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Saturday: Mustard Seeds

A few days ago, a couple hundred economists signed their names to a letter of support of Occupy Wall Street.  Here’s a video the group Econ4 has produced that explains why they did it:

There are a couple of interesting things to note in this video.  First, it appears like there has been a sort of censorship going on in various academic economics departments around the world in an attempt to suppress  more Keynesian voices.  Paul Krugman has frequently made reference to a related controversy, the Fresh Water vs Salt Water economists. The Fresh Water economists have gained the upper hand in policy matters and appointments in the past several decades.  Then there are the endowed chairs in the various economics departments funded by the friends of the Koch brothers.

Secondly, the economists aren’t suggesting that we dump capitalism.  What they are concerned with is income disparity, the widening gulf between the extremely rich and everyone else, and the basic human rights of working people, of everyone really.  That may manifest itself in a new and improved form of capitalism or some set of rules that level the playing field. Who know, I am not an economist but I’m willing to learn.  They have a new video up on econ4.org.  Check it out.

And by leveling the playing field, I don’t think anyone is talking about communism.  But we must re-establish that work has value and it should be rewarded accordingly.  At the moment, we reward the accumulation of wealth, which may or may not be the result of work of some kind, and we penalize people who work to make an living.

For those of you who aren’t independently wealthy and are still kissing the whip, thinking that your extraordinary virtues are what lead to your continued prosperity, pay close attention: The only reason you walk around smugly with a superior little smirk on your face is because you can pay the masters of the universe who own your mortgage and health insurance policy.  If that job ever goes away, through no fault of your own, you will know what it is like to live somewhere between poor and destitute.  Unless you are making your income exclusively from your investments, you are vulnerable.  Your virtues will not protect you.  If you are old enough to be living on social security and actually believe that you are safe from the people who want to terminate benefits for your adult children, think again.  The people who would reneg on their promises to your children who have worked decades for those benefits they will not see, are not going to spare you.  They will not stop until they get everything they want.  Fraud that is not followed by accountability and punishment is fraud that is just waiting for an opportunity to repeat itself.

More video:

John Dominic Crossan wrote The Historical Jesus (highly recommended).  He gives lectures throughout North America to reintroduce Jesus to people who think they know him.  (For example, Crossan doesn’t think Jesus set out to start a new religion.  Go ahead and laugh but I think he’s right.)  In this video, which is really just audio, Crossan goes over the meaning of the parables and what their purpose was. By the way, I am not religious at all and I think Crossan isn’t making a strictly religious argument.  But even those of us who are not religious can learn something from his study of the “matrix” of 1st century Palestine where Jesus was born.

Crossan starts off with an explanation of apocalypse and eschatology and if you listen carefully, he tells his audience why people who are waiting for the second coming to annihilate the wicked are wasting their time.  In first century Judea, there were plenty of groups that latched on to a “messiah” who prophesied the annihilation of the wicked, expecting that God would rescue them when the going got tough.  But the Romans always massacred them anyway. The authorities made a point of murdering any leader of an apocalyptic group. This is why John the Baptist was captured and beheaded. In this day and age, the political factions simply try to co-opt them.  But that’s not really what this lecture is about.  This lecture is about parables and it’s about an hour long.  The good part is buried in the middle.