Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Prophecy Fulfilled 014

Nephi uses the curious expression "grind upon the face of the poor" in 2 Nephi 26:20. It is clear from context it is related to elites getting "gain." The expression comes from Isaiah 3:15 cited in 2 Nephi 13:15. Bible Hub is a convenient place to see multiple Bible translations of a single verse. Other renderings of this phrase are:
  • rubbed in the dirt the faces of the poor (Contemporary English Version)
  • take advantage of the poor (Good News Translation)
  • shame the face of the poor (Brenton Septuagint Translation)
  • grind the faces of the afflicted (Darby Bible Translation)
Isaiah chapter 3 is generally interpreted as a condemnation of ancient Judaism which became so corrupt that rather than protecting vulnerable members of society, the rich exploited the poor and the strong exploited the weak (the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor Isaiah 3:5). The predictable result was national poverty (this ruin, in my house are neither bread nor clothing Isaiah 3:6,7).

Developmental economists call this condition "institutional" or "structural poverty" when a permanent overlord class benefits financially by depressing wages for the masses who struggle to survive in a radically unequal society. Economists have a measure of income inequality. They call it the Gini Coefficient. The CIA World Factbook publishes a list of most nations on earth ranked by Gini Index. Most Latin American countries are on the highly unequal end of the scale. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Countries with Most Unequal Income Distribution
European democracies with generous social safety nets are on the highly equal end of the scale.
Countries with Most Equal Income Distribution
The United States is the most unequal of countries in the middle tier.
Countries in Middle Range of Income Distribution
Furthermore, as most US citizens realize, the United States of America is rapidly becoming much more unequal as the rich get richer and the poor become less self-reliant. Throughout most of its history, though, the US has been quite egalitarian, a true land of opportunity where hard work tended to pay off with upward social mobility. The US also created strong social institutions (churches, schools, local governments) that tended to help the poor who wanted to help themselves.

The reverse was true in Spanish America. Conquistadores exploited natives. Patrones exploited peones. Churches were rapacious, schools largely non-existant, and local governments highly corrupt. Institutional or structural poverty was endemic. Nephi's prophecy was explicitly fulfilled. Only in recent decades have many Latin American countries begun to educate and provide essential services to their most vulnerable. You will notice on the chart above that Argentina and Uruguay now outrank the US with flatter income distributions.

I know a little about developmental economics in the Western Hemisphere. My book, Ending Global Poverty: The Microfranchise Solution, has been translated into multiple languages and downloaded millions of times. I state with some authority that Nephi's prophecy about the gentiles in the New World getting gain by exploiting the poor 2 Nephi 26:20 fits much better in Latin America than it does in the US or Canada.