Mocking Romney’s Mormon Self-Sufficiency, and What That Misses

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Amy Sullivan has an article on The New Republic’s website this morning, calling Mitt Romney “insufferably cheap,” and arguing that the “frugal quirks” which have been well-documented in recent news stories–according to the Washington Post, Romney “duct-tapes the holes in his gloves….rinses and stacks the dishes at the sink before loading the dishwasher after family holiday meals….picks up his own dry cleaning, pulls his own suitcase, eats at burger joints, counts his change”–reveal a “pathological” personality, make Romney “sound like a complete loon,” and “must make him a bit annoying to be around.” I respectfully disagree with all those claims. Far from making Romney seem like a tightwad jerk, learning about Romney’s devotion to personal penny-pinching–though only in some areas of his life–does more to make him seem to my eyes like an authentic human being I can relate to, than anything else that he’s done or has been said about him in all his years in the public eye. I’m not going to vote for him, but for the first time, I feel as though I kind of like the guy.

It surprises me to read Sullivan express such vehemence on this point, because the larger story about Romney’s inconsistent frugality is one that pertains, at least as much as to his personal habits and economic class, to his (and my) religious faith, and talking about faith and politics is one of the things which Sullivan has done long and well (even when I disagree with her). But in this case she misses the story entirely, despite David Campbell having opened the door to this argument in his contribution to the Washington Post piece. Campbell, the co-author of a sweeping analysis of American religious beliefs and their relevance to politics, and a Mormon like Romney and I, observes that in Mormonism “there is a strong egalitarian impulse….There’s no paid clergy, so you might very well have someone who is a schoolteacher as the bishop and within the flock investment bankers and neurosurgeons, but he’s the pastor and in charge. Beyond that, there’s this ethos of people being not just frugal, but also using foresight in their planning.” That might seem like a rather banal observation, and so one that Sullivan–whose focus in her article is both the supposed weirdness of a wealthy and successful presidential contender “sweating the small stuff, as well as the presumed hypocrisy of a multi-millionaire who talks about job creation yet refuses to hire a contractor to do some landscaping which he figures he could do himself–could ignore while building her argument. But actually Campbell’s comments–about both Mormonism’s ethic of frugal planning, and its often-unexplored egalitarian implications–provide a valuable insight to Romney’s mind.

Mormonism, as has been frequently noted, was for a decades a persecuted religion. It is also an American religion which found its lasting home, and developed many of its still-enduring practices and norms, in the at-the-time unsettled American West. The idealization of the sacrifices of 19th-century Mormon refugees and colonizers, and of the twin pioneer virtues of self-sufficiency and collective responsibility, remain vibrant throughout much of the Mormon church today. And for Romney, as the descendent of a branch of Mormons which actually fled to United States to Mexico to continue to live their faith, those principles of frugally sacrificing wants and comforts for the sake of securing long-range needs and goals would presumably being doubly-present in his thought. To be sure, this kind of frugality is hardly unique to Mormons; millions of people who lived through difficult times like the Great Depression and passed on those lessons to their children similarly embraced such homespun conservative and self-sufficient wisdom as “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” But what Sullivan misses is that, within the Mormon church, with its long-standing (and, yes, often ignored) encouragement of its members to plant gardens, to maintain long-term food supplies, and to eschew personal luxury (several of the prophetic figures in the Book of Mormon, following Isaiah, explicitly condemn fine clothing, and Joseph Smith himself, in one of his revelations included in our text the Doctrine and Covenants, urged church members to content themselves with plain clothing and those things they could make themselves), such frugal principles operate not as a call to cheapness, but to piety.

