Apparently, according to leftists and New Keynesians, being prodigal is a virtue. So if being prodigal is a virtue, what of its opposite? And if Jesus really were a socialist, how different would the parable had been?
The Parable of the Niggardly Son.
Once upon a time, there was a man who had two sons. One day, he decided it was time to give each of his sons their share of the estate. So he divided all his property between them.
The first son was prodigal, and immediately set about spending his newfound wealth. This greatly pleased his father, as it meant that the resulting increase in GDP would stimulate the economy. But the second son was niggardly. He selfishly liquidated his assets and placed them in sound interest-bearing investments, greedily hoarding his wealth and decreasing aggregate demand through the Paradox of Thrift.
He went out from his home and spent many years away, amassing a great fortune, placing himself in the hated 1%. Until finally, one day, he returned.
As he approached his boyhood home, his father saw him, and ran to him and put his arms around him. The first son, the prodigal son, who initially didn’t realize what was going on having been in the middle of a particularly raucous night of economic stimulus, saw his brother returning, and became angry.
“Father!” he shouted, with a prostitute on each arm. “All these years I have obeyed you! I have given up selfish greed and avoided recession and sticky prices by spending whatever money I could at the time. I have renounced Say’s Law. I have sacrificed greatly by going into debt to help keep enough inflation going to grow the economy. I have given token amounts to the poor so that they may eat for another day. I have obeyed you in all things! But now this son of yours comes home, and you just welcome him, despite the fact that he has forsaken all that you have taught us?”
“But brother,” the second son, the niggardly son, the frugal and thrifty son, said, “I have created businesses in many different cities, and I have bought businesses that were failing and turned them around. I took them from employing a handful of people to employing thousands!”
But the first son wasn’t listening. “And what has he done for the poor? Has he not once given a hamburger to a homeless person?”
“Many of the businesses I created were in poor areas. I gave poor and homeless people jobs, so that they weren’t poor or homeless any more. Many of them now manage my businesses, and some are even co-owners!”
The first one spoke right over top of him: “And while he’s been selfishly inhibiting circular flow, have I not been helping it along with my drinking and debauchery? With my new 60-inch flat-screen TV? With my flashy new sports car that costs five times what a more sensible car that’s just as good if not better would cost? How can you still love your greedy, thoughtless younger son?”
The second son appealed to his father. “Dad, I have created scholarship trusts so that the needy can afford private school and college, and I’ve formed foundations that provide vaccines and clean running water to people in third-world countries.”
“Yeah,” piped in the older son, “And I’ll bet you took tax deductions on all of those, too!”
“But the money was no longer mine. I never gained any personal benefit from it. Father, listen to me: I’ve learned how to amass a fortune and TRULY help the economy. I can lift the poor out of poverty, not just feed them for a day. I can increase both the quality of life, and the quantity of it with technological and procedural health care innovations, the kind that happen a lot less often in countries with universal health care. I recognize that since resources are limited but desires are unlimited, then every single person has something to contribute, some way to benefit others that they’d be willing to pay him money for, and thus create a job for him.”
“Yeah? Well I could do a lot better by throwing rocks through your windows! Then a glazier would have work!”
“And where would the money come from?” the second son retorted. “It would have to come from somewhere else I would have otherwise spent the money. Say I wanted to buy a new suit. The glazier’s job would come at the expense of the tailor’s.”
“But I’ll bet you’re responsible for a lot of automation! Don’t you realize, as the Luddites did, that technology just takes jobs away from people?”
“100 years ago, most people were farmers,” the second son pointed out. “Don’t you see? When farming became automated, they did something else. Like making cars or selling iPhones or fixing computers, things that didn’t even EXIST back then, because the people who might have done these things were too busy farming. Automation really just clears up capital which can be used to make new products and services, and create new jobs.”
“Yeah, and what other businesses did you harm in the process? How many jobs did you take away from other firms in your monopolistic fervor?”
“My brother, you are stuck in faulty zero-sum thinking. If I did hinder other businesses, it’s because they weren’t providing as much value to their customers as I could. But really, most of my market share I got from people who weren’t even in the market before, because they couldn’t afford it. But because of my innovations, they are able to participate in a market that was completely closed to them before.”
The older son turned on his dad. “Surely you’re not listening to this?”
The father finally spoke. “Boys, boys! You are my sons, and I love you both. This is a joyous day! We are a family again! That is what is most important. Don’t you see?”
At this admonishment, the two sons embraced, and the father’s heart was filled to the brim. “Let us celebrate!” he cried. And they did. And the father was happy. And the older son was happy. And the younger son, the niggardly son, he was the happiest of all of them.
Even though no one wanted to hear anything he had to say about the benefits of a permanent portfolio.