Book of Mormon Socialism: The Marxist Gadianton Robbers

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

Some LDS proponents of Socialism like to compare capitalism to the infamous Gadianton Robbers in the Book of Mormon. It seems a simple line to draw between the “Profit Motive” of Capitalism and the secret combination of the Gadiantons to “get gain.” Too simple in fact. A more careful reading shows that in some ways the Gadianton Robbers seem to be more like Marxist Revolutionaries.

Chapter 3 of the book of 3rd Nephi in the Book of Mormon is interesting in that it is one of the few sections of the text which purports to give us a glimpse of how the Gadianton Robbers viewed themselves, rather than how they were viewed by Mormon and his Nephite protagonists. Verses 2 through 10 are the record of an epistle written to the governor of the Nephites, Lachoneus, from the leader of the Gadianton Robbers, Giddianhi:

“2. Lachoneus, most noble and chief governor of the land, behold, I write this epistle unto you, and do give unto you exceedingly great praise because of your firmness, and also the firmness of your people, in maintaining that which ye suppose to be your right and liberty; yea, ye do stand well, as if ye were supported by the hand of a god, in the defence of your liberty, and your property, and your country, or that which ye do call so.

“3. And it seemeth a pity unto me, most noble Lachoneus, that ye should be so foolish and vain as to suppose that ye can stand against so many brave men who are at my command, who do now at this time stand in their arms, and do await with great anxiety for the word—Go down upon the Nephites and destroy them.

“4. And I, knowing of their unconquerable spirit, having proved them in the field of battle, and knowing of their everlasting hatred towards you because of the many wrongs which ye have done unto them, therefore if they should come down against you they would visit you with utter destruction.

“5. Therefore I have written this epistle, sealing it with mine own hand, feeling for your welfare, because of your firmness in that which ye believe to be right, and your noble spirit in the field of battle.

“6. Therefore I write unto you, desiring that ye would yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions, rather than that they should visit you with the sword and that destruction should come upon you.

“7. Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us—not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance.

“8. And behold, I swear unto you, if ye will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed; but if ye will not do this, I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you, and they shall not stay their hand and shall spare not, but shall slay you, and shall let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct.

“9. And behold, I am Giddianhi; and I am the governor of this the secret society of Gadianton; which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us.

“10. And I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs. I am Giddianhi.”


I hadn’t noticed this until recently, but it is remarkable how much Giddianhi sounds like a Marxist Revolutionary:

The works of the Gadiantons are “good.” They have been alienated by the wickedness of the Nephites who have withheld from them their rights, their rights of government, and done many wrongs to them. Significantly, in order to recover those rights they demand that the Nephites relinquish all their properties (“cities”, “lands”, “possessions”). They invite the Nephites to join them and become partners in all of their collective substance. If they refuse, they will be violently destroyed, with the implication that their possessions will be taken into the collective by force anyway, but that they will be killed instead of being able to enjoy them collectively.

Over the last few years there has been an effort among some liberal Mormons to legitimize the view that Socialism is compatible with the Restored Gospel. They sometimes cite Book of Mormon and other scriptural descriptions of an ideal, Zion society in which the people have “all things in common” and “no poor among them” as well as injunctions to care for the poor and needy, and condemnations of the “love of money” and those who “covet their own property.”

When the ancient scriptures describe Zion societies, with all things in common and no poor, they are curiously silent about the specifics. They describe the ends, but do not explain the means other than that it has to do with the righteousness of the people.

But Giddianhi’s epistle illustrates that not every society in which the participants are equal partners and have all property in common is a Zion Society, even if they do use the rhetoric of rights and justice. Sometimes those who propose to share all substance in common really are just robbers, even if in their own minds they think they are justified by the wickedness of others.

Some LDS advocates for Socialism cite the ends as if that alone were sufficient argument for the political means they propose to achieve them. And when someone disagrees, rather than defend the means they propose, they insinuate that those who disagree do so because they are opposed to the ends. But it is the means by which Socialists propose to create such a society that are the sticky point.

Are the means moral and compatible with the principles of the Restored Gospel?

Are the means capable of really accomplishing the ends they claim?

Do the means have unintended consequences that undermine their ends?

Do the means achieve the spiritual and moral objectives associated with the ends or just a superficial physical, material equality?

Do they create a Zion in the hearts of the people which then flows outward into society or do they create an artificial outward appearance of Zion, externally imposed on still covetous, wicked hearts?

Does it create a society of “shared substance” like the Gadianton Robbers or a Zion society of “all things in common”?

Are the means capable of really accomplishing the ends they claim?
Do the means have unintended consequences that undermine their ends?
Do the means achieve the spiritual and moral objectives associated with the ends or just a superficial physical, material equality?
Do they create a Zion in the hearts of the people which then flows outward into society or do they create an artificial outward appearance of Zion, externally imposed on still covetous, wicked hearts?

74 thoughts on “Book of Mormon Socialism: The Marxist Gadianton Robbers

  1. Great points Jmax. I see the Gadianton Robbers as a grab-bag group similar to all secret groups that try to get gain through group loyalty and theft rather than hard work. I see elements in them similar to today’s mafia, for example. I think you could argue that corporatists — businesses and others who try to get the government to give them favors, tax breaks and subsidies so they can fix the system and avoid free-market competition — are also secret combinations similar to the Gadianton Robbers. They pay off congressmen so they can get gain. But of course you are also correct that many revolutionary groups whose aims are really power in itself (like Marxist revolutionaries and right-wing coup plotters) are also Gadianton Robbers.

    Some personal experience here: I lived in Nicaragua in the 1980s and saw the results of a Marxist revolution up close and personal. I think there were many Sandinistas (the leftist revolutionaries who overthrew Somoza) who were truly good people trying to help the poor. But unfortunately the leadership abandoned its principles just days after taking power. They immediately confiscated dozens of homes and the nicest cars and set about exterminating the opposition. Whether or not they were Gadianton Robbers in 1978 when they fought the revolution, they certainly became Gadianton Robbers by 1980 after a few months in power. As the Who would say, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

  2. I don’t God cares about in equal distribution of stuff above all else. Otherwise he’d distribute stuff equally.

    I think he cares about agency first. And he’d like us to use that agency to be willing to freely distribute our stuff to others and persuade others to do the same.

    So rather than railing so often against those who are wrong as they seek to deny the freedoms of others. I’d love to see more that we can all agree with. How about encouraging one another to do good?

    I think there is certainly a time and place to point out the errors of socialism. I don’t think those of us who recognize those errors should be bringing it up time and time again.

