Monday, July 13, 2015

Markets in a Zion Society

Early this year I submitted a paper for an MTA-published volume that never materialized. The majority of the article was largely a reworking of my co-authored SquareTwo essay on global poverty and inequality. However, I added the following section on morality and markets:


One of the most prominent and consistent themes throughout the LDS canon is what we may refer to as economic and/or social justice. The revelations of Joseph Smith built a Mormon eschatology around the antediluvian City of Enoch: a just society of "one heart and one mind" with "no poor among them" that was "received…up into [God’s] own bosom" (Moses 7:18; 69). As historian Don Bradley explains, 

Joseph anticipated that when the Saints succeeded in establishing a Zion society, their Zion would be literally united with that of Enoch. The latter-day Zion established through the law of consecration was to rise from below while that established under the prophet Enoch descended from above (Moses 7:62–63; D&C 84:100). Another revelation similarly taught that when the Saints achieved "the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom," that of consecration, God would "receive her unto myself" (D&C 105:4–5).[1]

The people of Enoch’s ancient city are described as being "of one heart and one mind," dwelling "in righteousness," with "no poor among them" (Moses 7:18). This seems to suggest that the city’s prosperity was rooted in the values and civility of its citizens. The Zion society of the Nephite civilization is also described by Mormon as having "no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, no lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness…There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manners of –ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God" (4 Ne. 1:15-17). Economist Lindon Robison proposes that the Book of Mormon as well as other restoration scriptures teach that caring is fundamental to economic prosperity and equality.[2] A wealth of evidence from a diverse range of fields supports Robison’s view that moral values underlie economic activity.[3] However, don’t markets undermine these foundational values? Doesn’t trade condition us to exploit each other, especially the most vulnerable? Recent evidence suggests quite the opposite. Researchers have developed a number of experimental bargaining "games" in order to study human behavior under various conditions. Among these games is one known as the Ultimatum Game. The game provides a certain amount of money to interacting participants. One is given the power to divide the sum between the two. If the other player accepts the division—whether it be 50:50 or 99:1—then both players keep their share. If the second party rejects the offer, both go home empty-handed. The results of previous experiments demonstrate that profit maximization is rarely, if ever, the dominant strategy.[4] Most second party players reject sharply unequal distributions, demonstrating that fairness takes precedence over economic self-interest. Experiments with 15 small-scale agrarian societies—consisting of hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists, nomadic herders, and sedentary farmers—found that those whose groups were more heavily immersed in trade and exchange with outsiders were least likely to make inequitable offers.[5] Another study finds that countries with higher levels of globalization—interconnection and interdependence of nations via trade and economic integration—"are associated with greater propensities to favor cooperation with globally distal others compared with compatriots living in the same locality."[6] (This is at both the aggregate country and individual levels.) Behavioral economist Herbert Gintis speculates that "societies that use markets extensively develop a culture of cooperation, fairness, and respect for the individual…Extensive market interactions may accustom individuals to the idea that interactions with strangers may be mutually beneficial. By contrast, those who do not customarily deal with strangers in mutually advantageous ways may be more likely to treat anonymous interactions as hostile, threatening, or occasions for opportunistic pursuit of self-interest."[7] Data gathered by economist Arthur Brooks further confirm the implications of these findings: Americans in favor of free enterprise give more to both religious and secular causes than those who favor governmental redistribution, even when adjusted for age, religion, income, gender, marital status, race, political views and education. Anti-redistributionists are also more likely to give their time to charitable causes and activities, such as blood donations or giving money to a homeless person on the street.[8]

