Employers and Employees in Zion

Geoff just wrote about the natural market working best in providing for employees.

That said, we live in a time when there are some businesses and employers that do exploit. Some companies spend millions to lobbyists, so they can get tax breaks or opportunities from the government.  We’ve lately seen companies that, in having huge losses, paid huge salary and benefit increases to a select few, while laying off workers.

I am not for a huge government program to regulate business. Such actions usually do more harm than good, such as being implicit in the cause of the Great Recession.

Government involvement has caused businesses to send jobs overseas, delay hiring more people, and spend almost 1/2 trillion dollars a year just in figuring out their taxes.  Now that government and business are in cahoots with each other, we can see corruption taking a very ugly turn, impoverishing many Americans through fraud and defrauding.  Having the feds pay farmers not to grow crops, or to require that 40% of our corn crop be used as fuel, enriches a few people, but increases prices at the store for the rest of us, and risks hunger in the long run.

Isaiah warns of the princes of Israel stealing from the widows and poor, grinding their faces in the ground, buying up all the land until there is none for the average person (very important in ancient Israel, where inheritance was tied to land).

So, we need to avoid forcing companies into a square hole, while encouraging them to choose good things.

While the robber barons were better than the Czars and their serfs, we can see that there are levels of good and evil, not just black and white.  There is a good, better, best.  We can seek to improve things, but need to do so in wisdom.  When one picks up one end of the stick, the other end is also picked up. Choices by our federal government have often, in the long run, hurt not only the American people, but the world. Our current recession has brought many areas of the world into a Depression. We have a sniffle, they catch a cold.  We catch a cold, they get cancer.

History shows that Federal intervention tends to cause corruption and problems later on. Twiddling with welfare has destroyed families, especially among African Americans, and has led to so many youth joining gangs, being raised without a Dad, etc.  Woodrow Wilson’s tinkering helped lead to WWII and the Bosnia/Serbian war 70 years later. Government’s tinkering in housing and banking has led to the current recession, and continued tinkering has caused a very sluggish recovery, which may drop back into another recession in 2013.

The reality is government has to stop trying to be the savior, and instead encourage people to create businesses and employ people and work for employers in a Christ-like way. Elder L Tom Perry noted years ago that if everyone produces more than they consume, there will be plenty for everyone.  But it requires changing our reasons for doing business: not for greed and making tons of money, but to improve the lot of us.

7 thoughts on “Employers and Employees in Zion

  1. Rame, good post. I agree. I would add one caveat:

    “Elder L Tom Perry noted years ago that if everyone produces more than they consume, there will be plenty for everyone. But it requires changing our reasons for doing business: not for greed and making tons of money, but to improve the lot of us.”

    The vast majority, I would estimate 99 percent, of people do not start businesses and employ people “for greed and making tons of money.” The reality is that most businesspeople don’t make tons of money but make barely enough to support their families. They struggle 12 hours a day in a McDonald’s or a corner grocery store or a small restaurant. There is a fundamental misunderstanding (based on the responses my post got from some people) about how the business world works. You make an excellent point that many businesses do exploit, and the way they exploit is by using government to get favorable treatment. So the solution is very clear: decrease the size of government and you decrease the amount of exploitation.

    That said, the reminder that greed is not good is certainly welcome.

  2. “But it requires changing our reasons for doing business: not for greed and making tons of money, but to improve the lot of us.” So you admit that the traditional capitalist motivation of greed is on some level, a failure, as you noted the problems with the Robber Barons? Capitalism will only work as you say it will work if capitalists work in a “Christ-like way?”

    How do you propose to encourage free citizens in a Democracy to abandon their motivation to make money, and use capitalism only in Christ-like ways? Missionary work? Some kind of religious revival? How does one do that?

    What the government says is exactly what you say: that unregulated Capitalism is not living up to it’s potential to create a vibrant middle class, and eliminate poverty. But they also don’t trust that religious revivalism will “change people’s reasons for doing business” in our capitalist economy. Hence socialism. The philosophy of the depravity of man. In a very imperfect way, socialism takes care of the fool who buries his talent in the earth, rather than casting him out into hellfire as Jesus said he deserved.