    I think the Lord would be much more pleased if we spent less time pointing out the errors in others philosophies and more time doing the good we profess to know.

    With that in mind, we have a Fast Sunday either coming up or we just had one. I pray we can all think about the true meaning of a fast and the purpose of it (start at Isaiah ch. 58 and also Alma ch. 34 to see what we should do for the needy) and help them.

    My wife and I just had this conversation for ourselves. And we don’t hold anyone responsible for the revelation we’ve received, other than ourselves. We decided that we don’t want to have it said that our fast offering contributions were less than we could have born. “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these thy brethren, ye have done it on to me.” How much money would you spend on a meal and clothes for the Savior? – we asked ourselves. And decided we could afford to sacrifice more in the way of fast offerings. In fact we decided, if it didn’t “hurt” it wouldn’t really be a sacrifice.

    For a people that preach that we should be the Lord’s representatives and do what the Lord would do, we were thinking perhaps we should be willing to actually make our neighbors burdens our burdens and give in such a way that literally bears their (financial) burdens the way the Lord bears our spiritual burdens. He didn’t just take a little bit of “hurt” upon himself, but the entire world’s worth, even though he had done nothing wrong.

    Maybe I can use my own agency to decide to follow in his footsteps in deed and not just word. Fast offerings is a great place to start. Humble yourself and exalt the poor. If it doesn’t “hurt” it’s probably not much of a sacrifice.

  3. Chris, I agree, and that is my personal policy — to give liberally of my time and money to help the poor. However, one of the greatest threats on this earth is the Gadianton philosophy, which started with Cain and continues to this day. There is nothing wrong with pointing that out.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts on this J Max. I had not noticed that possible connection before.

  5. Great post JMax.

    Since the some cowards don’t talk where they can’t bully and ban anyone who disagrees with them, I doubt that those who need to read it the most will. Too bad.

  6. PC, we’ve banned three people at M*. In all three cases, it was for people repeatedly breaking our comments policy. I respect blogs’ right to have their own policies and to allow certain perameters to their discussions. The best solution is to not visit blogs with which you disagree.

  7. It is fine to have a comments policy, but it must be administered equitably. Those who merely disagree and are bullied, only illustrate the hypocrisy of the blog administrators. I don’t consider 3 commenters out of several hundreds to be a high percentage. Other blogs ban people for name calling when the permas and blog administrators first “pick the fight.” I don’t think it’s wise for us to avoid people we disagree with, that’s actually what life is about. I don’t think it’s wise for blogs to set up bullying and attack blogs.

  8. You are tying gadiantons to marxists based upon this? really? Talk about creative reading. And you’re complaining about liberals twisting the scriptures. You say 4 Nephi and other scriptures are conspicuously silent about how equality is achieved and yet you take this scripture which tells almost nothing about Gadianton economic policy other than the typical let us rule over everything and we will be nice to you and try to equate it with marxists. How about we stop trying to make the BoM boogeymen into whatever political ideology we dislike.

  9. J. Madson, If you can’t make your point civilly here then please take your sarcasm and snide tone to your own blog. My reading may be right or wrong, but it is offered honestly and sincerely. BWT

  10. you take this scripture which tells almost nothing about Gadianton economic policy other than the typical let us rule over everything and we will be nice to you and try to equate it with marxists.

    The text of the epistle is pretty clear that they are offering brotherhood and partnership in all their substance, and not just to be nicely treated slaves. Whether it is an offer made in good faith or not, it is clearly an offer of shared substance between equals.

  11. That’s a fine article. It’s a worrying trend to see so many LDS become seduced by socialism (just as the Nephites, I believe, were seduced by it so that they all eventually became partakers of the spoils of the Gadiantons). H. Verlan Anderson, a General Authority, was of the opinion that verse 7 was good evidence of the collectivist nature of the Robbers. I agree. As one reads what the scriptures and modern prophets, seers and revelators have said on these matters one comes to the conclusion that socialism has clearly been condemned and that the Law of Consecration and Stewardship is *not* communal but based on the principle of private property (as a stewardship from God). I’ve put a lot of these quotations from modern-day Church leaders together at my site. I also went through the scriptures (chiefly the Book of Mormon) a year or two ago and identified “30 points” that define the nature and purpose of secret combinations:

    Note #11, for example. Anyone who has studied how modern combinations work, will also know that they promote collectivism and under many names…

    Thanks again for this article.

  12. Historial analogies created to make political or economic points are often difficult to draw. One of the prime causes of such failures is the depth of feeling that an individual has clouds judgements. Lets start by using another argument:

    The Gladianton Robbers can best be compared to the Capitalist and Christian United States.

    1. The Trail of Tears: In 1830 gold was discovered on Cherokee land in Georgia. Though the Cherokee owned the land by treaty, The government took it from these savages (who actually were more literate than the Georgians) and forcibly moved them to Oklahoma. Capitalism on the march. Of course this was justified as ther heathens (most being Christian) really did not use the land wisely like the miners would (the Cherokke were farmers, you know).

    2. The Mexican American War: The U.S. moved troops into an area under dispute with Mexico and President Polk got the war he wanted. We did get that area of Texas between the Neuces and Rio Grande along with California, Nevada, Utah and nearly all of Arizona and New Mexico.

    3. Manifest Destiny: A recitation of all the drivel justifying the expansion of the U.S. is not really necessary. But be assured it contained comments degrading Native Americans and Mexicans, extolling the moral and religious superiority of Americans and sometimes reciting that wonderful moral adage of “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

    4. Hawaii: Good American missionaries turned business men wanted peaceful Hawaii for the U.S. Queen Liliuokalani never stood a chance.

    5. The Spanish American War and Alfred Thayer Mahan. We fought a war to free Cuba from the yoke of Espana. Alfred Thayer Mahan, what does he have to do with this? Well he wrote a book that convinced many American leaders that we needed fueling stations around the world in order to have the naval power we had tohave in order to become a major economic (capitalist) or political (democratic) player on the world stage. Guess what we took from the Spanis?

    I think this is a better case than the Marxist/Socialist arguement. Never the less, I believe both are bad arguents. Throughout history, no matter what the political or economic system, countries and peoples have tried to take land and property from another. And before, during and after their efforts, they justified their avarice with sanctimonious appeals to all that is just and right. Some generalization based on these realities would have bee much better and more accurate.

    Finally, the conflating of Socialism and Marxism is simply ridiculous. Would people compare Sweden to Mao”s China? I would certainly hope not. If you truly believe there is a basis for linking each, you need to clearly state what that is (e.g. a more equal distribution of wealth) and use it as the focal point of comparison.