In a recent working paper, law professor Nathan Oman points out, "Nineteenth-century Mormon efforts at Zion building illustrate the dangers of demonizing trade…During the Utah War of 1857, Mormon xenophobia reached a fever pitch, resulting most tragically in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, where fear of outsiders led Latter-day Saints to murder an entire wagon train of men, women, and children."[9] It appears that it is anti-market views that breed intolerance, tribalism, and ultimately violence. A 2003 study found that anti-capitalist sentiments were strongly correlated with nationalism and ethnic intolerance among a number of formerly communist countries.[10] Other studies indicate that pro-trade attitudes are negatively related to nationalism, ethnocentrism, prejudice, and a high attachment to one’s own neighborhood.[11] This is probably why the governments of more globalized countries are less likely to violate human rights, including torture, extrajudicial killing, political imprisonment, and disappearances.[12] As one pair of researchers put it, "Our results are clear: globalization seems to liberate, not suffocate…"[13] This expansion of rights embraces the most vulnerable, including women.[14] The increased cooperation and tolerance created by globalized markets leads to a decrease in conflict, both within countries[15] and between them:[16] a point too often overlooked by Mormon intellectuals.[17] 

The prophet Isaiah spoke of a future period in which "the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mounts...and all nations shall flow unto it...for out of Zion shall go
forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:2-4). As The Jewish Study Bible elaborates, "The prophet does not imagine a future without borders or distinct nationalities. International conflicts will still occur, but nation will no longer resolve them through warfare. Instead, nations will submit to arbitration at Mount Zion."[18] New Testament scholar Ben Witherington notes, "When Isaiah envisions the eschatological age, or the last days, he does not envision a massive work stoppage. What he envisions is a massive war stoppage, if we may put it that way. The point of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks is so that the weapons of war may be turned into the tools of work. When Isaiah envisages the final or eschatological state of affairs, his vision of shalom, well-being, peace, is not of a workless paradise, but of a world at peace worshiping the one true God and working together rather than warring with each other."[19] In other words, what we call the Millennium will consist of prosperity and peace by means of productivity, innovation, and trade.

In an overview of Adam Smith’s "invisible hand," historian Peter Harrison finds that the phrase’s most common use in the 17th and 18th centuries referred "to the manner in which God exercised providential control over the course of history by subtly influencing human actions in order to bring about his ends...The second pattern of usage also refers to God’s providential action, but in the context of his superintendence of the natural world."[20] Just as the laws of nature were originally seen as "exemplif[ying] design, so too...did the laws of morality." For Smith and his contemporaries, “the general laws of the moral, as well as of the material world, are wisely and beneficently ordered for the welfare of our species."[21] The pro-social, poverty-reducing aspects of the market system are almost virtually ignored in discussions about Zion. Yet, as the world continues to become more interconnected through globalized markets—perhaps evidence of the providential invisible hand—the closer it will move toward a Zion society. 


The word limit kept me from going into much detail about some of these studies, but I thought it was worth reproducing here.


1. Don Bradley, ""The Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonism": Joseph Smith’s Unfinished Restoration," Sunstone (April 2006): 39.

2. See Lindon J. Robison, "Economic Insights from the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1:1 (1992): 35-53; Robison, "‘No Poor Among Them’," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14:1 (2005): 86-97, 130.

3. Paul J. Zak, "Moral Markets," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 77 (2011): 212-233; Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy, ed. Paul J. Zak (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

4. See Joseph Henrich, "Does Culture Matter in Economic Behavior? The Ultimatum Game Bargaining among the Machiguenga of the Peruvian Amazon," American Economic Review 90:4 (2000): 973-979.

5. Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from Fifteen Small-Scale Societies, eds. Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles, Colin Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles, Colin Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis, Richard McElreath, Michael Alvard, Abigail Barr, Jean Ensminger, Natalie Smith Henrich, Kim Hill, Francisco Gil-White, Michael Gurven, Frank W. Marlowe, John Q. Patton, David Tracer, "‘Economic Man’ in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies," Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (2005): 795-855; Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles, Colin Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis, Richard McElreath, "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies," American Economic Review 91:2 (May 2001): 73-78.

6. Nancy R. Buchan, Gianluca Grimalda, Rick Wilson, Marilynn Brewer, Enrique Fatas, Margaret Foddy, "Globalization and Human Cooperation," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106:11 (2009): 4141.