And not just a personal piety, but a cultural one: indeed, a counter-cultural one. And here is where Sullivan’s accusation of Romney’s inconsistency really missed the boat: she failed to recognize that the whole point of that frugality for Mormons, at least originally, was not to serve some sort of solely personal virtue, but to collectively bless the whole. The usually unstated but nonetheless clear reason for food storage was so that others–one’s family or neighbors or the whole congregation or community–would have stores to fall back on and share when bad harvests or outside forces threatened. Mormon cheapness–of sacrificing luxurious pleasures for limited and practical needs, of forgoing expensive expertise and learning instead to do without or do it oneself–was a function of the Zion-building ideal, of a community jointly sacrificing (by, for example, supporting the local Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution, rather than ordering through the Sears and Roebuck catalog) for the sake of the employment and income and sustenance of everyone else. This kind of economic ethic, which was an important supplement to the collectivized economics which early Mormons practiced throughout the 19th century, obviously runs counter to the entrepreneurial, expansive, debt-addicted, and acquisitive ethos of American capitalism today–and especially counter to the rapacious financial practice of “economic restructuring” which made Bain Capital and Mitt Romney his hundreds of millions. As Laura McKenna and many other writers have noted over the years since the economic meltdown of 2008, being frugal–doing your own laundry, growing your own food, traveling cheap, saving old clothes and furniture–is the truly counter-cultural idea of our moment, because it resists the presumptions of consumer capitalism itself. And of course, if there is one thing that Mitt Romney, in all his variations, has never been, it’s a cultural opponent of capitalism.

To be fair, our church isn’t much of one either any longer; despite the Mormon welfare program and its many other gestures towards economic equality and community, the ideal of Zion is mostly long gone from our practices today. So it really may well be that whatever Romney’s religious inheritance, his tight-fisted reputation has nothing to do with any kind of pioneer ethic, and have everything to do with just his own personal tastes and his father’s frugality; certainly his performance at the Republican National Convention, which on its final day highlighted the faith experiences and numerous examples of church service which have shaped Romney as a person, nonetheless not only didn’t connect that history with his faith’s communitarian legacy, but actually, if implicitly, pushed the opposite thesis: that Mormonism is as American as, well, business. And on that basis, perhaps Sullivan’s snarks at Romney’s cheapness rightly connect with the inconsistency between his habits and his economic message of job growth. Ultimately though, mocking Romney for his sometimes ham-fisted attempts at self-sufficiency misses the bigger picture. First, that self-sufficiency and frugality, assuming they don’t border on miserliness, are real personal virtues. And second, that Romney’s own faith long insisted strongly on personal responsibility….as part of larger projects of sacrifice, conservation, local production, and mutual support. Romney’s plan calls for selective austerity, but comparatively little by way of shared sacrifice. That’s the real scandal.

Comments

  1. Very nice article!

  2. Another real scandal is that so many people seem to think that government finances need to be administered with some kind of reference to the family budget. It is precisely when households are collectively paying down debt that government spending needs to increase (especially in a time of negative real interest rates) so that aggregate demand doesn’t collapse. If only Mitt Romney had learned the lessons of the great Mormon businessman and banker, Marriner Eccles.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yikes. The guy can’t do anything right, no matter how right it is. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .” . He does everything that a man should do, but he does nothing that a man should do. How can he possibly win with such double mindedness on the part of supposedly intelligent voters.

  4. Very nice, Russell.

  5. Any shared sacrifice which violates agency at some point becomes a disincentive for wealth creation.

  6. There was plenty of wealth creation when taxes were higher on the wealthy and businesses were more closely regulated. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few created a climate for financial insolvency that lead to the Great Depression and that will lead to another one if our national leaders, including congressional representatives, don’t start working together to solve the problem.

  7. Russ Frandsen says:

    Russell, i enjoyed your take. But you lost a lot of credibility by using the phrase “rapacious financial practice of “economic restructuring” which made Bain Capital and Mitt Romney his hundreds of millions”. Such a statement betrays a profound lack of understanding of the free market. The free market has been the greatest economic leveler ever. it has lifted billions of people out of poverty. it is based on free choice in a competitive market. it has resulted in an immeasurable cornucopia of goods and services to make our lives longer, healthier, richer and more joyful. The success of Bain Capital and other venture capital and private equity firms have benefited millions, particularly those who will rely on their pensions for retirement or those who rely on life insurance to protect them and their families. Pension funds and life insurance companies are the primary investors in firms such as Bain. Countless businesses, new business and new entrepreneurs, who come from very modest backgrounds, have good ideas that are financed by such financial firms. These good ideas when developed and brought to market benefit everyone. There is no system that can provide the same benefits to society as the free market and no system can bring about economic equality and higher standards of living better than the free market. The experience of the last four years should teach you that. The hundreds of billions of dollars of federal stimulus funding impoverished the taxpayers and enriched the chosen few who have the political connections to convince the government bureaucrats to send the money their way (think Solyndra, among many others, and the UAW). Crony capitalism and rent seeking are antithetical to the free market. Crony capitalism can only arise when government exercises power in the market place to confer favors upon those chosen by the government officials who wield the power.

