Hmm. What if these things were all related somehow?
Sing a Song of Sixpence
Pretend you wanted to create a common pool of money for your extended family. We'll call it The Family Piggy Bank ("FPB").
The idea is for everyone to contribute what they can into a joint fund so that when a family member has a special need they can receive financial assistance from the FPB.
The king was in his counting house Counting out his money; The queen was in the parlour, Eating bread and honey.
1. Who will be in charge of deciding whether someone qualifies for a distribution from the FPB? Father, or grandfather? Mother or sister? A committee of crazy uncles?
2. What sorts of things will be covered? Ongoing monthly expenses? One time emergencies?
3. What if a habitually-needy member drains the FPB? Is there a cap on how much a single member can receive?
4. What if so-and-so never contributes anything to it; can they still withdraw from the FPB?
5. Will the money in the FPB be invested, and if so, who gets to decide how it will be invested? Should it be in low-bearing interest bonds or in risky stocks?
6. Should the names of those receiving assistance be kept confidential?
7. What rights do members of the family have to an accounting of the funds? Should there be transparency or secrecy?
8. Should the money in the FPB be given as a gift, or should it be given as a non-interest bearing loan? If loans, what happens if a family member doesn't repay their debt?
The maid was in the garden Hanging out the clothes, When down came a blackbird And pecked off her nose.
It is easy to give away money.
And it is easy to be generous with other people's money. Is it hard to write a check to the church, or to our favorite charity, and forget about it? But if we wash our hands of how the money is spent, how can the hearts of the giver and receiver be united? How does it sanctify the offering so God can be glorified?
Paying our dues is not where our duty ends, it is where it begins!
The example of a family slush fund (FPB) is actually real. In my family we floated the idea around. But it never happened because there were too many concerns about fairness and how the money would be administered.
Yes, even in the close and loving environment of a family we were unable to create a simple trust fund.
Why did we fail?
Now include a couple more families and you get the idea. The challenge we face is learning to love each other more than we love "fairness."
Our Fairness Bone
I think we were all born with a funny bone and a fairness bone. We hit our fairness bone every day. "But I walked the dog yesterday!" "She got a raise?" "I've stood in line longer than they have."
Was it fair for Christ to descend below all? Was it fair for him to suffer for our sins? Was his forgiveness fair? No.
Are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have?
O then, how ye ought to impart of your substance that ye have one to another.
(Mosiah 4:19, 21)
Outsourcing our alms does not help us learn how to do that. How to love each other. It does not get us closer to Zion.
When the pie was opened The birds began to sing; Wasn't that a dainty dish, To set before the king.
Inequality is Like a Common Cold
Have you ever wondered why haven't we discovered a cure for the common cold? We've solved polio, smallpox and lots of other things.
Well, there is no such thing as "the" common cold. Immunologists believe there are at least 160 strains of rhinovirus running around, so we really need 160 differentcures. That's a lot of shots. We haven't been able to solve inequality because, like the common cold, there are too many causes. For starters:
Differences in wages Differences in productivity Differences in the labor market Differences in education Differences in ability Differences in government control Differences in gender Differences in technology Pride Idleness Selfishness
One of the most interesting observations in the Book of Mormon comes just before the collapse of Nephite society:
Some were lifted up unto pride and boasting because of their exceedingly great riches . . .
For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers.
And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning.
(3 Nephi 6:10-12)
Several years ago my brother recommended I read a book by French economist Thomas Piketty. The book is called Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
I went to the local library and checked it out. I read some of it, but most of it was over my head. I do remember one thing: having wealth makes it easier to accumulate more wealth (seems obvious). This process is called "wealth concentration." Over time, wealth consolidates in fewer individuals, who pass it to their children, and the cycle continues.
Amazingly, I think we know the solution. It was taught by Christ 2000 years ago. It was highlighted 200 years ago.
The issue is not that we don't know what to do; so why don't we do it?
It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold, this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
For the earth is full, and there is enough to spare; yea, I prepared all things and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
And there we have it. The answer.
Simple as pie.
Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds, Baked in a pie.