7. Quoted in Ronald Bailey, "Do Markets Make People More Generous?" Reason (Feb. 27, 2002).

8. Arthur C. Brooks, Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide – Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters (New York: Basic Books, 2006), 56-57.

9. Nathan B. Oman, "Doux Commerce in the City of God: Trade and the Mormon Ideal of Zion," William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-289 (2014): 25.

10. Hilde Weiss, "A Cross-National Comparison of Nationalism in Austria, the Czech and Slovac Republics, Hungary, and Poland," Political Psychology 24:2 (2003): 377-401.

11. See Kent L. Granzin, Jeffrey D. Brazell, John J. Painter, "An Examination of Influences Leading to Americans’ Endorsement of the Policy of Free Trade," Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 16:1 (1997): 93-109; Anna Maria Mayda, Dani Rodrik, "Why Are Some People (and Countries) More Protectionist Than Others?" European Economic Review 49 (2005): 1393-1430.

12. See Indra de Soysa, Krishna Chaitanya Vadlamannati, "Does Being Bound Together Suffocate, or Liberate? The Effects of Economic, Social, and Political Globalization on Human Rights, 1981-2005," Kyklos 64:1 (2011): 20-53; Indra de Soysa, Krishna Chaitanya Vadlamannati, "Do Pro-Market Economic Reforms Drive Human Rights Violations? An Empirical Assessment, 1981-2006," Public Choice 155:1 (2013): 163-187.

13. de Soysa, Vadlamannati, 2011: 44.

14. See Eric Neumayer, Indra de Soysa, "Globalization and the Empowerment of Women: An Analysis of Spatial Dependence via Trade and Foreign Direct Investment," World Development 39:7 (2011): 1065-1075; Michael D. Stroup, "Separating the Influence of Capitalism and Democracy on Women’s Well-Being," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 67:3-4 (2008): 560-572; Stroup, "Does Economic Freedom Promote Women’s Well-Being?" in Economic Freedom of the World: 2011 Annual Report, ed. James D. Gwartney, Joshua C. Hall, Robert Lawson (Fraser Institute, 2011).

15. See Edward Peter Stringham, John Levendis, "The Relationship Between Economic Freedom and Homicide," Economic Freedom of the World: 2010 Annual Report, ed. James D. Gwartney, Joshua C. Hall, Robert Lawson (Fraser Institute, 2010); Indra de Soysa, "The Hidden Hand Wrestles Rebellion: Theory and Evidence on How Economic Freedom Prevents Civil Violence," Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 11:2 (2011): 285-297; Indra de Soysa, Ranveig Drolsum Flaten, "Globalization and Political Violence, 1970-2008," International Interactions 38 (2012): 622-646.

16. See Indra de Soysa, Hanne Fjelde, "Is the Hidden Hand an Iron Fist? Capitalism & Civil Peace, 1970-2005," Journal of Peace Research 47:3 (2010): 287-298; Erik Gartzke, "The Capitalist Peace," American Journal of Political Science 51:1 (2007): 166-191; Michael Strong, "Peace Through Access to Entrepreneurial Capitalism for All," Journal of Business Ethics 89 (2009): 529-538; Jong-Wha Lee, Ju Hyun Pyun, "Does Trade Integration Contribute to Peace?" Asian Development Bank Working Paper Series on Regional Economic Integration, No. 24 (Jan. 2009); Lee, Pyun, "Globalisation Promotes Peace," (March 21, 2009).

17. For example, economic development and trade receive only brief mention in the volume War & Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives, eds. Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, Richard L. Bushman (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012).

18. “Isaiah,” The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh Translation, eds. Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 788.

19. Ben Witherington III, Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), xiii-xiv.     

20. Peter Harrison, "Adam Smith and the History of the Invisible Hand," Journal of the History of Ideas 72:1 (2007): 33.

21. Ibid: 46.

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