    Bain Capital and other venture capital and private equity firms never forced one person to invest with them. They never forced one person or one bank to lend money to them. These transactions were entered into because all parties thought it would be beneficial to them. No customer was ever forced to buy any product or any service from any company that Bain invested in. A customer would only buy such product or service if the customer made a free judgment that buying the product or service would yield a benefit. No employee was every force to work for a company in which Bain invested. Bain saved a lot of jobs by investing in some companies about to go out of business. Bain’s companies created a lot of new jobs as these companies prospered and grew by offering goods and services of higher quality and lower prices than competitors, to the great benefit of consumers who bought them.

    Further, you say, “To be fair, our church isn’t much of one either any longer; despite the Mormon welfare program and its many other gestures towards economic equality and community, the ideal of Zion is mostly long gone from our practices today.” If this is the case where you live, then I truly feel sorry for you and your ward. It is not the case among the Saints where I live. In my stake, i see countless hours devoted to shared sacrifice, such as teaching ESL, job counseling, addiction counseling, teaching job skills, teaching seminary and institute, and the like. In our Stake, the Stake Presidency has renewed his call for all members to donate a generous fast offering. I see members contributing generously to the funds run by the Church and private foundations founded by Church members who are committed to helping our fellow Saints throughout the world. Look at the website of The Liahona Children’s Nutrition and Education Foundation as an example. There are numerous others founded by Latter-day Saints.

    The free market is not antithetical to communitarianism within the church. it is through the free market that LDS earn a surplus to be able to give to communitarian causes, such as fast offerings, the perpetual education fund, the humanitarian fund, the missionary fund, the Book of Mormon Fund, etc. The surpluses earned by the LDS in the free market in the U.S. are subsidizing and blessing the Saints throughout the world by providing meeting houses, temples, missionaries, health services and educational services.

    What has changed in the Church is that our communitarian efforts are no longer centrally directed, either on a Church wide basis or local basis. The legal structures and the applicable legal principles governing the national and state economies have greatly changed since the 19th century. The local or SLC centralization that Brigham Young attempted to institute in the 1870s was an utter failure and set back the Saints for a year or two until they wisely abandoned the experiment. The ideal of economic equality among the Saints does not require a centralized authority controlling economic activity. It is much more likely to be achieved to everyone’s benefit by Latter-day Saints who are “anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness”.

    I weep at the social injustice I see in parts of America and the world. I weep at the poverty in goods and spirit that exist today in parts of America. i am incensed by my sense of social justice at the misery, poverty and dependency existing in many parts of America. I am incensed at the calamity unfolding as the result of the breakdown of family structure – the two parent household as the ideal for raising families – and the federal and state programs that undermine and destroy that ideal. I am incensed at the welfare-union-government complex whose policies have had the (probably unintentional) result of creating dependency and trapping generations in cycles of poverty and despair.

    Let’s unleash the creativity of the private sector to solve these problems. In education, for example, let’s socialize the cost of the solutions (which we do now), but privatize the delivery of the solutions. For example, instead of funding education through top down politics-dominated education–union complex, give the money directly to parents to spend at private schools who will give the best educational value to their children. i am convinced to a moral certainty in my mind that by unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a social conscience, many entrepreneurs will spring up in our inner cities and in our ethnic communities to deliver quality education.

    Free market reforms could deliver great communitarian results, narrowing economic inequality and leading to better lives for all.

    Best regards,
    Russ Frandsen

  8. Russ, your halcyon vision of a free-market paradise in education has already partly arrived. Unfortunately it has a dark underside of fraud and deceit. Entrepreneurs are springing up all right, and paying themselves handsomely with taxpayer dollars. They are making millions regardless of whether anyone is educated or graduates, much like Romney paid himself extravagant “management” fees, often with the very debt that would inevitably lead those companies to failure.

  9. @ #6 Katie88: Katie you say, “There was plenty of wealth creation when taxes were higher on the wealthy and businesses were more closely regulated.”

    Oh really? Wow. And on what basis do you draw that conclusion? In whose estimation is whatever amount of wealth deemed to be “plenty of wealth creation” actually enough wealth created? And for whom is it enough? In YOUR estimation? YOU get to decide what is enough for everyone else?

    And who knows how much MORE wealth might have been created had there been less taxation and less over-burdensome regulation.

    You say, “The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few created a climate for financial insolvency that lead to the Great Depression and that will lead to another one if our national leaders, including congressional representatives, don’t start working together to solve the problem.”

    Uh, no it did not, and no, it will not. Wealth creation is not a zero-sum game. The result of wealth creation via specialization and free trade in the market place is the creation of an ever bigger wealth pie–the amount of wealth created and available for use and enjoyment becomes bigger and bigger such that the poor can end up richer and thus better off even if the gap widens and the already rich get much richer.

    The Great Depression was largely the result of a failed federal monetary policy.

  10. And I will add that well intentioned but ill-conceived government policies extended and exacerbated the depression.

  11. I’m curious.What got us out of the Depression?

  12. Aaron, World War II did. How? By the government focusing on real business building and not giving money away in hopes that businesses that had no business remaining alive stay open. There was a real need (no matter how nefarious someone thinks those needs might have been) that brought innovations. Once those needs were met, government let the businesses alone to grow (or fail) on their own.

  13. WWII was the closest the US has ever come to an entirely planned, state-controlled economy, with price controls, resource rationing, and almost insatiable government demand completely distorting markets. The war really was what pulled us completely out of the depression, but it was hardly a matter government just getting out of the way and letting markets work.

  14. Anonymous (#3),

    The guy can’t do anything right, no matter how right it is.

    But I stated right at the start of the post that I admire Romney’s frugality, and fault Sullivan using it to score cheap points about his being a tightwad, rather than thinking about the religious background which I think Romney’s career path has been at least partially unfaithful to. So I think he does do something right, he just doesn’t follow through.

    Gred D. (#5),

    Any shared sacrifice which violates agency at some point becomes a disincentive for wealth creation.

    By that line of reasoning, the public school system, public water utilities, and the fire department are all disincentives for wealth creation. Interesting argument; I’d wish you good luck with it, but I live in Wichita, home of the Koch brothers, and half my friends have been persuaded that we shouldn’t have an interstate highway system either, so I’d say that argument is doing just fine on its own.

    Russ (#7),

    The free market has been the greatest economic leveler ever.

    Yes it has been–but even it has its limits: http://www.nationaljournal.com/next-economy/essay-the-growing-income-gap-in-the-u-s-harms-the-economy-20120927

    In my stake, i see countless hours devoted to shared sacrifice, such as teaching ESL, job counseling, addiction counseling, teaching job skills, teaching seminary and institute, and the like. In our Stake, the Stake Presidency has renewed his call for all members to donate a generous fast offering. I see members contributing generously to the funds run by the Church and private foundations founded by Church members who are committed to helping our fellow Saints throughout the world. Look at the website of The Liahona Children’s Nutrition and Education Foundation as an example. There are numerous others founded by Latter-day Saints.

