Wednesday, March 8, 2006

B. T. ROBERTS' ECONOMICS

MONEY MATTERS ARE HEART MATTERS. Earlier this week, I got to spend some time with a rare copy of B. T. Roberts little book First Lessons on Money (1886). Though it seems a bit of an an apology of Adam Smith’s economic philosophy, the book offers insights into the Free Methodist founder’s leadership on issues of markets, debt, and economic justice. Roberts, like John Wesley, saw in such matters an outworking of Christian love--reflecting God's loving justice and loving neighbor as self.

AGAINST MONOPOLY. For instance, in First Lessons on Money Roberts disparages unnecessary mergers and acquisitions for their negative impacts on workers and the market. “Monopolies,” he says, “whatever may be their form, operate against the welfare of the community at large." He advocates for a money market over against a paper- and/or stock-based market. He cautions against undue indebtedness. Regarding inherited money, Roberts declares that “our laws should make it difficult for one man to amass a vast fortune and it in his family from generation to generation.”

IN WHOSE INTEREST? Regarding influence peddling, he says, “the people should see to it that their representatives in Congress pass laws in their interest, and not in favor of the moneyed class and rich corporations to the injury of community generally.” He promotes “systematic benevolence” and quotes the enduring dictum of John Wesley: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”

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