  13. Ezra Taft Benson gave a good explanation of why the free market is compatible with the gospel:

    I’d highly recommend this.

    One of the confusions in these matters is that terms are mis-used. The bottom line is that there are only TWO philosophies in this world: one that vouchsafes liberty and one that does not. Where liberty exists there will always be those who act irresponsibly, and with avarice. But that is for the gospel to cure, not the dominion of political power. Compulsion is not the way of heaven – or to it.

  14. “Over the last few years there has been an effort among some liberal Mormons to legitimize the view that Socialism is compatible with the Restored Gospel.”

    Yes, but their definition of socialism has much more to do with how Western Europe is now than with “Marxist revolutionaries.” You can pretend the two are the same thing, but they’re not.

  15. Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Collectivism, Welfarism, Nazism, Corporatism, PPP, Fascism, Wealth Redistribution, (modern) Liberalism, the Welfare State, Statism, Communalism, Social Democracy, call it what you will. These are merely words used in different times and places to define a degree of the same root philosophy.

    It stands in stark contrast, in diametric opposition, to classical liberalism/ traditional libertarian/genuine conservative/free market/private capitalist/limited government philosophy espoused by the Founders and other wise men inspired in their political beliefs.

    Behind the movements of western socialism, you’ll find the hardliners ready to step in – and, behind them, the ones who direct all these efforts to the destruction of our civilization.

    Go back to the time of Joseph Smith and make a serious study of everything that has been said by Church leaders on these issues. It’ll take you a couple of years, for much has been said.

    VERY few LDS have done this, and it explains a lot as to why so many of us are tossed to and fro on every wind of political doctrine and so easily fall for the deceptions of our time. There are ave two churches only. It has always been that way.

  16. Stan and Tim, you are deliberately misreading what JMax wrote when you say he is conflating western European-style socialism and Gadianton-style Marxism.

    Read the post again, especially the parts at the end.

    If what you want is western European-style socialism, could you please tell me how that is to be achieved in, say, El Salvador? Well, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, we saw how the left wanted to achieve that: through violent revolution. Those revolutions took place in Cuba and Nicaragua. The alternative means is a good old-fashioned usurping of authority to take over the government, which has taken place in the last few years in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua (again). All of these movements have Gadianton elements.

    In the real world, “social democratic” movements very often lead to Gadianton-style Marxism. Allende’s Chile is a good example of that. Allende was a democratically elected social Democrat who allied himself with Marxists to get elected. Once the Marxists were in power, they went about confiscating wealth and property “for the people” (for themselves). It was the Marxists, not the social democrats, who caused the military to launch the 1973 coup.

    It used to be that liberals were fervent enemies of revolutionary left-wing movements because they saw them as the true threat. Study the liberal movements in the 1930s and 1940s: liberals then understood that there is nothing good about Marxist revolution. These days, you see “liberals” wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and waxing nostalgic about the need for third world “equality” through violent means. Frankly it is disgusting.

  17. Geoff, against my better judgment I’m going to step in here to simply mention that in El Salvador during the late 1970s and early 1980s, we also saw how the right wanted to achieve their ends: through violence, deceit, and murder beyond anything the FMLN ever did. That’s not to excuse the atrocities committed by the Marxist revolutionaries there, but when I go to ES in 3 weeks and observe first hand (again) the gross inequality that still besets that country, the blame can be laid much more at the feet of ARENA than FLMN.

  18. I’m not aware of any right-wing* governments in modern times…America between 1787 and the early 1900s maybe…

    * right-wing government: a limited government founded upon the concept of sovereignty in the individual, and thus governing a society where a full free-market economy exists.

    Yet another word mis-used in our day.

  19. Christopher, it appears you are exactly the type of person who believes that Marxist revolutionaries are good and trying to achieve a positive goal. Could you expand on that a bit?

    If you will go up to comment #1 you will see that I also refer to groups like ARENA as Gad robbers. The difference between us is that I can see the evil in such conspiracies — you apparently cannot.

  20. The Founders were revolutionists and used violent means to win back their rights and establish a free government. All governments are servants of the people and thus those creators (the people) do have the right to “take back” their government if it falls into other hands. Now, the way in which that revolution is conducted, of course, must also be just – and most revolutions are not.

    A person may be a good person and still recognize that revolution is justified under certain circumstances, else – for one thing – the American Revolution could never have been inspired nor its leaders wise and noble men. And it was, and they were.

    But this is all common sense.

  21. Geoff, I specifically said that my comment should not be read as excusing the attrocities committed by Marxist revolutionaries, and I find your suggestion that I seem to be “exactly the type of person who believes that Marxist revolutionaries are good” mildly absurd.

    My point was simply that no political party or political ideology (in the U.S., Latin America, or elsewhere) has a monopoly on virtue, righteousness, or morality. Right-leaning advocates of the free market, “democracy,” and “freedom” have been responsible for as much carnage, death, and evil as any Marxist revolutionaries. Again, this is not to defend the evil committed by Marxist Revolutionaries. It is disgusting and horrific and deserves to be decried. But so does the evil committed by the American patriots (especially the founding fathers, but also figures like Ronald Reagan who authorized the funding and military training of right-wing military groups in Central American throughout the 80s) conservative Americans hold up on a pedestal as inspired and righteous advocates of liberty and freedom.

  22. “But so does the evil committed by the American patriots (especially the founding fathers”

    Really? I would hate to see what you think of Moses, Joshua, David, and Captain Moroni.

  23. We also need to be careful here – what appears to be a right-wing person, movement, party, etc. (in the sense of the free market and limited government) is not always so, or is heavily influenced by other forces.

    Look to those who pull the strings and I believe that nearly all the carnage of the 20th Century, and today, can be traced back to those who promote the ideology of the “Left”. Sometimes they work behind masks and not in the open.

  24. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Please try to keep it more civil.

    I was not trying to say that the Gadiantons were Marxists by strict definitions nor to claim that Capitalist governments haven’t done some terrible things.

    My point here was to point out a negative example of a society offering “common property” from the scriptures as a counter balance to all those who cite the scriptures to advocate positively for socialism.

    Insofar as European states are prosperous, I believe it is because they have moved, although imperfectly and incompletely, away from socialism/dirigisme and toward capitalism/calssical-liberalism for the last 3 decades. I hope they continue to do so.

  25. Also, even considering atrocities committed by capitalist governments, by comparison the sheer numbers of people killed under the banner of Socialism in the last century is staggering.

