The Economic Problem of Sin

Sin is an unpopular topic. In Hollywood today, unmarried pretty faces procreate and then splash baby pictures on the front of every women's magazine in America.  No one dares question if the parents of this child have sinned, but, of course, they have.  Indeed, they have sinned in several ways.  They have conceived a child out of wedlock, which is a sin.  They have also provided an example for millions of young women who lack the money to hire nannies and who imagine that their idols would not lead them into miserable lives.  These unwed mothers, their children, and the unwed fathers too have rejected not just the rules of God, which -- amazingly! -- do not just deliver us from evil but also make our lives happier, healthier, and more successful.

Psychologists and other social experts take the sting out of sin.  If sexually aroused young people make a child, this inconvenient debris can always be snuffed.  If the pregnant mother chooses to have her baby, a host of government programs, from WIC to child support enforcement, will insure that the biological sperm donor is relegated to irrelevance in the life of the child.  The idea that both parents have done something fundamentally wrong is as absent as the idea that people still sin.  Even the word "sin" makes many of us uneasy.  Who are we to say what is right and wrong?  "We" are, indeed, nothing.  Sin is a principle of God, not men.

But put faith aside for a moment.  Take God out of the picture.  What are the consequences of a child growing up with only one parent, a mother, who is dependent upon government largess and coercive child support programs to survive?  Poverty, for one thing, is much more likely in this fatherless home.  The child is more likely to grow up contemptuous of work and of school.  He is more likely to be crippled by drugs, alcohol, depression, and delinquency.  Rather than taking care of society, as we have expected new generations to do, this child is much more likely to need society to take care of him. 

More and more people and politicians have come to couch every issue into economic terms.  This is a flawed viewpoint, but say we accept the premise anyway.  What is the biggest economic problem in America today?  It is simply sin.  Everyone now agrees that the best way to a productive society is to have people emotionally well-adjusted, physically healthy, well educated, temperate drinkers, good and interested parents, strategic financially (e.g. people who save rather than always spend), and who provide for family members and others a private social safety net.

A society that condemns sin and urges people to reject sin produces just that sort of people.  Couples marry before they have children; they raise children in a two family home; they work, stay sober, care for family members and members of their church or synagogue, draw happiness and confidence from religious faith, plan ahead, study (how quickly we forget, in our infatuation with public education, that the idea of literacy was uniquely religious in origin - Jewish boys and Scottish girls and boys were the first children compelled to become literate, and the reasons had entirely to do with religious injunctions.  Sins of omission and sins of commission bring us into a society which must be supported by props of massive social programs, huge public relations campaigns, and an enormous amount of our energy.  And all this does not work.  Pseudo-morality simply makes us feel better for awhile.  When people begin to believe that sin is a myth, then they lose all immunity to the soul disease which will slowly kill them.

Because our Leftist overlords of education and culture have scolded us for thinking sin is real, we become ashamed of wanting to minimize sin in our society.  What Bill Clinton did, for example, was despicable, but what was the response from the bosses of establishment punditry?  "Everyone lies..." was bad enough, but they had to push the envelope against any idea of sin "...and often lying is therapeutic."  Lying to Nazis about D-Day may be good, but making mendacity chic unleashes the monsters of our lusts.  And even for people who are not particularly religious, the economic costs of pandemic dishonesty are almost incalculable. 

What is wealth today?  Isn't wealth really information?  What about information makes it valuable?   Truth gives information value - false information is like vicious gossip or counterfeit currency:  it causes economic chaos rather than creates real wealth.  How we each treat information gives that information its vast economic value.  Honor and honesty create wealth.  Consider Orthodox Jewish diamond cutters.  Historically, when they meet and examine individual diamonds, a cutter can take a diamond home to examine it and bring the same diamond back.  They honor the commandment not to steal, because that is a sin.  What is the practical economic consequence?  The efficiency of diamond trading and diamond cutting is dramatically more productive than if a host of high tech security systems, passwords, polygraph tests and so forth were required for business. 

What would happen if we all believed that stealing and that lying were sins and if we then behaved as if those sins would be punished by G-d?  Remove the danger of massive theft and lying from our economy, and we can dispense with a whole host of baggage that drags down the usefulness of cyberspace.  How much software is intended just to protect us from viruses, identity theft, and related moral crimes?  How much do corporations waste on this?  The wages of sin are very expensive to us.

What would happen if poor people rejected the sin of envy, which is the seed of socialism, and did not rage against those who had more then them?  God forbids this rage, but it is nursed and treated as if it was not a sin but a virtue.  What would happen if, along with the people rejecting envy, the wealthy rejected the sin of miserliness and embraced serious charity?  God insists that we help those with less, but when men doubt sin is real then that divine order loses power.  If we listened seriously to God - all of us - then the "problem" of inequality of wealth would go away as much as it can in a world of mortal men.  We would not have Heaven - we cannot have Heaven here - but we would have a much better world.  The economy would boom because the help that the rich gave the poor would be targeted and intended to really end poverty (the fewer the poor, the more the religious rich can keep - an angle the atheist Marx never quite got.)

If sin messes up our economy so much and if the economy is the political issue that drives polls and elections, why are candidates not calling for people to stop sinning and why do candidates not condemn sin in our society?  That would not be chic at all, and above all, politicians want to be liked by those who make our entertainment, report the news, and otherwise define what is cool in our lives.  These molders of modern thought see a post-sin world.  In the place of sin they have snickers, shock, and sensationalism or they have hordes of experts - demigods of various stripes - who tell us what is, today, moral or immoral.  They are priests without a deity, and their temples bulge with all types of treasure which we have given them (or, rather, they have taken from us) - influence, attention, celebrities, amusement, "education" (or rather "re-education"), and social values.  This treasure is spent lavishly to punish the position that sin is genuine and that it causes misery. 

 Yet the cool, practical, financial argument against sin is so overwhelming, the number crunching of any serious cost-benefit analysis of the trillions lost through our acceptance of sin is so convincing, that hopeful people can dream that a wise leader will champion the fight against sin as the clearest way to make us wealthier and happier people.  That assumes, of course, that our leaders have guts.  It assumes as well that big chunks of influential powerbrokers among the establishment do not have a private and profound interest in the rest of us seeing sin as harmless. 

Many people, me included, worry about our loss of freedoms.  We fret about the size of government.  We look at the Leftist establishment and wonder how we can survive.  Somewhere in our maze of doubts and fears, we have forgotten that sin is not a joke of God.  Sin is not some topic for religious fanatics or end-of-the-world kooks.  We cannot make sin into goodness any more than we can make life immortal or otherwise make our mortal selves into little gods and goddesses.  Whatever paper rights we have, whatever institutions of liberty we enshrined, all will wilt and spoil unless we, the people, believe in sin and fight it in our lives.  Our leaders can do nothing unless they, too, begin with the First Principle of social living:  sin is real and sin is wrong. 

Human liberty is constructed around the ancient ideas of Christians and of Jews.  These ideas embraced many things, but central in our living together as people and being successful is seeing sin as slavery and grasping that fighting sin is the beginning of freedom.  This freedom, we all know, makes us prosperous, but this freedom itself cannot survive unless we see well the problem of sin.  Just as freedom is a delightful spin-off of fighting sin, prosperity is a delightful spin-off of freedom as well as righteous living.  All of our problems today - especially and emphatically, our economic problems - are simply problems of sin.  If we want to fight poverty and create affluence, begin by making common cause to attack those things which we know, in our hearts, are sinful.  Corny and old-fashioned?  Truth almost always is. 

Bruce Walker is the author of 
Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and the recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
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