On Earth as it is in Heaven

Fred Foldvary

Oct. 20, 2009

We have just heard the beautiful rendition of the Lord’s Prayer

by Charlotte Church.

Every day millions of people all over the world recite this prayer,

but do they consider what it means?

What does it mean, thy will be done on earth

as it is in heaven?

Note that it does not say “thy will is done,”

but rather, “thy will be done.”

The implication is that this will is something that is not happening now,

and something that we seek.

But what is it?

Some think that the kingdom referred to is the world to come,

after the messiah, not in our world, not in our time, not today.

If that be so, then what is the purpose of praying for the coming of that remote kingdom?

And why does it say, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

This day, not tomorrow.

And how is the Almighty to give us bread?

Delivered on a platter?

Even when fruit is provided in a tree,

we have to go an pick it,

and often we need to at least wash it and peel it.

So even the fruits of nature require labor

in order to access and use them.

By God or nature we have hands and fingers,

legs, and a brain that is suitable for applying our labor

to the resources provided by nature.

Daily at meal times many people give thanks for the bounty of food.

What exactly is being thanked?

It was human labor the produced the food.

But that labor was productive only because

of the abundant natural elements provided by God,

and for that we can truly give thanks.

We give thanks also,

and seek the benevolence of God,

for our daily bread,

because we know that many in this world

have no bread.

Is it the will of God that many have not enough bread?

The Lord’s prayer begins,

Our Father, who art in heaven.

“Our Father!” Whose Father?

What else, but the father of all humanity?

What else, but our Father equally, for all?

Does anyone disagree?

If that be so, if He is all people’s loving Father,

then are not all persons equally entitled

to the use of God’s bounty in nature?

Yet our laws, the laws of the governments

that we have created,

say that God’s earth is not here for all equally.

Our laws, as approved even by religious authorities,

say that the gifts of nature are for the benefit of

a privileged few.

The oil, the water, the minerals, and the spatial land have been allocated mostly to a privileged few.

But are not all children of the Creator

equally entitled to the use of God’s natural bounty?

The "Pater Noster” says

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

If this is to be done this day,

on the earth we live on,

how could that be applied?

Suppose there is an economy in heaven.

What would it be like?

Economics on earth is based on scarcity.

Scarcity means that when the price and cost of something is zero,

the quantity demanded

is greater than the quantity supplied.

If there were no scarce resources,

then we could have everything we wanted for free,

and there would be no economics.

So if heaven has an economy,

there have to be some scarce resources.

Here on earth, our time is a scarce resource,

because human beings are mortal.

We have a finite lifespan.

But economics does not require mortality.

There can still be an economy if heavenly beings live forever.

It is sufficient for natural resources to be scarce.

These would include materials and space.

In economics, the term for such natural resources is land.

On earth, when we trace the ownership of land,

in most places, title originated in conquest.

Would there be conquest in paradise?

Heaven forbid!

Without conquest, there are two ways of obtaining land ownership.

One is homesteading.

That means first come, first served.

The other is to provide equal benefits from land.

The American economist Henry George

gave a speech titled “Thy Kingdom Come.”

He related an allegory about heaven told by

Thomas Abner, a Presbyterian.

A man dreams that he dies and goes to heaven.

When he arrives, he is warned to beware of tramps.

There are tramp angels and homeless beings in heaven.

They go around begging and bothering those who are better off.

The man is astonished.

Tramps? Homeless? In heaven?

Why? How?

An angel tells him that when people first started going to heaven,

since land was a scarce resource,

they needed a rule for property rights.

Lucifer was then in charge of the rules,

and he decreed a homesteading rule:

First come, first served.

Those who came to heaven first claimed the best land,

and a lot of it.

Until all the good places were claimed.

Those who came later had to pay rent to those who were there first.

One could buy land, but the price keeps on rising

as the heavenly population grows.

One now has to labor several centuries to buy a place to live.

Tramps cannot afford to buy or even rent land,

so they go around begging and bothering people.

Henry George then asks,

Is it not ridiculous to imagine the application of God’s heaven

of the same rules for land ownership that we apply on earth?

Surely God’s heaven must be

a kingdom of justice and equality,

not of privilege and the arbitrariness of having arrived in heaven first.

But how would one apply justice and equality to the scarce land in heaven?

And how could we apply that method on earth, as it is in heaven?

There would have to be equality in the ownership of land.

But on earth, in our civilization,

it is not practical,

nor is it necessary,

to physically divide land

into parcels of equal value.

The economic benefit of land is what people pay to use it,

namely, the market rent.

So we can achieve justice in heaven and earth

by collecting all the rent and distributing it equally.

Every person gets an equal share of the land rent.

Then it does not matter who got there first,

or even how much land one may hold,

since its benefit is distributed to all equally.

If we applied the equal benefit principle to land on earth,

how would that work?

Every landowner would pay rent to the community governance.

That rent would either be distributed to the people in equal shares,

or it could be used by the governing agency

to provide public goods that generally benefit the public.

Mother nature is offering to pay for the costs of government,

from nature’s land,

but we have rejected her offer,

and instead mostly tax labor and enterprise.

Rather than letting workers use equal natural opportunities

to produce their bread,

we make them pay for nature’s opportunity,

and then we tax their labor and their bread.

Instead of using the land rent for equal benefit,

governments world-wide do the opposite.

They tax labor to provide public goods

which generate higher rent and land value.

The public goods generate higher rent and land value.

Workers get double billed,

paying both taxes and higher rent.

The big landowners get subsidized.

Would God do that in heaven?

Why then do we do this on earth?

In his speech, Thy Kingdom Come,

Henry George said that when Christ taught that prayer,

He did not mean that we should just idly phrase those words.

For the coming of that kingdom,

humanity must work as well as pray.

George said,

“We who would pray with effect must work.”

We need to work to get our daily bread,

and so to we must work to achieve justice on earth.

Henry George also wrote, in his book Social Problems,

“There is in nature no reason for poverty.”

This analysis of the economy of heaven

shows us the effective and competent way

to apply our conscience and compassion.

To solve a problem, we must remove the root cause.

Just as justice in heaven requires an equal benefit from the land,

so too does justice on earth require equality,

equal self-ownership and an equal share of the benefits from land.

If we don’t work for that,

then it is futile to pray

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Those who seek justice and a better life for the poor

often see the most superficial solution

in taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

But first of all that policy has not reduced inequality

because the rich get their wealth back

by the increase in their land value

generated by the public goods provided by government.

Meanwhile the taxes imposed on the rich and the middle class

stifle production and growth,

wasting resources,

and making us poorer now and in the future.

Such redistribution fails to understand

the source of the economic problem

in unequal land tenure.

Using land rent for public goods

not only promotes equality

but generates revenue without impairing

labor, industry, entrepreneurship, and thrift.

The Bible tells us so, if we read Ecclesiastes 5:9,

“the profit of the earth is for all:

the king himself is served by the field.”

And it says in Leviticus 25:23,

“The land shall not be sold for ever.”

So, if you believe the Bible,

God told us how to apply on earth,

the justice that is in heaven.

Economic analysis tells us the same.

Do not take the bread from the mouth of the worker.

Rather, use the profit of the earth for all.

Thank you, and I’ll be pleased to answer any questions.