  26. Christopher, as a libertarian-leaning person who is becoming increasingly anti-war, I will try to find the best in your comment. I’m glad to see you recognize the evil nature of violent revolutionary movements. To be perfectly clear, *I find all movements that call for violent means in our current environment (especially in Western democracies) to be Gadianton-type movements.* This applies to right-wing “militia” groups as much as to left-wing and anarchist groups who break windows at the Ritz in the UK. All right-thinking people should condemn such movements, and I think JMax has done so.

    However, the false claim that groups that protest against the government in a non-violent way (such as tea party and peaceful anti-war protests in the U.S.) are somehow Gadianton in nature is simply beyond the pale.

    If you want to claim that the Contra war (something I know a lot about because I was in Nicaragua when it took place and covered it as a journalist) was a Gadianton-type exercise, I think you have a decent point. The U.S. should have stayed out of that war entirely, and obviously the attempt get secret Iranian money to fund the Contras illegally was a secret combination. The only point I would make is that to be logically consistent you must also protest against our current adventure in Libya and against all foreign adventures that are not defensive in nature. This means that the initial invasion in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and attack al qaeda was defensive in nature, but our current actions in Afghanistan are not.

    By that measure, there are really only two wars in the 20th and early 21st centuries that could be justified: World War II in which we responded to an attack on U.S. soil, and the initial phases of the Afghan war. The rest cannot be.

  27. Christopher, Jettboy has a great point: violence in and of itself is not always evil according to God’s law. Joshua was responsible for the complete annihilation of entire cities and ethnic groups.

    But if we look at your own implied scale (ignoring Jettboy’s point) that violence is always evil and the only true measure of evilness, then we still must conclude that the left or variations on socialism, are still by far the more evil. Combining the reign of Mao and Stalin alone (ignoring all else in the entire history of the world) completely obliterates any comparison. The sheer number of people who’s torture, repression, and deaths they are directly responsible for defies any comparison (and don’t give the lame excuse about “they weren’t socialists, they were communists”).

    It’s interesting to note that as China has moved toward an increasingly free market economy, that economic shift has been responsible for moving more people from beneath the poverty line, to above it, than any other single event in the history of the world! Reversing socialism actually helps people out of poverty, which is one of the goals that socialists often state for their controlled economies. Pretty ironic.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I see much of Gadiantons on various sides. I’m not claiming the political “right” is entirely blameless. The point is that if we can’t have the united order, then I’d much rather have the freedom of a free market economy and a republic, than the controlled economy of a socialist democracy. Why? Because the scriptures seem clear that we are supposed to give of our substance to the poor of our own free will. Not because the government takes it from us, and gives it to the poor. Agency is what it lost 1st in socialism. Next is the drive and innovation to work and be creative. I think it’s quite clear that the vast majority of really talented, creative, and innovative people either come from the US, or move here, because there is far more opportunity to accomplish the things they want. Europe is loosing many of its brightest minds to the US, because of the freedom (both economic and personal) that exists here.

    On a final note, and I can’t believe more people don’t know about this, the 1st Presidency was very clear on the idea that socialism and communism are NOT the United Order, but rather Satan’s counterfeits: “Communism and all other similar isms bear no relationship whatever to the United Order. They are merely the clumsy counterfeits which Satan always devises of the gospel plan. Communism debases the individual and makes him the enslaved tool of the state to whom he must look for sustenance and religion; the United Order exalts the individual, leaves him his property, ‘according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs,’ (D&C 51:3) and provides a system by which he helps care for his less fortunate brethren; the United Order leaves every man free to choose his own religion as his conscience directs. Communism destroys man’s God-given free agency; the United Order glorifies it. Latter-day Saints can not be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to any of these false philosophies.”

    Sorry “Mormon Socialists,” but the prophets have already spoken on this one.

  28. Pingback: The Ridiculous and the Sublime – March 27-28, 2011 « The Ridiculous and the Sublime

  29. Glad you agree. I think there are a lot of areas where libertarian-leaning and leftist-leaning people can work together to end these ridiculous wars that are bankrupting us both morally and fiscally.

    I would only point out that your claim that “right-leaning” groups are causing most of the wars is simply not borne out by the evidence. Wilson got us involved in WW1 unnecessarily. Truman in Korea, Kennedy and Johnson in Vietnam (and Johnson in the DR), Clinton in Bosnia. There are plenty of right-leaning goats out there too: Reagan in Nicaragua and Grenada, Bush 1 in Kuwait and Panama, Bush II in Iraq and continuing on in Afghanistan.

    I think a more accurate statement would be: the United States has gone off the rails in terms of where our foreign policy should be, and both right-leaning and left-leaning presidents are responsible. We need some real change in the definition of our national interests when it comes to war-making and foreign policy. And part of that policy should be to recognize that supporting Gadianton-type groups causes unintended consequences (Afghanistan being the best example). We should support peaceful movements trying to bring democracy and freedom to their countries (Tunisia, Egypt) and stay out of civil wars.

  30. Geoff, I’m not sure that I said “that ‘right-leaning’ groups are causing most of the wars.” Rather, I said that they “have been responsible for as much carnage, death, and evil as any Marxist revolutionaries.” The point wasn’t to draw out a numerical comparison of casualties, though, but rather to assert that murderous villainy is not a monopoly of any political ideology or group.

  31. Isn’t Lachoneus making the typical pirate’s offer–“become one of us and share the booty”? I don’t see any reason to read his offer “partners in all our substance” to mean that all would share equally.

    In that light, his proposal is essentially the same as the promises held out by the Bolsheviks–empty at best, completely dishonest at worst. But it’s a giant stretch to suggest that the Gadiantons were Marxists.

    Besides, he’s silent about joint ownership of the means of production. (What are those “means” anyway? Looting?)

  32. Wow, 26 people have liked this on Facebook so far. This is by far one of our most-read articles at M*. Thanks JMax for your excellent work!

  33. There is nothing to indicate equality in booty in this letter. I read it as an alternate version of the offer Amalikiah made to the head of the Lamanite army. Lachoneus just didn’t come down off the mountain. If you want to read it in terms of socialism, you certainly may, but there is very little evidence to suggest that the Gadianton robbers were socialists (of course, there is just as little to suggest that they weren’t…). So, I think this is an interesting theory, but we are absent evidence. If only they had called religion the opiate of the masses or something.

  34. @Mark B.

    Good point. (Note however that it is Giddianhi and not Lachoneus making the offer.)

