Fair Market, Price Setting Commission, Oppressing the Poor, Monopolies, Price Gouging, & Concerning Scarcity and Supply

capitalism

Michael Daniels

7/18/2016

 

Ah, Free-Market Capitalism and Socialism; both modern day evils of the world’s economics. Many people think they are the only options open to us.  But there are other options and ones that are biblical. Such as the Fair-Market option that the Protestant Reformer taught in their day.

 

Within Free-Market Capitalism there are many things that are contrary to divine law and many Christians today do not even know are wicked and oppressive. Did you know that even our Westminster Standards claim forth that enhancing prices, engrossing commodities, oppressing especially the poor, enriching ourselves by unjust and sinful ways of withholding from our neighbors and all other ways whereby we unduly prejudice our own outward estate which are all forms off Unjust weights and measures within Commerce? Did you also know that divine law gives sanctions to the Civil Magistrate to enforce commerce and commercial and trade regulations?

Socialism you say? No way! But also not Free-Market Capitalism but all parts of Fair-Market Trade.. If you are a Reconstructionist you may be bulking at these ideas at the moment but these are things that are explicitly spelled out within our Reformed Confessional Standards as well as the Covenanter position on the Economic Commerce.

 

The Westminster Larger Catechism explicit states the following in Question and Answer 142,

 

“Q. 142. What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?

 

  1. The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery,… fraudulent dealing,  false weights and measures, … oppression, … engrossing commodities to enhance the price; … and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbour what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; …  and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate …”

 

The Scripture references are according to Vos’ Commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism,

 

  1. Fraudulent Weights and False Weights and Measures: Thess. 4:6; Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 20:10; Amos 8:5.
  2. All forms of Oppression, or taking advantage on the helplessness of others for our own profit: Lev. 25:7; Matt. 23:25; Ezek. 22:12 & 29; Psalm 15:5.
  3. The Attempt to Establish Monopolies: Isa. 5:3; Mic. 2:2; Proverbs 11:26.
  4. All ways of enriching ourselves at the expense & withholding of others: Luke 12:15; 1 Tim. 6:5; Col. 3:2; Proverbs 23 :5; Psalm 62:10; Matthew 6:25, 31 34; Eccl. 5:12.

 

I can hear it now, “But Gary North says … !” Gary North is not always right. Adding to this is he is just one person and not a confessional standard and some of his ideas are not Reformed or Scriptural.

 

As I already stated these are all forms of False Weights & Balances in Measurements and falls within the realm of the civil magistrate and regulation.

 

“You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” – Lev. 19:35-36

 

While many thinks of this passage as dealing with currency (and it does) but it is not restricted to currency standards and deals with all forms of trade and commerce.  This passage actually encompasses a much greater span of transactions. All commodities traded and sold, as well as precious metals used as money, were required to be measured and weighed according to established standards.  Their measure in length, capacity, volume, weight, and value all had prescribed units (e.g., shekel, bath, omer, ephah, cubit, gerah, dram, etc.), which no one was allowed to deviate from.

 

The command for just weights and measures assumes that there are recognized standards (including prices that are fair and not inflated or gouged) for calculating weight, capacity, and length in a given marketplace and society.

 

It was stressed in the Torah that you have ONE ephah, and that it be clean and untainted, so that the measure was the same everywhere anyone traveled. This is a form of price setting and done by the government to be the same everywhere anyone traveled.

 

From the earliest period of their history the people of God understood the necessity of an accurate system of weights and measures, and an honest handling of them.  Food supplies and other goods were obtained through barter in the marketplace or purchased with weights of precious metals (silver and gold). The first legislation in the interest of economic righteousness in general is found in Leviticus 19:35 and Deuteronomy 25:13–16, and the prophets constantly denounced the use of false measures in later history (see Amos 8:5; Hos. 12:8; Micah 6:10; see also Prov. 11:1; 16:11; 20:10).

 

The use of a false weight or measure involves both deceit and theft; deceit, because it is purported to be what it is not; theft, because it leads the buyer to spend more money than the commodity is actually worth and thus punishable by the civil magistrates as a form of theft and a violation of the Law of God.

 

Using false weights and measurements often transcends mere fraud and becomes outright oppression. It is the job of the magistrate to regulate just weights and measures,

 

“’Thus says the Lord GOD, “Enough, you princes of Israel; put away violence and destruction, and practice justice and righteousness Stop your expropriations from My people,” declares the Lord GOD. “You shall have just balances, a just ephah and a just bath.” Ezekiel 45:9-10

 

“The people of the land have violently oppressed by spoiling and robbing, and have vexed the poor and the needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger against right. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” – Ezekiel 22:29-31

 

So it is the job and function of the Civil Magistrate to regulate as well as fix prices that are fair within the economic markets of the nation.

