Economic Sodomy

Want to know what those terrible men of Sodom were doing? Really?

No, not the current House Republican budget proposal — Sodom itself, the Biblical city that has given us, well, sodomy, at least linguistically.

What did the rabbis think about it?  Lots of things, but according to Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (on sale here), what was really wrong with Sodom had nothing to do with sex:

Rabbi Zeera said: The men of Sodom were the wealthy men of prosperity…[and] Rabbi Nathaniel said: The men of Sodom had no consideration for the honor of their Owner by (not) distributing food to the wayfarer and the stranger, but they (even) fenced in all the trees on top above their fruit so that they should not be seized….Rabbi Joshua, son of Korchach, said: they appointed over themselves judges who were lying judges, and they oppressed every wayfarer and stranger who entered Sodom by their perverse judgment, and they sent them forth naked as it is said, ‘They have oppressed the stranger without judgment (Ezek 22:29).

They were dwelling in security without care and at ease, without the fear of war from all their surroundings, as it is said, ‘Their houses are safe from fear’ {Job 21:9).  They were sated with all the produce of the earth, but they did not not strengthen with the loaf of bread either the hand of the needy or of the poor, as it is said, ‘Behold, this was the iniquity of Sodom; pride, fulklness of bread…'(Ezek 16:49).”

Rabbi Yehudah said: They made a proclamation in Sodom (saying): Everyone who strengthens the hand of the poor or the needy with a loaf of bread shall be burnt by fire.

And then the men of Sodom said, “We shall tie up our own riches and shall deny the poor and the wayfarer nutritional assistance and education and shelter.”  Oh wait — that is the Republicans.  Maybe they are Sodomites after all.  Certainly they are Sodomizing the country.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

17 thoughts on “Economic Sodomy”

  1. “they appointed over themselves judges who were lying judges”

    And that sounds like living constitutionalists… 😉

  2. Malcolm – typical conservative response, focusing on the inner motivations for the given aid, instead of the benefit for the person with the need.

  3. (Foster): “‘The government’ is us, not ‘them’.”
    We disagree.
    (Yoyo): “
    …typical conservative response, focusing on the inner motivations…
    Huh? Where?
    (yoyo): “…for the given aid instead of the benefit for the person with the need.
    a) It’s not “aid” if most of the donations remain in the hands of middlemen.
    b) Effects include costs (moral hazard, deadweight loss due to taxation) as well as benefits. Read Murray, __Losing Ground__.

  4. Malcolm, until conservative individuals begin providing free public education, libraries, parks, health care, firemen, police, safety and environmental regulations, I’ll assume you are building fences around your fruit trees.

  5. @Malcolm – “We disagree”. I assume then that you don’t live in a representative democracy. What country are you writing from?

    Where I live (the US) the government represents me and acts as an agent for me and millions of my compatriots. Which is why when I vote, I do so for those agents who will support using tax dollars for the progress of our general welfare (e.g., by doing what they can to protect me from market failures such as CO2 pollution), not waste our money and good name on counterproductive foreign military adventures, not blow more than half of the global military budget on ridiculously pointless cold war paraphernalia, and not act badly in our name, e.g., by torturing and permanently immuring people without recourse in places like Guantanamo.

    If you do (as I suspect) also live in the US, I’m curious to understand how you view government actors when you play your part in choosing them. (There is no agent called “the government” – there are only individual actors who comprise it.)

  6. So the sodomites were against even private charity, because it interfered with darwinian selection. How interesting. I would take issue with Zasloff’s conclusion, though: the goal of the conservative propaganda project is to turn all of us (the survivors anyway) into sodomites.

  7. I think maybe we need a new name for right-wingers. The word “Republican” used to just mean a mildly conservative, fiscally prudent, Northeastern-y white guy. This was probably between maybe the 30s to the 70s. They were recognizably human.

    We need a new word for the oddball wannabe libertarian/anarchists we see now. They are qualitatively different, and I for one would like to know where all those other guys went. Are they just staying home now? I can’t believe they’ve *all* gone insane.

    And I still think we need a feature here for “Republicans Who Don’t S*ck.” Try to build up a middle on the other side.

  8. (Foster): “‘The government’ is us, not ‘them’.”
    (Malcolm): ““We disagree.
    (Foster): “I assume then that you don’t live in a representative democracy.
    Wrong.
    (Foster): “What country are you writing from?
    The People’s Republic of Hawaii.
    Democracy is a feedback mechanism. So also is the market economy (the system of title and contract law). They both have their place. Democracy is not an unalloyed good. Do we vote on next week’s lunch menu? What would be the outcome if we voted on the size shoes we all must wear?
    (Eli): “…until conservative individuals begin providing free public education, libraries, parks, health care, firemen, police, safety and environmental regulations, I’ll assume you are building fences around your fruit trees.
    Until the NEA represents teachers for free and its members donate their sevices, I won’t call the policy which compels attendance at school, which compels taxpayers to subsidize pre-college schooling, which restricts parents’ options for the use of the taxpayers’ age 6-18 schooling subsidy to schools operated by dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, and which puts on-the-job training off limits through minimum wage legislation and child labor laws “free”.

  9. Mr. Kirkpatrick, if your biggest problem in life is compulsory, free public education — which you’ve presumably outgrown — you must have things pretty good. I hope it is making you a better person. Lots of children around the world would love to be so miserable.

  10. (NGC): “…if your biggest problem in life is compulsory, free public education…
    It is a mistake to equate government-operated indoctrination centers to “public education”. Not (school = education). Not (government operated schools = public education). The US State-monopoly school system is not “free”. It costs US taxpayers over $560 billion per year. $560 billion seriously understates the cost. $560 billion does not include pension abd benefit obligations, the opportunity cost to students of the time they spend in school, and the opportunity cost to taxpayers of the lost innovation in education technology that a competitive market in education services would generate.

    (NGC): “…which you’ve presumably outgrown — you must have things pretty good.

    Can’t complain, but I do anyway. So did William Wilberforce.

  11. @ Malcolm Kirkpatrick

    Wow. Lots of spirit of aloha there. Just to satisfy my own morbid curiosity, how long have you lived in that horrible socialist paradise?

  12. (Dennis): “Lots of spirit of aloha there.
    It comes naturally if you enjoyed the attention of the Hawaii DOE.
    (Dennis): “Just to satisfy my own morbid curiosity, how long have you lived in that horrible socialist paradise?
    Sixty years, with excursions elsewhere.

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