Thursday, 28 January 2010

Jesus' Green Manifesto

With an election looming, the Greens (along with other parties) are finalising their manifestos. Sunday's set reading was the account of Jesus delivering his manifesto in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4 : 14 - 21). He is declaring that he is the one who is to usher in the year of the great Jubilee.

The 'spiritual economics' of Jubilee are closely related to the spiritual economics of Sabbath, and are delineated in Leviticus 25. Leviticus is often picked on for what seem to us as its occasional obscure legalisms, and its passing prohibition of same-sex intercourse. But here we have a complete economic programme, which has many resonances with (green) New Economics. I wonder where the Church would be now if it had poured the same energy into promoting Jubilee economics as it has into ensuring compliance with the one verse edict on same-sex relations.

The presumption of Jubilee economics is that "there is enough for all, if we learn how to share it", and that human appetites for more - always more - are not natural. We live in a world where we are taught that we have a birthright to always 'more'. The fact that we have to be indoctrinated with this suggests that greed is less natural than we suppose, and that most people are content with 'enough'. Gordon Brown wants everyone to 'aspire' to more — this is (as David Byrne of Talking Heads sang) 'The Road to Nowhere'.

In Jubilee economics, every citizen has a guaranteed stake (in a plot of land) and a responsibility to tend that land in order to be self-sufficient, with enough surplus to help the foreigner and those who fall on hard times. If the citizen falls on hard times they can sell some of their land for cash; and if matters get worse they can become hired workers with no land. But in the 49th year all the land is allowed to lie fallow - the land itself is given a break (and we relearn that the earth can provide enough even without human interference) - after which the enlarged estates are broken up and the plots returned to their original owning families. The landowner who buys land is effectively buying a lease, and the land value reflects how much of the maximum 49 year lease remains.

Imagine that instead of borrowing large sums of money to buy property, and only owning it 100% after paying it off with interest, you have a property by birthright which (if you need to) you can lease part of to financial institutions for cash - but never actually sell in perpetuity.

The Green Party's tax proposals on Citizens' Income, Inheritance Tax and Land Value Tax (see seem to me like a step in that direction, given that we are no longer an agrarian society.

The story goes on to say that Jesus got lynched by the congregation - but that was for saying that other nations were likely to 'get the message' before his own.

1 comment:

Kaihsu Tai said...

Amen. And congratulations on being listed in Green Party Blogs: