God loves a good capitalist. Or so says Rabbi Aryeh Spero who gave Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital the Good Lord’s stamp of approval in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. The only problem is that it was less of a divine imprimatur and more of a classic example of a pesky little thing called “confirmation bias.”
Choosing only evidence that vindicates your personal biases is an easy trap, and with its many contradictory and ambiguous passages, the Bible makes confirmation bias that much easier.
Like a desperate kid with a Magic 8 Ball, the Bible is likely to give you the answer you want as long as you just keep trying.
Rabbi Spero begins his commentary by calling President Obama a “redistributionist.” (What has this nation come to when Spero can’t even call the President what he seems to want to: a socialist.) Spero’s broad-brush caricature of liberal positions and his disinterest in the social ramifications of Bain’s tactics make his ideology fairly obvious. He then cherry-picked Bible passages to purportedly absolve Romney and Bain of any possible offenses in their private equity exploits.
Spero’s main contention is that any critique of Bain’s business practice amounts to envy, and envy is forbidden in the Bible. It’s quite an assumption in itself to claim that basically anyone who has a problem with income distribution in America is just jealous. Calling the 99% envious is a way of downplaying the real concern that many have expressed that there is not a level playing field in America today—that the game is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. And Bain’s story of firing workers, bankrupting companies, and raiding pension funds in order to reward its wealthy investors is a prime example.
But let’s assume that the 60% of Americans that think income distribution is an important issue are all just jealous. If we use a different confirmation bias, we could say that their jealousy is actually making them more godlike:
The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. —Exodus 34:14
Now let’s see what else the Bible has to say about other views people have about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.
Opinion 1: “Romney made his money honestly. We should all work to be as rich as he is.”
Bible’s Approval: The poor man is hated even by his neighbor, but the man of wealth has numbers of friends. —Proverbs 14:20
Bible’s Disapproval: Labor not to be rich. —Proverbs 23:4
Opinion 2: “In a capitalist system, it was Romney’s duty to seek the highest return on investment, regardless of societal implications.”
Bible’s Approval: “Why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.” —Matthew 25:27
Bible’s Disapproval: And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. —Acts 2:45
Opinion 3: “Without lifting a finger, Mitt Romney’s blind trust earns in 16 hours what an average American worker earns in an entire year. It’s not fair.”
Bible’s Approval: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” —Mark 10:25
Bible’s Disapproval: Wealth makes a great number of friends, but the poor man is parted from his friend. —Proverbs 19:4
Opinion 4: “Romney raided companies, walked away with massive wealth, and cared little about the impact on the people affected.”
Bible’s Approval: When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches and dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away. And they were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. —2 Chronicles 20:25
Bible’s Disapproval: They slew of their enemy 75,000, but on the spoil they laid not their hand. —Esther 9:16
Opinion 5: “Mitt ‘I’m Not Concerned About The Very Poor’ Romney isn’t concerned about the very poor.”
Bible’s Approval: You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. —John 12:8
Bible’s Disapproval: He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. —Proverbs 14:31
As a bit of an expert on the use and abuse of Bible quotes (at least the outlandish ones), I know confirmation bias when I see it. Rabbi Spero would do better by telling us what he thinks about Mitt Romney’s version of capitalism rather than trying to tell us God’s opinion. It’s hard to precisely pinpoint God’s position on any particular topic these days. God gave numerous and contradictory statements in the past, and for some strange reason he is no longer giving interviews.