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October 17, 2013

BOHANON: Economist doubts redistribution is biblical justice

(Continued)

This rendering of the Biblical passage is at odds with the prevailing entitlements-as-social-justice view that permeates the left, including the Christian left. In that view we all have “rights” to food, clothing, housing and even Internet access. But surely one can see that those “rights” are only ensured by violating someone else’s right to income or property, which makes such action morally ambiguous at best.

When I graduated from high school I had the opportunity to move for the summer to my brother’s fraternity house in Atlanta, Georgia. Jobs were readily available there and the option was appealing. I informed my parents that if I moved to Atlanta they were obligated to give me an allowance of $40 a week (in 1973 dollars) as they would no longer incur the expense of my living at home. They both laughed at me — and my mother informed me, “Son, the world does not owe you a living.”

I did spend that summer in Atlanta, I did get a job there and my parent did send such aid as they thought necessary and appropriate. I also took away a great lesson: I was responsible for earning my own bread.

We all receive help, aid and comfort from our families, friends, teachers, mentors and community. We should all give aid to others in our capacity as parents, friends, co-workers and neighbors. But this is the domain of mercy. To elevate it to a matter of justice is misguided and counterproductive.

Cecil Bohanon, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is a professor of economics at Ball State University.

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