    Yes, and all that is wonderful–and I noted such in my original post, where I mentioned “the Mormon welfare program and its many other gestures towards economic equality and community.” But all those things don’t equal Zion–meaning, specifically, the sort of protectionist, plain-living, collective, egalitarian, home-made, redistributive, property-based, market-and-stewardship system which the church attempted to establish repeatedly throughout the 19th century, and which is, I think, pretty much inseparable from the Mormon legacy of frugality and self-sufficiency. We didn’t learn the value of the dollar because we were trying to survive on our own in the wilds of Wyoming; we learned to save and plan because we were working and sharing together to build an egalitarian Zion. And it is that, not the church welfare program, which I suggest Romney’s admirable budgeting practices doesn’t fully connect with.

    Jettboy (#12),

    I’m afraid Brad (#13) has it right; the WWII economy which pulled us out of the Great Depression was the most planned, socialistic, price-controlled, collective economy which has ever existed in this country. Your claim that the government only focused on “real businesses” during that time, or that they let those businesses “alone to grow (or fail)” afterwards, is simply inaccurate, as any casual consideration of the tight government-corporate ties which have characterize the aviation, nautical, space, highway, and armament industries ever since (citing President Eisenhower’s post-WWII “military-industrial complext” here).

  15. I’m kinda tired of the my political view of mormonism means so and so isn’t mormon enough thing. I understand that conservatives do that as well. It drives me crazy. I like the idea that we all believe in Christ and the prophet (and even some of us are just here for cultural reasons). I like that in that faith we can be very very different people, with different views and ideas.

    I’d love for the standard of the church to be “by this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”. I’d then like to not spend time analyzing if so and so is loving enough to qualify. Or if so and so loves in the exact way WE think they should. Our differences allow for us to understand different people and to meet their needs in a way no one else could.

    analyze his politics all you want. but why are we analyzing if his politics line up with your version of mormonism? and what would that mean if they didn’t? Do you get to define what is mormon enough?

    I’ve had zion like experiences. None of them have felt collective or socialist. They have felt personal. They have felt like a neighbor meeting the needs of a neighbor. They have felt like friends seeing a need and helping out. Frequently the solution was creative and unique. It wouldn’t work everywhere…but for that family, for that person-it was just the thing. For that reason I’m hesitant to define zion in a mass kinda way. but YMMV

  16. Anonymous says:

    Russell,

    How does one “follow through” enough to satisfy anyone?

  17. I take pride in the fact that my faith tradition has encouraged people to live frugally in a way that is separate from the world and in opposition to the materialistic culture currently espoused by the United States (and the rest of the Western world).

  18. LessonNumberOne (#15),

    analyze his politics all you want. but why are we analyzing if his politics line up with your version of mormonism? and what would that mean if they didn’t? Do you get to define what is mormon enough?

    These are good questions, but I’m not sure what the assumptions behind them are. Why analyze Romney’s political actions or personal habits to see if the they line up with my version of Mormonism? The same reason why I analyze Obama’s political actions and personal habits to see if they line up with my version of Mormonism–as well as my version of democratic socialism, and my version of patriotism, and my version of civility, and my version of fatherhood, etc. I am citizen, and I’m making a judgment; I use the information and the attitudes I have to do so, because to pretend I didn’t believe or value those things when judging someone would be silly. What does it mean that, in this particular case, Romney’s actions line up with something I think to be worthwhile but his political proscriptions for the country don’t? It means exactly what I said in the original post: that this news about Romney actually makes me like him a little more, but it doesn’t change my mind about not wanting to vote for them. Do I get to define what is “Mormon” enough? Enough for what? For baptism or a temple recommend? No. For my vote? Well, then of course I get to so define things–for me, that is, because the Mormonism (assuming I even want to use it as a basis of making a judgment about voting) I know about and accept and believe in is the only Mormonism available to me for making judgments in the first place.

    I’ve had zion like experiences. None of them have felt collective or socialist. They have felt personal.

    That’s wonderful–but of course, the “Zion” I made mention of in the original post had a very specific historical, doctrinal, and economic character, one that involve specific elements of socialist leveling, property redistribution, and collective frugality and responsibility. I have nothing to say about Romney’s level of person charity, which is obviously great; I only had something to say about the importance, but also the incompleteness, of Romney’s apparent drive for self-sufficiency, and the fact that Sullivan only mocked that frugality, and missed connecting it to larger religious story.

