Leviticus on what is due the poor

"Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God." -- Leviticus 19:9-10

The context of the quote is the Lord laying down a series of laws to Moses for the Israelites. This passage declares that the poor have a right to this minimal subsidy from the better off, and that the better off have no right to withhold it.

The Bible, at least, does not endorse the view that any property taking without the consent of the property owner is theft: sometimes, others have a right to part of one's property.

41 comments:

  1. Well, that's all nice and good. Can you prove the case?

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    1. What, are we doing geometry now?

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    2. "Can you prove the case?"

      "are we doing geometry now?"

      Maybe he means that we are going to put God on trial for (alleged) violations of the NAP. If so, it's a fool's errand. God has influenced swathes of judges with eternal salvation, which he can revoke at any time. Thus, in an Ancap justice system, he represents an unassailably legitimate authority.

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  2. Huh?! If you've got some massive surplus for your communities needs then hell yeah - leave some for the poor. Is that what life was like then? really? So why not gather the extra and turn it in to bread and give that to the poor.
    Here's the thing - if that perfect surplus harvest just appeared then fine it could be said to be collective or common ownership property. But... economic goods DON'T. JUST. APPEAR. You Lefties really need to start learning this point - and so it would seem did Leviticus.

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    1. Hey, Sean, you know what else DID. NOT. JUST. APPEAR? Your capabilities. Your knowledge of language. Your social skills, as minimal as they seem to be. The technology you use. Your education. You righties really need to start learning this point.

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    2. "But... Economic goods DON'T. JUST. APPEAR."

      Not sure why, but the constant use of economic terminology is rather repulsive to me.

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  3. "...you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger."

    How do you interpret that as the needy/stranger having a superior right? The command is to take some of *your* stuff and give it to them. To be Godly one must do it, but there is certainly nothing in that passage that implies that the stranger/needy have a superior claim to those goods.

    For the record, I don't disagree with the morality of giving but that is very different from saying the stranger/needy have a right to what has been produced.

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    1. "Nor shall you..."

      You have no right to do so.

      It is really pretty straightforward.

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    2. It is straightforward. People need to look up glean and reap. It is quite quite clear that the field's owner is, per this command, not entitled to that bit of the harvest but must leave it for the poor to gather.

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    3. I suppose this is how denominations get started...

      Nevertheless, I interpret it differently. The stranger/poor do not have a superior claim. God - an omnipotent being - is ordering the owner to do something with that which he owns.

      "Now when you reap the harvest of *your* land, you shall not reap to the very corners of *your* field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of *your* harvest. Nor shall you glean *your* vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of *your* vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God."

      It is clearly *yours* to do with as *you* please but face the wrath of God for disobeying.

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  4. Gene hang on a second. In this post, you are purposely going out of your way to say that this isn't merely an ethical or moral duty, but is a RIGHT in the way that term is being used in modern political debates.

    Then when people challenge you on that part, you act as if an order from God and a political "right" are self-evidently the same thing.

    No, they're not. If you want to make a blog post saying, "The way Rothbardians and others use the term 'right' is very misleading, indeed they say 'right' which is a loaded term!" then I will support you. But as it is this post seems a complete non sequitur to me. You are obliterating the distinction between rights and moral duty without appearing to realize it.

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    1. It is hard for me to imagine what would give someone a better right to X than that the creator of the universe says,"You're entitled to X."

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    2. "…obliterating the distinction between rights and moral duty…"

      That's sort of the snag, though, isn't it? The roles of duty-holder and right-holder are just switched around in this case.

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    3. So if someone takes my tunic, he has a right to my cloak as well? And libertarians should stop saying, "You own your clothes" because that's just plain silly?

      It's not even that I'm disagreeing with you here, I just don't like the way you're acting like your interpretation is the only conceivable one.

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    4. "It is hard for me to imagine what would give someone a better right to X than that the creator of the universe says,"You're entitled to X." "

      Murray Rothbard, duh.

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    5. "So if someone takes my tunic, he has a right to my cloak as well?"

      I don't understand this at all.

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    6. "You are obliterating the distinction between rights and moral duty without appearing to realize it."

      I think God did that. That's the whole idea of Torah.

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    7. Jesus said (paraphrasing) "If someone takes your tunic, give them your cloak as well." So Bob is saying, if you subscribe to the principle that any order by God translates into an entitlement, then the person would be entitled to your cloak as well.

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    8. Got it!

      But very different example: in Leviticus, God is giving laws.

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    9. I thought Christians going back to the early fathers of the Church believe that what Jesus told people to do in the Sermon on the Mount constitute laws of the new covenant.

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    10. This is why objections to positive rights—which I don't necessarily agree with, myself—breakdown: they are an assertion that the holder of the property right in X, an object which use to belong to person A, is now person B. this is similar to the points Gene has made about taxation—the money raised from taxation belongs to the government. Imagine me raising this objection in ancap court: "Restitution is theft!".

