On Huffington Post, there is a new article titled: “Five Things Christian Fundamentalists Just Don’t Get”. It is approximately the quality and intelligence one would expect from an organization who regularly ignores the entire established science of economics. This particular article discusses five points in which the author believes that Christians “just don’t get it”. Pointing to one example, it is clear that the author just does not get it.
Jesus proclaimed several things about the “rich”. He stated that it was easier for them to “go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” and that they should “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor”. Ignoring the fact that Jesus was teaching people to prepare for an imminent coming physical Kingdom which never came, the verse still does not lend weight to the author’s premise that Americans should support food stamps and welfare.
It should be obvious to any historian that the “rich” of Jesus’ day were hundreds of times worse off than the modern American poor. The best statistics we have on relative standards of living is the data from Angus Madison. Although Israel does not have a number for 1 AD, Iraq does. It is listed at $500 per capita income. In other words, living the average life in Iraq during the first century would be like living off of $500 in 1990 America. This would be not receiving American welfare supplements.
In 1990, Americans had a GDP per capita of $23,000. Doing the math and reaching a conclusion that 1990 was 43 times better than 1 AD is extremely misleading as well. Russ Roberts points out that from 1900 to today we are over 30 times better off (Angus Madison puts 1900 at $4100 per capita). Not only does the nominal number hide much of what makes life valuable, it does not even take into account the infinite tangibles that make modern life better than in the past.
Anyone familiar with the real lives of the ancient rich understands that they were miserably poor by today’s standards. They rode in carriages or on horses. They died young of disease. They had high infant mortality. Even their advanced dentistry looks barbaric. The ancients had no access to instant communication, television, cell phones, grocery stores (which provide choice unimaginable to even Caesar). They did not have access to international travel. If they did it was slow and barbaric: they would often get robbed and killed. To illustrate this point, David Henderson has an excellent article on this titled “The Top One Percent Includes You”.
The point is that when Huffington Post tried pretend that what Jesus called “the rich” is the same group which modern leftists call “the rich”, then Huffington Post is ignorantly wrong. Jesus would label most or all of America as “rich”, especially those being paid by the government not to work. But the leftists would rather have a “Jesus agrees with my social policy of forcible redistribution of wealth” than explore the context of Jesus’ statement. In other words: They are liars and the truth is not in them.