  19. Anonymous (#16),

    How does one “follow through” enough to satisfy anyone?

    Well, in my case, some consciousness of how the frugality and self-sufficiency which Romney apparently exhibits is, or should be, connected to the sort of economic leveling which would spread around the opportunity for others to similarly, and collectively, attain, or at least aspire to, similar self-sufficiency.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Russell,

    How does one create “economic levelling” without creating jobs? Are you sufficiently convinced of your position that you are willing to give up a substantial portion of your income to raise the standard of living of those “less fortunate” than yourself?
    The problem that we have is one of ability and capability. I know an individual who plays the options market, and recently turned $20,000 into $150,000 in a little over 2 months. I assume, that under your premise, I should be able to go to him and ask for a portion of that gain if I feel I have less than he does.
    If he decides to reinvest that money, which he did, is he helping or hurting the economy, and what is the impact on others respecting jobs and income? If he were to simply take that money out of circulation and redistribute it, what would be the gain to society?
    Thank you for the discussion.

  21. The fact that your friend pays fees and commissions on his options trades certainly helps create jobs at the options clearinghouse at at the brokerage through which he trades, but the trades themselves don’t represent a creation of wealth, rather a transfer or “redistribution”, if you will, since there are losers on the other side of all his winning trades.

    If he took his money out of circulation and hid it in a mattress society would not gain. If he redistributed it, that would actually be putting it back into circulation and society could gain in potentially innumerable ways.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Bill,

    Let’s suppose that this friend took his money and walked the streets handing it out to any and every individual that begged for money, and he gave each $5,000. The money is now out in circulation. Where will it end up?
    My argument falls along the line of “give a man a fish” . . .
    Redistribution is very difficult to achieve. Who does it? How do you prevent corruption among those who distribute it?
    Recent case I read in the paper was with respect to a food bank where those who ran it kept the best food for themselves, family and friends.
    In theory, redistribution sounds like a good thing, but how do you make it work in such a way that productivity doesn’t decrease, because there is nothingh in it for the worker?
    The problem to me seems that you would soon run out of other peoples money.

  23. “redistribution sounds like a good thing, but how do you make it work in such a way that productivity doesn’t decrease, because there is nothingh in it for the worker?”

    Good question, because the last thirty years has been a massive redistribution upward. From 1973-2011 worker productivity increased 80% while real median wages increased 4%. Almost none the rewards of increased productivity went to workers.

  24. This is my 3rd attempt to respond, Bill. It keeps kicking me out . . . perhaps an omen.
    Your point is correct, but we have to analyze the last 30 years and the causes. During the 70’s mutual funds became an avenue for the average investor to get into the stock market. With the billions of dollars coming into the market and the rise of boomernomics, the price of stocks began to rise because of supply and demand. Then the markets developed the “street” where so-called analysts began to determine what corporations should make, and created a false expectation, causing companies to lose value even when they were making a profit. Competition came in the form of the bottom line, ergo rewarding the investor, not the worker.
    This led to an increase in crony capitalism whereby winners and losers were determined by politicians, because businesses ran to gov’t to try to gain an advantage over the competition. Thus the demise of any form of free capitalism and the advent of corporate socialism with jobs eventually shipped overseas and manufacturing greatly reduced. The gov’t kept stepping in to create solutions – ah, the proverbial transfer of wealth to assure re-elction.
    So along comes the Community Reinvestment Act, first devised by Carter, but not enacted until 1993 under Clinton and Reno. Through various bills introduced by politicians, the requirement to make at least 5% of mortgages available to sub-prime candidates rose to 50% by the time Bush came on the scene and finally finished somewhere around 56% by the the end of his term.
    This redistribution of funds from the average investor, thru money market funds, to those less fortunate illustrates the effects of redistribution and the consequences.
    How many people lost their pensions and homes because of this massive redistribution of wealth and the collapse of their investments, and now fall into the have not category requiring help? How many homes and lives have been ruined? How much have the poor gained by this acton, aside from the fact that banks are required to still provide subprime candidates at least 5% of their mortgages.
    It appears that with all the QE that has taken place, they have finally run out of other peoples money. QE3 is designed to buy up all those subprime mortgages indefinitely . . . all on borrowed money. Yup, redistribution works for me.