    Until recently, I had also had read this as a “Pirates Bargain.” But on closer inspection I think that the pirate’s bargain reading doesn’t work. Here’s why:

    1. Pirates did not first offer to let all of the people on the ship being attacked the alternative of joining their pirate crew and sharing in the booty instead of being attacked. The offer to join the pirates and share in the booty was made after the ship had been subdued and its valuables taken. Giddianhi in contrast make the offer up front.

    2. The bargain was usually only extended to a few who had useful skills that the pirates needed. Giddianhi’s offer, on the other hand, appears to be to all of the Nephites and not just Lachoneus (he says they will become their “brethren” and “partners,” not just that Lachoneus will become their “brother” and “partner”).

    3. Pirates might take your ship and your valuables, but they certainly weren’t going to move into your towns and cities. Giddianhi isn’t inviting Lachoneus and a few of his men to join them a-looting in the wilderness. He wants the Nephite’s cities and lands, and not just their valuable, mobile goods.

    4. Pirates did not claim that their actions were “good.” In fact, when a pirate ship was captured, they often burned their signed Articles so that they wouldn’t be used against them in court. Giddianhi, to the contrary characterizes his group as “good” and their victims as “wicked.” Pirates didn’t employ the rhetoric of rights and vengeance for wrongs to justify their actions. They weren’t trying to reclaim rights of which they have been deprived. But this is the language of Giddianhi.

    As I said previously, I was not trying to say that the Gadiantons were Marxists by strict definitions. But the similarities are a lot stronger than many of you have been willing to acknowledge.

  35. @John C.

    You say: “I read it as an alternate version of the offer Amalikiah made to the head of the Lamanite army. Lachoneus just didn’t come down off the mountain.”

    “And it came to pass that when Lehonti had come down with his guards to Amalickiah, that Amalickiah desired him to come down with his army in the night-time, and surround those men in their camps over whom the king had given him command, and that he would deliver them up into Lehonti’s hands, if he would make him (Amalickiah) a second aleader over the whole army.”
    Alma 47:13

    Exactly how is Amalickiah’s offer to Lehonti at all similar to what Giddianhi offers Lachoneus?

    Giddianhi isn’t treacherously conspiring with Lachoneus against his own men in exchange for 2nd in command of the Nephite army. He is demanding the unconditional surrender of Lachoneus, and not just his army, but the people and their cities, lands, and possessions.

    Amalickiah is double-crossing the King and Lahonti so as to position himself to take over the rule of the nation through fraud. Unlike Giddianhi, he doesn’t pretend to be righting wrongs, reclaiming rights, or that his enemy is wicked.

    Your comparison to Amalickiah just doesn’t make much sense.

    Of course he doesn’t call the Nephite religion the “Opiate of the masses.” As I have repeatedly said, I am not trying to say that the Gadiantons were Marxists by strict definitions. My am pointing out a negative example of a society that seems to be offering “common property” in the scriptures.

    Again, the rhetoric of Giddianhi’s epistle is part of what makes his offer of “shared substance” seem more like a socialism.

    If it is tenuous, it is certainly no less tenuous than those who read Socialism positively into the Book of Mormon’s vague references to “no poor” and “all in common”. It is probably the only part of the Book of Mormon in which the rhetoric of rights, justice, and the wickedness of Nephite capitalism appears connected so directly to the forcible confiscation of property and shared substance. Too bad for those who want to find support for Socialism that it comes from the Gadianton Robbers.

  36. 72 now.

    The way I’ve always seen the socialism argument is this. In 4th Nephi, the people there chose to live The United Order. Choice, free agency, whatever you want to call it. That’s the key, and that’s why it worked. My experience with socialism, having lived in two socalist countries, is that the government kind of takes care of everything, but they force you into the system, to the misery of everyone. No one ever had exactly what they needed, or wanted, and was always on the hunt for something better. There is not a lot of choice or freedom, and that’s the difference.

  37. I think your average social democrat hates these sorts of analogies because their idea of socialism has no connection to the sort of brutal authoritarian regimes of the 20th century that the appeal to the Gadianton Robbers is meant to conjure. I’m not saying you made that explicit connection, but it is one heard so often that the connotation or implication cannot be avoided. Is there a hint of it in that epistle? Probably. Is there a hint of crony capitalism, as well? Probably. But the current ideal for social democrats is not China or the Soviet Union, it is Western Europe and other similar countries.

    I guess the problem is less with the post than this sort of blunt thinking that it often inspires:

    “Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Collectivism, Welfarism, Nazism, Corporatism, PPP, Fascism, Wealth Redistribution, (modern) Liberalism, the Welfare State, Statism, Communalism, Social Democracy, call it what you will. These are merely words used in different times and places to define a degree of the same root philosophy.”

  38. J. Max
    Regarding your comment about prosperous European states….perhaps I am mistaken in my reading of the financial news but most European countries are on the brink of collapse right now….due to their socialist policies. There is a small socially conservative contingency in the EU but for the most part they have not realized the implications of decades of everexpanding socialist governments.

  39. Jacob, the soft socialists/liberals are in the main, I agree, not hardline revolutionists. But the philosophy is the same and it is the latter’s agenda they promulgate albeit unwittingly in most cases. Many good people lean toward socialism, but they are not informed or wise in so doing no matter how good their motives. There really is no excuse for it, especially among LDS who have such a rich history of Church leaders pointing out the woes and snares of this sort of thinking.

    “Blunt thinking”, as you put it, could perhaps be stated as a recognition that there are just two forces in this war and that all ideologies are variations on those opposing forces? It is the denial of this truth, in my view, that muddies the water.

    Reed Smoot seemed to be a blunt thinker:

    “Civilized governments are threatened by internal and destructive agencies in the form of Communism. This secret organization assumes different names and forms. It is Communism in France, Socialism in Germany, Internationalism in Spain and Italy, Nihilism in Russia, and similar sentiments and principles are cloaked under a variety of titles in America and Great Britain. All these organizations are opposed in spirit to all the restraints of law and order. Now let me call your attention to the fact that in February, 1831, Joseph Smith received a revelation on this very subject, which no doubt many of you are familiar with. Reference is also made along the same lines in the Book of Mormon.” (Reed Smoot, Conference 1933)

    And, indeed, the First Presidency:

    “We believe that our real threat comes from within and not from without, and it comes from that underlying spirit common to Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, namely, the spirit which would array class against class, which would set up a socialistic state of some sort, which would rob the people of the liberties which we possess under the Constitution, and would set up such a reign of terror as exists now in many parts of Europe.” (The First Presidency, excerpt from a Letter to the US Treasury, 1941)

  40. I am probably the last person anybody expects to make this comment, but just for the fun of it I will stand up for the liberals and social democrats and democratic communitarians out there and say that I don’t think the First Presidency explicitly ties these ideologies to Gadiantonism. There is a big difference between a person who, for various reasons, favors more unemployment benefits and universal health care and is pursuing them through democratic means, and a person who is plotting to overthrow the government or forming some kind of secret combination. I disagree with the leftist ideology that is bringing our country and Europe to ruin fiscally, but I would not call such ideologies Gadianton-like.

