James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Mystic Reads Rand, Part 5: Success without Guilt

Jonathan Wilson's latest at the Partial Observer. Excerpt:

It is God's will that people succeed; a successful human being is part of rendering God's image. It is a Satanic deception to be made to feel guilty for doing those very things God has gifted one to do, succeed at them, and find prosperity. In fact, Rand herself had intuited part of God's design; both Rand and God agree that the prosperous person strengthens, rather than despoils, society.

Let us begin with the passage in Leviticus about harvesting the corners of the field or picking all the apples. It is God's command that some apples are to be left unpicked, so that, a person who is traveling, or a widow or an orphan or other poor person without property, can pick an apple and eat. God does not command the apple-producer to pick all the apples, sell them, and give 38% of the cash to poor people so that they can buy apples from somebody else.

The principle here is that opportunity is not to be hoarded. The unpropertied widow and orphan are to have the ability to work for their food by picking it themselves. God condemns those that abuse their power (in this case the power of owning land) to corner a monopoly on opportunity (in this case the opportunity to glean a meal for oneself). Rand condemns those who commit the same crime. She has nothing good to say of her villainous characters, the cartel of business executives that co-opt their interests with the government to deny opportunity to competitors.

So here is my olive branch to the champions of Liberation Theology: There is a huge moral distinction between those who are rich by looting, Rand's lowest form of villain and those whom the Bible decries as oppressors, and those who are rich by producing. The ethical difference between these two kinds of rich people mean everything in Rand's system, and everything to a Biblical understanding of justice. So long as Christian ethicists continue to lump all rich and successful people into the moral category of looters, Rand's criticism will hold force. Christian preachers and mystics must begin to articulate the distinction, just as Rand does, and as I have done in this series.

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