  25. Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around, although stagnant wages in a time of rising productivity are probably more a result of the decline in unions and the rise of globalization and cheap foreign labor than the litany of financial misdeeds you catalogue.

    Incidentally, the idea that the CRA was principally responsible for the mortgage crisis has been pretty well debunked. In fact, the vast majority of subprime loans were made not by banks governed by the CRA, but by the completely unregulated mortgage lenders. Most of the low-income loans under the CRA were traditional fixed-rate mortgages, not subprime.

    The insatiable demand for subprime came from Wall Street who securitized the mortgages, slicing and dicing and putting them into tranches of the magic derivative, the collateralized debt obligation, which they then bullied the pliant and complicit ratings agencies to label AAA and sold them off to institutional investors in Europe and Asia. Some of the dumb banks (Lehman, Merrill, Citi) kept a lot of the toxic paper on their own books and leveraged their capital 30 and 40 to 1 so that the slightest downtick would bring them to their knees.

  26. RAF.
    he difficulty I have with socialistic leveling being a descripton of zion is that I associate socialism with compulsion. Compulsion does not inspire or encourage the love necessary for zion. it is the difference between someonetaking something you ahve and you choosing to give. Can see people entering socialism with the desire to give…but it would be difficult to maintain that desire under a system of compulsion. Zion to me is a choice. A minute by minute choice to love everyone around you.

    My Association of compulsion with socialistic leveling makes it difficult for me to connect it to zion. i also don’t like the leveling concept. Everyone does not need the same things. I have 9 children. Myfriend has 3. i hope there is no leveling s to how many beds per household. i assume that is not what you mean by leveling…but it is my initial thought. The needs of individuals are best met by individuals.

    You are free to decide whether romney is living or legislating according to your concept of zion…but the OP implies he isn’t living up to mormonism…in the harry reid quote way. Perhaps I am misunderstanding that.

  27. Bill,
    CRA argument has not been debunked, just argued poorly. It is the CRA, through Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, and the legislators and legislation that I mentioned that allowed the corrupt practices by the big banks to occur.
    Today, most people believe that the U.S. currency is too big to fail, and will always remain the #1 currency in the world. Not true and we are about to experience the consequence of that faulty thinking.
    Any attempt that has been made to redistribute has always resulted in a direction down. It doesn’t work. It can’t work, because it disincentivises people, rather than motivate them.
    Zion works because of the spiritual benefits that are seen as real. Redistribution offers no reward.

  28. “It is the CRA, through Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, and the legislators and legislation that I mentioned that allowed the corrupt practices by the big banks to occur.”

    This is simply not true.

  29. Yes it is. I can provide an argument for every counter argument you give. If legislation had not been passed that mandated sub-prime mortgages it wouldn`t have escalated.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-12/about-those-policies-that-got-us-into-this-mess-caroline-baum.html

  30. Russell, whose track record shows wisdom and maturity in managing money? There is no contest there. How can Obama lead us any greater in the next 4 yrs? It’s time to pass the baton to someone who has an incredible track track on many levels. A man who counts his change thinks like a millionaire. Why should that be judged as odd? It’s a perversion of thinking, when we consider Gov Romney’s $280 million bankroll. Even Russians are mocking Obama’s Marxism and publishing articles in their papers about how his Marxist ideas will lead us to a destructive end. I encourage you and everyone to choose the person who has the greatest leadership skills and experience. The past 4 yrs have taught Pres Obama many things. But it hasn’t groomed him to lead the greatest nation in the world. I saw in him prior to his election, that he lacked experience and maturity to lead on various levels I urge people to vote for the best man for the job, Mitt Romney. I am not a Mormon so I am not choosing Romney on the basis of his spiritual character alone, but also by his experience and achievements. What has Pres Obama achieved financially in his own life, compared with Gov Romeny? We need a leader who has the skills to manage this nation financially.