    Democratically oriented left of center people believe in the democratic process. Some of them are great open-government proponents and defenders of civil liberties and the first and fourth amendments. It’s simply not right to associate them with Gadiantons.

    The real enemies are: violent revolutionaries of all stripes, mafia-like groups, drug cartels, crony capitalists and others who form secret combinations.

  41. Yes, the majority are always deceived in times of wickedness. Like the Lamanites who were stirred up by the Zoramites. I do not believe they are Gadianton Robbers either, but they help move the purposes of those combinations along and, indeed, without them, the Robbers would make little or no progress…

    So these groups coupled with the ignorance that comes through unrighteousness are the real enemies. It is why righteousness will always destroy such groups.

    But we are accountable for being reasonably informed and the basic principles of sound government and a free economy can be comprehended by a schoolboy.

  42. @Jacob S.

    “their idea of socialism has no connection to the sort of brutal authoritarian regimes of the 20th century that the appeal to the Gadianton Robbers is meant to conjure”

    I recently read a book called “Last Exit to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era” by Jean François Revel. Revel was a very well respected Political Philosopher and member of the Académie française. The book is an English translation of his book “Le Grande Parade“.

    Revel argues pretty effectively that most of the -isms you cited as being associated by so-called “blunt thinking” really are in fact the same root philosophy. The “real” version of Socialism is always in the future. Every historical attempt to implement Socialism has failed, and when it fails it’s devotees disavow and redefine to distance their utopian ideal from the failed implementation, always declaring that the previous implementation was something other than “real” Socialism.

    Revel is no popular radio or television conservative demagogue. Calling it “blunt thinking” is just a convenient and facile put-down for people with whom one disagrees.

  43. @PRM

    In the book I cited in my previous comment, Revel discusses European Socialism in detail. Notice that I said “Insofar as European states are prosperous.” You are right that Europe has some very serious problems that result from their socialist entitlement policies. But the fact is that compared to the 60s and 70s Europe has moved more to the right than our generation in the U.S. recognizes.

    I recommend Revel’s book. If you do read it, keep in mind that in France, where it was originally written and published, the term “Liberal” actually refers to what in the U.S. we often call “Conservative”. In France the “Liberals” are Classical Liberals, in favor of Free Markets and Limited Government. Revel also uses the term “Dirigisme” to refer to the tendency toward “directing” markets and government intrusion into liberty. So some of Revel’s discourse revolves around Dirigism vs Liberalism, which in many ways is a clearer terminology than the U.S. “Liberal” and “Conservative”.

  44. Lumping together communism, social democracy, Nazism, et al as essentially the same philosophy separated only by degrees is like calling alligators, mice, and eagles essentially the same animal because they all evolved from some single organism long ago. The differences are simply too large, and the commonalities too weak, to draw a single line through them. I apologize for using a put-down, which was inappropriate, but I think it is equally facile to make such a claim to begin with.

    As to Europe, outside the of the so-called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, and Spain) most of the western European nations are doing pretty well. France, for instance, for all its economic issues, had a much shorter and shallower recession than the US recently. Europe is a mixed bag in all of this and I don’t think it’s always as easy to just say that Socialism is the problem when many of the Socialist nations are doing okay.

    I’ll check out the book, though, as I am never sure I’m right about these sorts of things.

  45. “Lumping together communism, social democracy, Nazism, et al as essentially the same philosophy separated only by degrees is like calling alligators, mice, and eagles essentially the same animal because they all evolved from some single organism long ago. The differences are simply too large, and the commonalities too weak, to draw a single line through them.”

    Exactly right, Jacob.

    The two responses I have to J Max’s post are:

    1) Equating socialism with Marxist communism is pretty inflammatory and by associating the former with the latter, the well is poisoned against any conscientious proponents of the former. It would be like saying that pure democracy and representative democracy are the same thing, because they are partially similar. The problem is that the U.S. was formed in direct opposition to pure democracy in order to prevent the tyranny of the majority, and so to equate them with one another ignores what I see as a clear distinction between the two.

    2) My second concern is linked to the first. I wonder how N Eldon Tanner, who was a committed socialist (he even ran for office in Alberta’s Social Credit Party), would feel about the allegations that his political sensibilities are the same as the Gadianton Robbers? Of course, the other side of the coin should be thought of as well, namely, how would Ezra Taft Benson feel about his capitalist sensibilities being equated with the Gadiantons. I think either perspective is too quick to moralize political and economic perspectives. The categorical opposition to either socialism or capitalism on doctrinal grounds lacks the nuance that would allow for difference of opinions, and I don’t see how such a hostile discursive environment would be desirable in the least.

  46. @Jacob S.

    Of course Socialism, Democratic Socialism, National Socialism, and Communism are somewhat different, but claiming that Socialism and Communism are as different as alligators and mice is simply false; none of them exist in a vacuum: you have to consider their relationship both historically and ideologically.

    Marx saw history inevitably leading through a series of phases that eventually culminating in Communism. Marxists viewed Socialism as the inevitable intermediary step between Capitalism and Communism.

    Primitive Tribal Communitarian -> Slave Society -> Feudal Society -> Capitalism -> Socialism -> Communism

    Instead of alligator/mouse, it would be more accurate to say that Socialism is “Communism-in-Embryo” (to adapt a familiar LDS phrase). All of the attempts to bring about Communism in the previous century were described by their perpetrators as attempts to implement Socialism as a necessary step toward Communism. None of them ever claimed to have successfully made it through the Socialist phase to Communism. In the West we called them Communists, but they called themselves Socialists. So while not all Socialist are necessarily Communists, all Communists are Socialists yearning for Communism.

    The Fascists in Italy and the National Socialists in Germany grew directly out of Socialist/Communist efforts. Though not the only difference, the primary source of conflict between Communism and Fascism was that Communism was an Internationalist movement while the Fascists abandoned Internationalism and embraced Nationalism instead. So while Communists were trying to dissolve borders, culture, and racial/cultural pride in favor of a stateless party of workers, Fascist were cultivating and emphasizing them. It was the Internationalist/Nationalist difference that caused them to be characterized as Left/Right. But both were Socialist movements economically, and other than their views on Nationalism, politically as well.