 

The Reformer Martin Luther stated regarding Price fixing and preventing price gouging and oppressing the poor by withholding necessities of life (such as food, medicine, clothing, shelter, etc) from them,

 

“For  when this rogue’s eye and greedy belly of a merchant finds that people must have his wares, or that the buyer is poor and needs them, he takes advantage of him and raises the price. He considers, not the value of the goods or what he has earned by his trouble and risk, but only the other man’s need; not that he may relieve it, but that he may use it for his own profit, to raise the price of goods, which he would not have raised if it had not been for his neighbour’s need. Because of his greed, therefore, the wares must have a price proportioned to his neighbour’s need for them, and his neighbour’s need, like his own wares, must have a valuation. Pray, is not that unchristian and inhuman conduct? Is not that selling a poor man his own poverty? If, because of his need, he has to buy his wares so much the dearer, it is just the same as if he had to buy his own need; for what is sold is not the wares as they are, but the wares plus the fact that he must have them. This and like abominations are the necessary consequence when the rule is: I may sell my wares as dear as I can.

 

The rule ought to be, not: I may sell my wares as dear as I can or will, but: I may sell my wares as dear as I ought, or as is right and proper. For your selling ought not to be a work that is entirely within your own power and will, without law or limit, as though you were a god and beholden to no one; but because this selling of yours is a work that you perform toward your neighbor …

 

But in order not to leave this question entirely unanswered, the best and safest way would be for the temporal authorities to appoint over this matter wise and honest men who would appraise the cost of all sorts of wares and fix accordingly the outside price at which the merchant would get his due and have an honest living, just as at certain places they fix the price of wine, fish, bread and the like. …

the next best thing is to hold our wares at the price which they bring in the common market or which is customary in the neighbourhood. In this matter we can accept the proverb: “Do like others and you are no fool.” Any profit made in this way, I consider honest and well earned, since there is risk of loss in wares and outlay, and the profits cannot be all too great.

 

But when the price of goods is not fixed either by law or custom, and you must fix it yourself, then indeed no one can give you any other instructions except to lay it upon your conscience to be careful and not overcharge your neighbour, and seek not avaricious gain, but only an honest living. …

 

In deciding how much profit you ought to take on your business and your labour, there is no better way to reckon it than by estimating the amount of time and labour” –Martin Luther, On Trade

 

So yes, I support Price fixing for a Fair-Market System through a Price Fixing Ministry of Justice and believe it is based on Scriptural law both explicit as well as good and necessary inference. It is better to be decided in the multitudes of people in counsel then in the greedy mind of one as long as that counsel of people are not bought by businesses and corporations to also enforce their form of price gouging and monopolies.. That also must be prevented! In fact I question that legitimacy of the concept and idea of corporations in the first place based on divine law but that I will leave for another day to write about.

 

It is also extremely wicked to raise the prices of products just because of scarity or a shortage in supply.

 

Again Martin Luther stated,

“there are some who sell their goods at a higher price than they command in the common market, or than is customary in the trade; and raise the price of their wares for no other reason than because they know that there is no more of that commodity in the country, or that the supply will shortly cease, and people must have it. That is a very rogue’s eye of greed, which sees only one’s neighbour’s need, not to relieve it but to make the most of it and grow rich on one’s neighbour’s losses. All such people are manifest thieves, robbers, and usurers.” Martin Luther, On Trade
It is manifest thievery and wickedness to oppress the poor in such ways as to fill ones purse with money made in such a way. It is as Martin Luther called it a rogue’s eye of greed.

 

Even more heinous is to purposefully buy up entire supplies of goods so as to engross the price or create a monopoly in such wares as to fix your own price of what YOU think is fair or to corner the market by the preventing of others to sell similar like products or even at a lower cost.

 

Martin Luther states,

 

“Again, there are some who buy up the entire supply of certain goods or wares in a country or a city, so that they may have those goods solely in their own power and can then fix and raise the price and sell them as dear as they like or can. Now I have said above that the rule that a man may sell his goods as dear as he will or can is false and unchristian.  It is far more abominable that one should buy up the whole commodity for that purpose. Even the imperial and temporal laws forbid this and call it “monopoly,” i.e., purchase for self-interest, which is not to be tolerated in city or country, and princes and lords would stop it and punish it if they did their duty. Merchants who do this act just as though God’s creatures and God’s goods were made for them alone and given to them alone, and as though they could take them from other people and set on them whatever price they chose. ” Martin Luther, On Trade

 

These are all issues and matters that are explicitly and categorically condemned within our confessional standards and a Christian as no business practicing any of these practices. These are issues that are required to be suppressed at the national levels and ARE within the realm of civil magistracy.

 

Such monopolies of commodities, especially of the necessities of life, are so clearly unjust that they are to be prohibited by civil legislation..

 

Other passages that deal with False Weights and Balances and How Abominable they are to Yahovah,

 

“Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over, So that we may sell grain, And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, And to cheat with dishonest scales, So as to buy the helpless for money And the needy for a pair of sandals, And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?” Amos 8:4-6

 

“A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, He loves to oppress. And Ephraim said, “Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; In all my labors they will find in me No iniquity, which would be sin.” Hosea 12:7-8

 

“Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the LORD.” Proverbs 20:10

 

“A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.” Proverbs 11:1

 

“A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; All the weights of the bag are His concern.”  Proverbs 16:11

 

“Differing weights are an abomination to the LORD, And a false scale is not good.” Proverbs 20:23

 

Sadly, many people are so caught up in Americanism they can’t see any other way and call others who advocate such as socialist but which is furthest from the truth.  And it should be pointed out that America or even American ways are not always the right or biblical way.

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