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  5. Bob Murphy wrote
    "It's not even that I'm disagreeing with you here, I just don't like the way you're acting like your interpretation is the only conceivable one."

    Let's think about the context. What is happening in Leviticus? The Jews are getting the Law. Not just useful regulations they might want to adopt, but moral and legal commandments. The distinction between morality and law is not something that's a big deal in these books. So when God says "Don't glean your vineyard, you must leave that for the poor" how is he NOT saying that you are not entitled to those gleanings, but that they, for whom you must leave them, are? If you deny this you deny the entire premise of The Law and the covenant.

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  6. At least at first glance, how I read it is that you have an obligation to leave something for the poor. But I don't see how that implies that if you neglect that obligation and don't leave anything for the poor, then that portion of your property can be legitimately taken away from you against your will and given to the poor. Isn't that what the Rothbardians are really disputing?

    But I think you could easily find more convincing quotes that definitively show that the Bible authorizes violations of the Rothbardian non-aggression principle.

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    1. Failing to fulfill an obligation justifies legal remedies. (One may not want to impose them in some cases, but they are justified. That is what it is for something to be an obligation, rather than a good idea.)

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    2. To me what distinguishes an obligation from a good idea is that it is wrong not to follow an obligation, whereas it is not wrong not to do a good deed. And don't a lot of libertarians believe that you have the right to do wrong?

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  7. Leviticus also says women who cheat on their husbands should be stoned.

    And that gays should be put to death.

    Gene Callahan has now sunk to Westboro Baptist level of reasoning.

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    1. Jeez, KPRes, I didn't realize I was engaged in any form of "reasoning" at all: I thought I was just noting what it said in Leviticus.

      But since that, for you, is apparently "reasoning," two can play this game:

      "KPres notes that Leviticus tsays homosexuals should be put to death.

      "KPres has now sunk to Westboro Baptist level of reasoning!"

      Wow, but doing that would be really moronic and annoying, wouldn't it?

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    2. I think what KPres is trying to say is that you could make an analogous argument concerning those laws in Leviticus. Just as you're saying that the Bible does not accept the notion that people have a right to all their property, can't you similarly say that the Bible does not accept the notion that people who engage in sodomy have a right to life?

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    3. "you could make an analogous argument"

      But MathMan, I AM NOT MAKING ANY ARGUMENT!!!! I am noting this was said in Leviticus.

      "Just as you're saying that the Bible does not accept the notion that people have a right to all their property, can't you similarly say that the Bible does not accept the notion that people who engage in sodomy have a right to life?"

      Yes, I would similarly say this, in fact, since those things are said there.

      Both of you have confused my post, which could be summarized as:

      "Interesting: Leviticus does not seem to regard compulsory collections for the poor as theft"

      with a very different post, which says:

      "Leviticus does not seem to regard compulsory collections for the poor as theft, THEREFORE IT IS NOT."

      Note that last part is 100% missing from my post, and was entirely filled in there by your minds.

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    4. Well, I'd assume that you wouldn't consider something theft which the creator of the universe said was not theft.

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    5. Ooh, boy, MathMan, really? Really?

      You really don't get the difference between arguing about what the passage in Leviticus is supposed to be saying, and arguing "Because it said X, X must be right"?!!

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    6. Gene, no, I'm not saying that arguing about what Leviticus says is tantamount to arguing that it must be right about what it says. What I am saying is that given your worldview, it seems like YOU would believe that Leviticus is right concerning what the rights of Man are, even if you didn't argue it in the post.

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    7. What worldview would that be, Mathman? That everything in the Bible is to be taken literally and followed without question? So you suspect that I am in favor of stoning adulterers as well?

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    8. And even if you were right about my "worldview" (which you are not), that would have nothing to do with what I said IN THIS POST.

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    9. Gene, I don't think you're a literalist at all (you've written many posts on the subject), and I don't think that you believe that we should all just blindly do what the Bible tells us, but I assume you do subscribe to the following two propositions:

      1. There is a definite fact of the matter is to what the fundamental rights of Man are, and those rights do not change depending on what culture you live in or the time period. .

      2. God cannot possibly be wrong when he gives his opinion of what the rights of Man are.

      Am I wrong about that?

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    10. Let's set aside points 1 and 2. The elephant in the room is that, if one does not accept biblical inerrancy, what Levicticus tells us God said may not be what God said.

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    11. OK, sorry for the confusion, I didn't consider that alternative. I knew that you didn't accept literalism and sola scriptura, but I forgot that you don''t accept biblical inerrancy concerning what God said.

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  8. Overheard:
    Libertarian: God is on the side of inviolable property rights.
    Man named Gene: Really? What about Leviticus?
    Libertarain: Greensboro cloak!

    At that point I wondered away and didn't hear the rest. But I gave the man called Gene a sympathizing look before I left.

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  9. On a related note, I've heard about people leaving the Church over stuff like this and what the Pope has recently said.

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