Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Biblical Roots of “From Each According to Ability; To Each According to Need”

Earlier this month, Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson appeared on Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox News network. Hannity is a notorious blowhard who constantly interrupts and steamrolls his guests and attempts to play “gotcha” with them. He was true to form when “interviewing” (if you can call it that) Marianne, who, to her credit, more than held her own. “She was quick and clever and delivered,” noted one YouTube commenter in the days after the segment was broadcast. “She actually demolished Sean on his own show,” said another.

At one point when pressing Marianne on the type of economic system she supports, Hannity attemptd a gotcha moment by trying to get her to agree with the following quote by Karl Marx.

From each according to ability;
to each according to need.

Marianne clearly did not recognize the quote as coming from Marx, which was a pity as she could have turned it around on Hannity, a self-avowed Christian, by highlighting that this particular phrase has its roots in the Bible.

In a 2021 article for The Conversation, Belgian philosopher Luc Bovens notes that although the phrase “From each according to ability; to each according to need” was popularized by Marx (left) in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program, its origins are in eighteenth and nineteenth-century France where a number of philosphers – “all committed Christians whose social programs were inspired by their faith” – borrowed versions of the phrase “from French Bible translations of the time, and defended them on scriptural grounds.”

Following is an excerpt from Bovens’ article.

“To each according to needs” comes from the Book of Acts documenting the practices of early Christian communities in Jerusalem. In the Book of Acts, believers “were together and had all things in common” and sold their possessions and distributed the proceeds within the community “as any had needs.”

In French philosopher Étienne Cabet’s utopian novel Voyage en Icarie, Cabet tells of a fictional community who practice similar communal living arrangements. He later went to the U.S. and founded a number of “Icarian communities” in the second half of the 19th century, that practiced communal ownership of goods and were governed by egalitarian ideals.

“From each according to ability,” is likewise found in the Book of Acts: “So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.” Cabet and [French socialist politician] Louis Blanc both construed this phrase as a call for Christian servitude. They believed society to be a cooperative venture in which people of means should contribute more.

“To each according to ability” is in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Parable of the Talents, a master gives his servants different amounts of money – or “talents” – and goes away on a journey: “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Upon his return, he praises the servants who have invested and increased their allotment but condemns the one who buried the money and simply returned it.

For [French political theorist] Henri de Saint-Simon, the phrase meant putting jobs and resources in the hands of the most qualified and entrepreneurial people and taking them away from nobility. This would lead to greater productivity, benefiting everyone, and in particular, the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in society.

. . . [Today] “To each according to need” can be applied to the debate over health care. The aim is to take the provision of health care away from market forces and to make it freely accessible to all who need it. “From each according to ability” is what underlies a concern for the common good and a conception of society as a cooperative venture, with mandatory public service as a matching policy proposal.

“To each according to ability” is at the core of equal opportunity – an ideal that underlies affirmative action legislation and various policies to increase the accessibility of college. “To each according to work” maps onto the ideal of equal pay for equal work and the push for minimal wage policies, mainly benefiting manual labor jobs.

To read Luc Bovens’ article, “‘From Each According to Ability; To Each According to Need’ – Tracing the Biblical Roots of Socialism’s Enduring Slogan,” in its entirety, click here.

In conclusion, here’s “Good Politic Guy”’s insightful analysis of Marianne Williamson’s recent appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.

Related Off-site Links:

Debate Us, Mr. President – Marianne Williamson (Newsweek, May 31, 2023).
Marianne Williamson Blasts DNC for Doing Everything to “Make It Easier” for Biden – Ryan King (Washington Examiner, May 29, 2023).
For Marianne Williamson, the Bernie Sanders Lane Looks Wide Open – Mini Racker (TIME, May 25, 2023).
Marianne Williamson Wants to Introduce a New Politics to DC – Maximillian Alvarez (The Real News Network, May 18, 2023).
How Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Compare to Biden on 6 Key Issues – Andrew Stanton (Newsweek, May 15, 2023).
Marianne Williamson: From Third Way to Third Eye – Chris Lehmann (The Nation, May 15, 2023).
Marianne Williamson: Democrats Need a “Genuine Economic Alternative” to Beat the GOP in 2024 – David Sirota (Jacobin, May 5, 2023).
Marianne Williamson on Her 2024 Presidential Bid – C-SPAN (May 4, 2023).
Why Biden May Have to Forfeit the First Contest in His Re-election Bid to Marianne Williamson or RFK Jr. – Alex Seitz-Wald (NBC News, April 27, 2023).
Marianne Williamson Is Serious About Running a Progressive Campaign for President – Liza Featherstone (Jacobin, April 27, 2023).
DNC Shields Biden, Refuses to Hold Primary Debates, Silences RFK Jr and Marianne WilliamsonRising, April 24, 2023).
Marianne Williamson Made a Campaign Stop in Detroit Where She Railed Against the 1%. The Media Didn’t Cover It – Michael Betzold (Metro Times, April 25, 2023).
Marianne Williamson Warns Younger Voters Will “Stay Home in Droves” If Biden Becomes Nominee – Ryan King (Washington Examiner, April 25, 2023).
Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Speaks to Youth Issues at MSU Campaign Stop – Lily Guiney (The State News, April 25, 2023).
The Case for Marianne Williamson – Zach Courtney (The Minnesota Daily, April 20, 2023).
Democratic Presidential Longshot Marianne Williamson on Challenging Biden: “We Should Have as Many People Running in an Election as Feel Moved” – Victor Reklaitis (Market Watch, April 15, 2023).
Marianne Williamson, Fusing Bernie Sanders and (Early) Jordan Peterson, Is Taking Over TikTok – Ryan Grim (The Intercept, April 14, 2023).
Meet Eris, the Goddess Behind the Force That Is Marianne Williamson – Rayner Jae Liu (Medium, April 8, 2023).
Marianne Williamson Making Gains Against Joe Biden, New Poll Suggests – Jason Lemon (Newsweek, April 1, 2023).
Marianne Williamson Says Democrats Need to Fix “Unjust” Economy to Win – Andrew Stanton (Newsweek, March 12, 2023).

6 Bible Quotes That Are Blatantly Socialist – Stephanie Leguichard (An Injustice!, May 31, 2021).
The Biblical Values of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic Socialism – Obery M. Hendricks Jr. (Sojourners, January 30, 2019).
Taxing the Rich to Help the Poor? Here’s What the Bible Says Mathew Schmalz (Sojourners, December 11, 2017).
Anarchism, Socialism and Christianity – Jonty Langley (The Huffington Post, November 8, 2011).

Sean Hannity Inadvertently Makes the Best Case for the Very Thing He’s Ranting About – Lee Moran (Yahoo! News, April 21, 2023).
Seth Meyers Exposes Secretly “Woke” Sean Hannity – Matt Wilstein (The Daily Beast, March 2, 2023).
Fox News’ Sean Hannity Says He Knew All Along Trump Lost the Election – David Folkenflik and Maddy Lauria (NPR News, December 22, 2022).
Ted Koppel Breaks the News to Sean Hannity: You’re “Bad for America” – Joe Lapointe (Newsweek, March 27, 2017).
Sean Hannity: The Blowhard Next Door – Ben Fritz and Bryan Keefer (Salon, August 26, 2002).

See also: Marianne 2024 Official Site | About | Issues | News | Events | Blog | Donate

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Marianne 2024
Marianne Williamson Launches 2024 Presidential Campaign
Progressive Perspectives on Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Run
More Progressive Perspectives on Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Run
Ben Burgis: Quote of the Day – March 10, 2023
Despite the Undemocratic Antics of the DNC, Marianne Williamson Plans on “Winning the Nomination”
Marianne Williamson: “We Must Challenge the Entire System”
Progressive Perspectives on the U.S. Midterm Election Results
Marianne Williamson on the Current Condition of the U.S.
An Essential Read Ahead of the Midterms
Marianne Williamson’s Politics of Love: The Rich Roll Interview
Celebrating Tuesday’s Progressive Wins in the Midst of the Ongoing “War for the Future of the Democratic Party”
Now Here’s a Voice I’d Like to Hear Regularly on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows
A Deeper Perspective on What’s Really Attacking American Democracy
Heather Cox Richardson on the Origin of the American Obsession with “Socialism”
Phillip Clark: Quote of the Day – April 15, 2020
Bernie Sanders: Quote of the Day – June 12, 2019
Jonty Langley: Quote of the Day – August 17, 2011
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Socialism
Something to Think About – December 14, 2011
A Socialist Perspective on the “Democratic Debacle” in Massachusetts
Obama a Socialist? Hardly
Obama, Ayers, the “S” Word, and the “Most Politically Backward Layers in America”
A Socialist Response to the 2008 Financial Crisis
Capitalism on Trial

1 comment:

Percy said...

The fundamental and intractable problem for socialism in any invocation of the Bible in this regard is that the Bible is not thereby describing or prescribing a system of state-enforced property rights (individual or collective). It's a mirror image of the problem Christians faced regarding the use of deadly force when they began to dominate the government of states: Jesus stipulated in John 18:36 that his kingdom was not a worldly state, and Pilate clearly understood the strangeness of what Jesus was claiming in that dialogue such that he knew that he could not lawfully condemn Jesus to death for violating Roman law (Pilate understood that quintessentially Roman legal thing, jurisdiction).

One can certainly credibly skewer soi disant Christian nationalist MAGA-heads that they fundamentally contradict the Bible in their econo-social prescriptions. But socialism qua socialism can't credibly pivot a binary to thereby claim it fulfills them. In reality, the binary is a false one composed of merely partial truths.