What Bible is Rick Perry Reading?

The governor of Texas:

I think we’re going through those difficult economic times for a purpose, to bring us back to those Biblical principles of you know, you don’t spend all the money. You work hard for those six years and you put up that seventh year in the warehouse to take you through the hard times. And not spending all of our money. Not asking for Pharaoh to give everything to everybody and to take care of folks because at the end of the day, it’s slavery. We become slaves to government.

One thing we can be sure of: the world wasn’t cheated of a great preacher when Rick Perry decided to take up politics instead. For one thing, the preacher is supposed to keep reasonably close to his text.

Now, hear the word of the Lord!

Gen. 41:

15: And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.
16: And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
17: And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
18: And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
19: And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
20: And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
21: And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.
22: And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
23: And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:

24: And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.
25: And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
26: The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
27: And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
28: This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
29: Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
30: And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
31: And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
32: And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.

33: Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
34: Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.
35: And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.
36: And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.
37: And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
38: And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
39: And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
40: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
41: And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

[snip]

46: And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.
47: And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.
48: And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.
49: And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.

[snip]

53: And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
54: And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.

55; And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.

Gen. 47:

13: And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.

14: And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house.

15: And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.

16: And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.

17: And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.

18: When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:

19: Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.

20: And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s.


[snip]

23: Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.

24: And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.

25: And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.

26: And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part.

So the actual Biblical story isn’t about the virtue of thrift or of rugged independence. Instead, the government, in the person of Pharaoh, has information (in the form of a dream) and wisdom (in the form of Joseph) both provided directly by God. And the resulting wise action – resembling, for example, a carbon tax to prevent global warming – saves the lives of not only the Egyptians but also their neighbors (for example, Jacob’s family back in Canaan).

Yes, the result is that Pharaoh winds up taking 20% of GDP in taxes. But the Egyptians, not being Tea Partiers, are willing to notice that the government has saved their lives. Everything that happens is presented as the Will of God. If there’s any policy advice here, it’s that the government should have taken over the financial sector after its managers ran it into the ground, rather than bailing it out with TARP.

If Rick Perry had been in Joseph’s place, which – thank God! – he was not, he would have said to the people who came to him and asked for bread, “Nay, lest thou become dependent on government handouts, after the manner of the Socialists. In the Name of Jesus and Grover Norquist, starve!”

Here endeth the lesson.

[Cross-posted at Same Facts ]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.