  3. Many years ago, I read the book – Of Human Bondage. Reading about the poverty made me wonder how I could help in my small way. I determined four ways I could help. I could be a missionary/support missionary work to preach the Gospel. I could pay fast offerings. I could help my own neighbors who were in need, and fourth, I could provide jobs. I have done my best to do all four. I have built a business. Money was not the primary motive. I just loved building a business. But in the process many real sacrifices and even tragedies occurred. Now at age seventy four I am the founder of a worldwide company. But was it worth it? I am not sure. But at least I have provided jobs!

  4. KFH — “at least I provided jobs!” Good for you. If only more people would provide jobs there would be less poverty and less unemployment. Instead, what we often see is people who demonize people who provide jobs, which is really quite unfortunate.

  5. “Elder L Tom Perry noted years ago that if everyone produces more than they consume, there will be plenty for everyone. But it requires changing our reasons for doing business: not for greed and making tons of money, but to improve the lot of us.”

    While I love Elder Perry, from an economic stand point that approach simply does not work. In order for an economy to continue to function the amount of total consumption, investment (real physical construction of new assets – nothing to do with financial “investments”), and government spending on real goods and services has to exactly equal what is produced. If everyone tries to be a “saver” (i.e., producing more than they consuming) at the same time the economy tanks and goes into recession, if it continues it goes into a depression.

    A market based system works precisely because people are greedy and work for their own best interest. It promotes the efficient use of resources (land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship) and tends to meet the needs of those who can afford to pay. However, such an economy does not, and it never has, functioned in a fair, equitable, or empathetic manner. Such principles are simply not things a market “cares” about. This is why the Church’s early efforts at adopting a non-market based economic system failed, such systems only work when people have a total change of heart and care about random strangers as much as they care about themselves and their own children. Otherwise we have to rely on self interest to organize economic activity.

    In order to get a market based economy to treat workers or consumers in a fair or equitable manner some manner of control must be exerted. Platitudes don’t work in the long run. When standards are set and everyone has to live with them the markets adjust and life continues on. Think about the effect of the legislated the 40 hour work week. The predictions were very dire at the time it was passed into law, now people would revolt if we tried to take it away. Employers need to be compelled in many areas. The trick is to compel in the necessary areas, and maximize freedom to make decisions in the non-critical areas.

    John S. Harvey, Ph.D. Economics 1996 UW-Madison

  6. John, in a market-based economy, I would agree with you. That said, in a Zion-based economy, profit is not the primary motive. Building up Zion is the primary motive. So, recession/depression will not be affected. As with any sound economic concepts, needs and wants will change, and so will a Zion market. If there are too many of one thing, people can simply begin making something else.

    However, even in a market-based economy, in some areas it is hard to flood the market. I don’t see the cell phone market being flooded, even though there are billions out there right now. And as they get cheaper (due to competition), it allows more people to afford them.

  7. Yes, a Zion Economy would be different (and it will be during the Millennium) – that is precisely because the people who still exist will have had a mighty change of heart and will care about each other as much as self.

    My comments did not relate to “flooding the market” – I’m talking about aggregate variables. All of the production inside a country’s borders during a given year constitutes GDP. If the total amount of goods and services demanded by everyone is less than the GDP then inventories start to rise. Businesses take that signal as a clue that they are producing to much. They tend to cut prices and production, both of which reduce GDP, and the reduction in GDP will continue until inventories are no longer growing. That is a recession. Until aggregate demand meets or exceeds aggregate production the level of production will continue to fall. i.e., in the aggregate it is impossible for *everyone* to produce more than they consume and still have a well functioning economy.

    In the Zion economy the Church would function as the government and “demander” of last resort. It would likely “buy up” all of the surplus (as you point out) although what type of transactions those would be has not been revealed at this point in time. But the principle is the same – some one, consumers, businesses, or government (church) has to consume the production or the level of production will start to fall.

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