    USSR = Union of Socialist Soviet Republics
    NAZI = National Socialist German Workers’ Party

    Social Democracy emerged directly from Revolutionary Marxism as a reformist movement, favoring evolutionary reform to violent revolution.

    You make too much of their differences. They all aim to skin the same cat, even if some start at the tail and others the head, some use a knife and others a stone, some anesthesia and others none.

    Some of us don’t think skinning the cat is a good idea by any of these means.

  47. Well, I think J. Max put that very well, and I couldn’t agree more.

    The bottom line, regardless of intent, is that we should avoid philosophies that violate the commandments not to covet, and not to steal, and cherish those that vouchsafe agency, property rights, and the freedom to contract about our own affairs. Good people may espouse socialism (as they may false religions, scientific theories, etc.), but socialism will never bring about good because it is founded upon principles that will only lead toward the type of society and government favoured by those who want to control, and not serve, mankind.

  48. @James

    I have seen a few people call Elder Tanner a Socialist before, but the only evidence I have ever seen is the one you mention, that he held office in Alberta on the Social Credit party ticket. Do you actually have any quotes from Elder Tanner in which he explicitly advocates Socialism or calls himself a “Socialist” in clear terms?

    From what I can gather:

    1. Many Albertans joined the Social Credit Party in the mid 1930’s because the alternative party, the UFA, had been wracked with scandal which repelled the socially conservative people and drove them to alternatives, and the overt Religiosity of the Social Credit movement made it attractive at least in that sense.

    So voting, and even running, under the Social Credit Banner didn’t necessarily mean that one was a Socialist. And apparently Elder Tanner was drafted to run for the office.

    You may be right, but unless you have some good quotes from Elder Tanner himself, or maybe his immediate family, I’m skeptical. Even if he had socialist sympathies in 1935, does that translate into life-long commitment? By the 1950s when he was president of Merrill Petroleums of Canada was he a Socialist?

  49. “Lumping together communism, social democracy, Nazism, et al as essentially the same philosophy separated only by degrees is like calling alligators, mice, and eagles essentially the same animal because they all evolved from some single organism long ago. The differences are simply too large, and the commonalities too weak, to draw a single line through them. I apologize for using a put-down, which was inappropriate, but I think it is equally facile to make such a claim to begin with.”

    Alligator’s mice, and eagles are not a good comparison. They are more like Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caiman. Sure their are differences, and these are important differences, but once one bites your leg you don’t really care about those differences.

    I don’t think a person living under those systems would view them as different as you seem to think they are, as the end result for the individual is usually the same.

  50. ok we get it, socialism bad, united order good. Still it would be nice if people weren’t so dismissive and dogmatic about all of this. I see the flaws in socialism, but why is it that all the Mormons I know have this unyielding love towards capitalism? Acknowledging that socialism is flawed doesn’t mean free-market capitalism does no wrong. There is freedom as a privilege and freedom as a condition. I am free in one sense to use illegal/harmful drugs, in that I have the capacity to do it if i so choose. But as far as my condition, I am enslaved, or will be of I persist, to addiction. That’s basic moral agency doctrine. So people are free to do as they please but not free from the consequences. So is it fair to extol free-market capitalism on the basis of privilege yet ignore negative consequences, of the condition, in present day and historically? I’m ranting. You didn’t touch on this that much anyway. Still, it’s too common it seems for Mormons to just vote republican, go on there merry way and not bother to turn on their brains. Is individual autonomy always superior to the collective good? No. Sometimes one takes precedent over ther other. Wisdom is required. Simplistic generalizations will not do.

  51. I think we can view the free market as a consequence of that liberty necessary to the fulfilment of the Plan – or at least to maximizing the same. Yes, people will choose the wrong thing sometimes, but we also need to remember that a just government would not allow an individual or a business to commit fraud or initiate force without being punished.

    I can’t really think that it would be right for any mortal to decide that some people’s non-criminal individual autonomy should be over-riden for the sake of the whole. Again, that requires a judgment that only God can make, the giver of that autonomy.

  52. Ok but think of it this way. The market is essentially a creation of the goverment. Markets don’t exist spontaneously, there are pretequistitesvyhat must be laid out for it all to work: property right, contractual security, currency etc. Without these and other protection, no one would or really could enter business. Once you realize that the market is only “free” because it exists on the principle of law, any generalization that goverment is bad, or smaller government is intrinsically better is thrown out the window. You have to take every case individially to decide whether government involvent is this same vein, what do you think of taxes? Aren’t they agents if compulsion? Taking money away from people to better socritu or other people? But aren’t they neccesary? You can argue about where they go, how much they are, but in the end dint we need done taxation? Garbage disposal, road maintenance, mail, public schools, police, military… All of these are essentially social programs. They are money taken by compulsion from citizens to help society. Should all of these be given over to the market? What about the food and drug administration, do you think the market would have ever put labels on food and stopped lying about poisonous ingredients in their products if a government agency weren’t in place? Freedom is based on adherence to sound principles and laws…there are things the government should not mess with, but regulations in and of themselves are not socialistic, and social programs are not all bad.

  53. Markets arise from people freely making agreements regardless of whether or not government exists. It is criminality (whether on the part of buyer or seller) that requires the use of force. When governments thus *aid* in the protection of the exercise of our rights, an environment is fostered whereby people are free to trade and otherwise go about their business.

    I believe enforced taxation is wrong. Stealing is stealing. Any form of taxation must be by agreement.

    I also think that private industries and supervising bodies are quite capable of being as moral and intelligent as ones set up by government – in fact more so because they are not dealing with politically vested interest. I believe just governments do not regulate (in the modern sense of that word), do not provide, they simply help protect property and faciliate the due process of law.

    The question is simply, to my mind, one of principle. In order for a government power to be just it must (a) have its origin in a genuine right that exists within the individual, and (b) have been delegated (not transferred) by the people to government in a manner which is transparent and witnessed (such as a written constitution). As I have no just right to force anyone to pay for my children to go to school, I therefore cannot delegate any such power to government. Therefore, we may know that state education is not a just or proper function of government.

    America became the greatest nation on earth because of its adherence to this basic philosophy between 1787 and 1913. Look what has happened since social programs and the concept of government as provider/regulator has come in.

