liars who say they care about the people.
Economic injustice is like a drought on the land- it destroys the productivity of a nation. But justice waters the land like a river.
Update: A related presentation by the Koch Foundation. Economic Freedom and Economic Justice are just two different ways of saying the same thing, unless by justice you mean redistribution- which is the opposite of justice, theft.