Economic Choices: Choosing one thing over another, and paying the price for it.

Most of a comment made in a thread over at By Common Consent.  The dear friend might recognize herself in this description.  Some of this won’t make sense without reading over at least some of the thread, and some won’t make sense to people not familiar with Mormonism.  Sorry.

Costs and benefits. Sacrifice. Quid pro quo — something for something. Very basic economic concepts. We get what we want by doing something we don’t want to do, and wouldn’t do if it didn’t bring us what we want.

I remember a talk given by a dear friend of mine who described a time in her life where her family raised rabbits to supplement their food budget, because cash was so very tight, and rabbits happen to be a cost-effective way of producing dietary protein. She spoke of the day that she involved her young sons in killing the rabbits they were eating, so they would understand directly the sacrifice being made for their benefit. So they could see the price being paid for their lives.

All of us buy our lives in a similar fashion. Our meat comes at the price of death for the animals we consume. Our goods come at the price of the time and effort of those who make them and distribute them. Our market-based economy has been an engine which has produced vast amounts of wealth, and distributed it over a very wide area, with some large clumps showing up here and there, and some areas not getting much at all. What Nat is pointing out is the places where very little of this wealth reaches, but where significant amounts of it are produced. That suffering and injustice is as real as the bodies of the animals we eat, and, sadly, waste all too much of. If you don’t like to think about the price others pay for the goods you like, tough. Grow the hell up, and learn what two young boys learned at the hands of their mother more than twenty years ago.

The fourth fold of the four-fold mission of the Church is to care for the poor. Some of that will involve teaching them to fish, and a great deal of that is being done. Some of that involves buying them the gear they need to fish with — I like microlending outlets like kiva.org for supporting those kinds of efforts in a bite-sized fashion. And some of that involves giving them fish, knowing they will never be able to provide for their own physical needs. I am a big fan of people pulling themselves up by their boot-straps, but I also see people who don’t yet have any boot-straps, and some who never will. If you don’t see them, it’s because you don’t wish to, and that is your failing.

Whatever we have comes from God. He gives us things to see what we will do with them. And he gives us the chance to promise to consecrate all we have for the building up of his kingdom. I have promised to do so, as have many here. I believe we will be made to account for how well we’ve kept that promise.

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