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Joseph’s experience in Egypt does not serve as a biblical justification of central planning by the civil government:
1. Central planning was successful in this case because it was based on a direct revelation from an omniscient God. Without prophetic omniscience by State officials, central economic planning initially has no greater claim to biblical sanction than private economic forecasting does. The Bible does not guarantee that State officials, as a rule, are provided the prophetic omniscience about the future that is necessary to successfully plan a nation’s economy.
2. Although the immediate consequence of Egyptian economic planning by Joseph was a blessing (surviving the famine), other consequences of centralized government are called curses by the Bible. All the land, except for the priests’, became the possession of the Pharaoh, and thus most of the people became slaves of the Pharaoh (Gen. 47:13-22). Because the Egyptians did not adopt the uniquely Hebrew doctrine of the Creator-creature distinction, the prophetic guidance given to the state and the central economic planning reinforced oriental despotism, in which the State is viewed as the link to the divine. The Egyptian’s were notable in their adherence to the divinity of the Pharaoh as descendent of the sun god. In stark contrast, the Hebrews were told to worship God alone and that the king, as much as any other person, was to submit to the Great King. The Hebrew office of prophet was often filled by those outside the State, like the shepherd Amos, and the kings were expected to heed the prophet’s word. The State was not regarded as more trustworthy than any other human institution, all of which were to be under the sovereignty of God and His word. To heed the court’s false prophets and the centralized decision making by corrupt kings is a curse God sends on people in rebellion against Him (Ezek. 14:1-5). Furthermore, central economic planning without the guidance of prophetic omniscience brings economic ruin to large numbers of people; erroneous decisions by a private firm can harm the shareholders dearly and the consumers who would have benefitted if the firm had forecasted correctly, but the majority of consumers are protected because competing suppliers can step in to satisfy consumer demand, smoothing out the disruptions caused by the misallocating firm. Because bureaucrats are not rewarded directly with profits, the inefficient planners are not weeded out as well in the free market. Even if central planning is successful in one period, it increases dependence on the State, and the same success is not guaranteed in the future, as the Egyptians learned the hard way.
3. No system of centralized economic planning was created at Mt. Sinai. God’s people were not told to imitate the Egyptians, but to avoid the “leaven” of the Egyptian culture. Joseph brought the theological slaves of Egypt under bondage of their false god, the Pharaoh.
- Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis 227-30 (1987) at www.freebooks.com/: html, DjVu.