  31. Alena,

    Amen!!!

  32. LessonNumberOne (#26),

    The difficulty I have with socialistic leveling being a descripton of Zion is that I associate socialism with compulsion.

    That’s not a false association, though it is a limited one. The various state socialisms of the USSR, PRC, and Eastern Europe use terror, to lesser or greater degrees, to create their collectivist ends–that’s undeniable. But there are many socialisms which don’t use state power to accomplish their ends, or at least use state power democratically, or perhaps use other community forms to “compel” certain results. Cases in point: the nations of Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, etc., all of whom have far more “socialistic” tax schemes, health care systems, etc., but only someone who only gets their news from Glen Beck would conclude that every person who lives in those countries are suffering under the tyrannical boot of “socialist compulsion.” Other cases in point: Kanab, Orderville, Brigham City, St. George, and a dozen other Utah communities that, to varying degrees, instituted collectivized systems of economy in order to level out differences between the rich and the poor and jointly, frugally, achieve Zion. There was no coercion in the state power sense at work in those communities, but there was plenty of community/priesthood/peer pressure at work nonetheless; certainly some people in those communities no doubt felt “compulsed,” in the same way citizens who vote less socialistic parties probably feel “compulsed” in Sweden. Basically, your concern is valid, but it needs to consider the many forms of “compulsion” out there.

    I also don’t like the leveling concept. Everyone does not need the same things.

    Then you and the architects of Mormon efforts at collectively, frugally, building Zion, agree. The “leveling” that I spoke of was of eliminating the differences between the rich and the poor, by making all equally responsible for the sufficiency of the community; the idea was never (well, almost never) to actually provide everyone with the same property and the same stewardships. There would be inequalities in a Zion; they just wouldn’t matter socially speaking, because the grounds for social differentiation on the basis of wealth would have been eliminated, because the wealth of the community would be collective. Incidentally, Marx thought the same way; income equality for him was far, far less important than social equality.

    the OP implies he isn’t living up to Mormonism

    I really don’t think I implied that; my aim was to suggest that his frugality, to the extent it can be connected (as I believe it can be) to our pioneer heritage actually tells a story of someone not fully embracing the lessons of that heritage. Which I don’t think Romney does. (I don’t either, to be sure, but then, I 1) am not running for president, and 2) didn’t have Amy Sullivan write an article mocking my frugality in The New Republic.

  33. Alena (#30),

    Whose track record shows wisdom and maturity in managing money? There is no contest there.

    I agree; it’s Obama by a mile. I mean, sure, Romney has managed more money than Obama ever has, as much (on the basis of what tax returns can tell us) as a thousand times more. But, as you say, consider their overall track records. Romney came from money, had a significant inheritance, lots of family support, lots of economic and social privileges, worked hard, got through a lot of doors on Wall Street via his connections, and made a ton of dough. Obama came from broken family, single mother on government support, a bi-racial kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, no family connections or inheritance to speak of, and yet got good grades, got into a good college, a law degree from a top university, developed a talent for writing and speaking, and managed to eventually pay off his credit cards and student loans, get himself and his family a nice apartment in downtown Chicago, and do very well for himself. Considering their starting points, when it comes to showing wisdom and maturity in managing money, Obama’s discipline speaks pretty loudly for itself.

  34. Russell,

    Romney inherited a significant inheritance? What is your source? My understanding is he gave it all away.
    As for Obama, everything you quote is false. His father was a very influential man from his home country and his fathers going to Harvard wasn’t a poor man’s journey. Obama’s mother did not remarry a poor man, and we don’t know what Obama’s grades were in school at any point. We do know that a Saudi prince got him into University. He had excellent connections and spent time with Bill Ayers family before going to school. He was groomed to the position by his handlers.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the word from Germany on redistribution.http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/how-central-banks-are-threatening-the-savings-of-normal-germans-a-860021.html
    And from Scotland ; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/scottish-politics/9593135/Nine-in-ten-Scots-living-off-states-patronage.html
    Again, the problem with redistribution is that you soon run out of other people’s money.

  36. Anonymous says:
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