    WE need to turn back to believing in personal responsibility – in liberty.

  54. Compulsion is not the way of heaven – or to it.

    Captain Moroni might have a few things to say about that.

    And I believe there are two types of people: those who continually try to force people into one of two types, and those who do not.

    There was a very interesting comment by a woman in a book on East Germany which I have been reading recently. Perhaps when I am done, I’ll post on it, since the topic is near and dear to my heart.

    She said, “. . . there was a positive side to [the government] and that was the social side. Everyone had a job, and it was guaranteed. No one had to worry that he or she would have to go looking for work, unless they had really messed up. Otherwise they had a job, and mothers, too, and pregnant women. They had their jobs. And they knew very well that if I am going to have a baby then I will have a certain amount of time in which to recuperate, and I know that my job is secure. I know I am not going to be thrown out in the meantime. I will get my job back, and I can keep working. That’s not the case anymore. I think some things have gotten worse, especially for us older people.”

    I know that 100% socialism is not a good thing, but I don’t think that 100% capitalism, or 100% democracy are good things, either. There are too many who have no voice. Truly, there is no answer for society but righteousness. With righteousness, almost any system works well. Without it, they all fall apart.

    Truthfully, the OP reminds me of the “be fair” practice regarding domestic violence and the “zero tolerance” bullying policy that so many schools are adopting. Zero tolerance usually means that anyone involved in fighting gets suspended, no questions asked. For the bullies, this is great. They don’t suffer any more under zero tolerance than they did before. All it really does is hurt the victims.

    That is what forced “unity” does. Those with power still end up ahead, only those without power are hurt in the end, even more than they would have been otherwise.

  55. I don’t think you can have “some” socialism. It’s like saying some degree of theft is OK. I do believe in 100% liberty. I think Captain Moroni believe in 100% liberty too, when that word and concept is correctly understood.

  56. Yes . . . he just believed in enforcing it with violence. As well as the forced procurement of goods to support the army.

    Oh, and Nephi also committed theft for a good cause.

    I’m just saying it’s not all as black and white as some would like to think.

  57. Mark Deming, I will not address all of your comment, but your claim that “the market is essentially a creation of the government” is false. Markets existed long before government existed. Primitive men traded with other primitive men. No government was there to make sure that when one man traded deer meat for hog meat the meat was “healthy.” It was a voluntary contract from one person to another. The VAST, VAST majority of human interaction throughout history has taken place without any government at all. In Medieval times, a metal smith would trade his goods with a potter without any government agent getting involved. Today, literally hundreds of millions of people trade things on ebay and craig’s list without some government agent interfering. So, the lesson we can learn from history is: men, left alone, will carry out trade and create markets on their own. It is government involvement that starts creating problems. The FDA should disappear tomorrow. Especially in our information age, people will create their own “buyer beware” systems that people can check before they buy stuff. The owner has the biggest incentive not to sell you bad stuff — if he does, he will lose future business. The FDA does much more harm than good because it creates the moral hazard that you think stuff is healthy because it has been approved by the government so you don’t do your own due diligence.

  58. Well said, Geoff B. The FDA also has vested interests that most people don’t know about…and that always is the way it goes with government agencies.

  59. Ok well maybe I could have been more specific. A bartering system style market can exist naturally, but a capitalistic government cannot and did not. Once currency was introduced as medium of trade every thing changed. And you didn’t address the specifics of my arguments at all. With no one printing standard currency, no one punishing fraud and theft, no legal honor to contract, a capitalistic market will not and has not existed. People acknowledge these as exceptions from the normal non interference model, but try are actually the foundation of government and modern economy. And about taxes, that’s fine and good, except I suspect that you do indeed still pay taxes, and how can you say taxes are ok as long as not taken forceably? You can have taxation be around according to your principle but you cannot enforce it? Imagine if you applied that logic to other laws: you can’t murder but we won’t enforce it; you must not discriminate based on sex when hiring but we won’t make you; you must come to jury dutie so the defendant can have a trial of his peers, but if you don’t show up it not a big deal. Generally compulsion and force are bad, but penalty and punishment are inherently forceful. You are vastly oversimplifying the issue. 

  60. Also, according to our own theology government was institute by God from the beginning. At best, goverment existed before, at worst, they were concurrent events. Buy even if that weren’t true, comparing trading deer meat to 21 century super capitalism is absurd.

  61. A capitalistic government? I think you are using terms in a different way to how I understand them. A limited government provides the liberty whereby a free market can exist securely, but I don’t think government has anything to do with the economy. You mention fraud, threat of force etc. but these individuals are protected from these, or at least have recourse to seeking justice in these matters, by virtue of government protecting our natural rights. Yes, God instituted the idea of governments (no doubt by forming the first government by revelation in the days of Adam) but no doubt man soon apostatized from that and various governments have come and gone since then, 99% of them tyrannical (i.e. not limited).

    Also, we do not have a private capitalism system today. We have what is termed a “mixed economy”. A silly term, it is essentially central economic planning – i.e. the economy is politicized. America had a free market economy (more or less) from its beginnings until the early 1900s.

    Yes, punishment is inherently forceful, which is why it must be applied only when it fits the crime and is just. You have every right to use force to defend you life, liberty and property, but you have no right to force an employer to hire someone they don’t wish to hire. Imagine if you did that to your neighbour. It would offend your conscience. As government derives its just powers from the governed, you cannot delegate this power because you don’t have it as a right.

    Economic and governmental principles ARE simple. It is the obfuscation caused by overcomplexity that allows wicked men to wreak ruin on nations.

  62. Mar Deming, the purpose of a just government is to protect peoples’ natural rights of life, liberty and property (see D&C 134). Capitalism is simply a trading system in a more advanced, consumer-based, technologically intricate economy. But at its base, free-market capitalism (not the crony capitalism we have today) is simply a representation of how people will create goods and trade goods if left alone. Even in our semi-free distorted economy, we can see that the areas left free of government interference (the internet, cell phones, ipads, etc) involve tremendous innovation and very high customer satisfaction. People love their gadgets, and the creation of gadgets creates jobs, and this is great. In the areas of the economy with massive government intervention (health care, banking, etc), there is massive consumer dissatisfaction, precisely because no free market environment exists.

    As for taxation, it is a necessary evil for running a government. But if we recognize it as a necessary evil, we can keep it to a minimal amount, in my opinion, less than 5 percent of the economy. Today, state and federal governments take up 37 percent of the economy, and this is growing. So, obviously we have a long, long way to go to create a just society where we honor the natural rights of our citizens.

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