Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gleaning the ungleaned

Years ago I read about jubilee and noticed that reversion didn't apply to city-dwellers (a short buy-back period, but no more). I looked at the land being farmed in back of our apartment complex and thought that if the whole complex grabbed a handful or three every day during harvest it would put a noticeable dent in the crop. In 5 days our complex could have probably snarfed up a quarter of the acre nearest us. A literal application of the principles wasn't going to work.

OK, cities are special cases, and industrial production doesn't fit the Leviticus paradigm very well. So how does one translate the principle of "not reaping to the edge of your field" into action in a modern environment?

One trivial thing I've done, or rather not done, is not pick up lost money. I used to, but after a while figured that a kid finding the dime would get more joy out it than I would, so I started letting it lie undisturbed, graduating to larger denominations over time. (I've never seen the original owner find it again, or even look for it.) There's no nobility in that--I can do without that dollar bill caught in the bushes without breathing hard (it isn't really even explicitly mine anyway)--I'm just trying to get a handle on the right attitude by being faithful in the least things. Least things first.

If you work in sales, you can cut the price a bit and take less commission if the client is poor. I don't know how many do that. Doctors and some lawyers sometimes do pro bono work. That's one equivalent of not gleaning to the edges. But if you're a janitor, or an IT manager, what's the equivalent? Giving money away is not the same thing at all. Widows and orphans and the disabled--yes, they often need direct support. But gleaning the ungleaned was work for the able-bodied without land or adequate employment of their own--they got food and self-respect and to be a model for their kids.

Another detail of the context is different: maintenance of a home is much harder. In most places around here you don't get to build without a plan for water and power and heat--and utility costs and taxes mean you need a non-trivial revenue stream just to stay in one place. That's not including repairs, which are an expense with houses anywhere. So either we should talk about a different paradigm for low cost housing (like the tiny house movement--but heating is a really big deal in winter!), or a "gleaning the ungleaned" that earns money.

I'd rather not reinvent the wheel here. Some folks are bound to have put some thought already into American equivalents of "gleaning the ungleaned," and some of that is probably useful. There'll be no silver bullet, of course--even the tiny houses have issues. (Imagine a little collection of them. Now imagine who will be staying in the neighborhood a year later.) I'm dubious of top down plans, unless the top dog happens to be God, and very few of the top dogs are.

Can anybody point me at who has done some reasonable work in this area, or thought through pros and cons?


Assistant Village Idiot said...

It's an interesting thought in connection with Robert Frost's "Two Tramps In Mud Time."

I am preparing my house for sale in early 2018 and am doing much of the work myself. Perhaps I shouldn't.

jaed said...

There's a scale problem, which you point to. If you live in a village of ten reasonably prosperous families and one widow with two kids who's trying to get by, then only one person is gleaning your edges. If you live in a city with ten thousand prosperous families and a thousand widows, those thousand might all be trying to glean your field on a given day.

Similarly with doctors. A doctor might take a few charity patients, or work in the county hospital two days a month. That's predictable. If the doctor is now expected to take Medicaid patients whose reimbursement amounts don't allow him to stay in practice, he'll eventually limit Medicaid slots or not take Medicaid patients at all.

There's a low retaining wall at the edge of my front and side yard, appealing to sit on (and just outside the office where I normally work). It's appealing to sit under the maple tree on the wall, and people often do so. When the local homeless guy sits out there for an hour and relaxes, it's not a problem. When it became a customary all-day-and-well-into-the-night gathering spot for several loud, obnoxious people, and I had trouble concentrating because of the shouting and swearing, and my neighbors started swerving to avoid the house, and I started getting some of them coming up on the porch and more or less openly stealing things... well, that was now a problem, because the scale had changed to the point where it wasn't a minor intrusion any more.

It's also always easier to impose costs on other people when they won't be imposed on you.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have one which came to me by a friend of mine, reader of AVI, who reads all your posts and very much likes what you put out. He works in a tech sector that often has to deal with defense and other gov contractors, and deals with them for his daily bread, so he is very protective of his anonymity in all areas of controversy. I send this on his behalf:

"You might look into the writings of Paul Mills. He is an accomplished secular economist, having served in the London office of the International Monetary Fund. He has written and spoken extensively about the recent financial collapse. However, he has also written about the financial laws of the ancient Jewish community, as described in Leviticus and elsewhere, and extended the principles to modern Christian contexts. As an example, consider his writing on savings and investment, here:"

He mentioned in a followup email that he met with Mills privately with a few others at a local event, and thinks he puts some effort into intertwining his faith with economics. I have little doubt that the tow of you would hit it off, BTW. He and I took a road trip to the Maggie's Farm urban hike, and he suggested one even farther out. Perhaps someday we will venture as far as Wisconsin.

james said...

Thanks for the pointer! It looks very interesting so far.

Visitors are welcome. (The name Chaos Manor is already taken, unfortunately.)