Posted by: mattcolvin | November 30, 2011

“The world’s champion corporation”: Isaiah 5:8-24

Friday of the first week in Advent: Isaiah 5:8-24.

“Woe to those who join house to house;
They add field to field,
Till there is no place
Where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!”

This verse is a very direct challenge to one of the unspoken assumptions of some North American political conservatives. The Bible does not endorse the view that “greed works” or “greed is good.” Wendell Berry sums this view up succinctly: “The cardinal principle of the free market is unrestrained competition, which is a kind of tournament that will decide which is the world’s champion corporation. Ultimately, thanks to this principle, there will be only one corporation, which will be wonderfully simplifying. After that, we will rest in peace.” (Preface to Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community.)

The Biblical ideal of the perfect economy (not necessarily attainable in this life) may be summed up with two verses: “Every man with his vine and fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25 and “he who tends the fig tree shall eat of the figs” (Prov. 27:18). That is, everyone has meaningful work, and enjoys the fruit of his labor.

As for what economic system comes closest to this ideal, I don’t know, for I am not an economist. It sounds a little like G.K. Chesterton’s distributism distributivism. But it seems certain to me that Isaiah 5 indicts the idea of bigness for bigness’ sake.


  1. Three cheers for distributivism! (I prefer the -ism with the “v.”) For readers unfamiliar, Belloc’s “Economics for Helen” is a good, simple introduction.

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