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The Islamic capitalism of John Ruskin

Below is a quote from the final essay of John Ruskin's Unto This Last, first published in 1860. This collection of essays was a strong influence on Ghandi's life. With his creativity, mindfulness of God, and sharp intelligence, Ruskin rejects the two most popular economic ideas of his time: materialist capitalism on the one hand, and communist socialism on the other, instead proposing a form of capitalism that's exactly the Quran's: capitalism that's guided by such unfashionable ideas as kindness and virtue:

Observe, in these statements I am not taking up, nor countenancing one whit, the common socialist idea of division of property[1]; division of property is its destruction; and with it the destruction of all hope, all industry, and all justice: it is simply chaos—a chaos towards which the believers in modern political economy are fast tending, and from which I am striving to save them[2]. The rich man does not keep back meat from the poor by retaining his riches; but by basely using them. Riches are a form of strength; and a strong man does not injure others by keeping his strength, but by using it injuriously. The socialist, seeing a strong man oppress a weak one, cries out—"Break the strong man's arms"; but I say, "Teach him to use them to better purpose." The fortitude and intelligence which acquire riches[3] are intended, by the Giver of both, not to scatter, nor to give away, but to employ those riches in the service of mankind; in other words, in the redemption of the erring and aid of the weak—that is to say, there is first to be the work to gain money; then the Sabbath of use for it—the Sabbath, whose law is, not to lose life, but to save. It is continually the fault or the folly of the poor that they are poor, as it is usually a child's fault if it falls into a pond, and a cripple's weakness that slips at a crossing; nevertheless, most passers-by would pull the child out, or help up the cripple. Put it at the worst, that all the poor of the world are but disobedient children, or careless cripples, and that all rich people are wise and strong, and you will see at once that neither is the socialist right in desiring to make everybody poor, powerless, and foolish as he is himself, nor the rich man right in leaving the children in the mire.
—John Ruskin, Unto This Last and Other Essays on Political Economy. Note #63.

[1] Communism.

[2] There are many examples of the chaos that ensue when men are prevented from owning property: Philosopher David Stove, in his What's Wrong with Benevelonce makes a powerful case for the fact that men have no motivation to work and create civilization if there isn't the possibility of keeping their wealth, and he describes the deep, overwhelming unhappiness of men living under communist regimes (there are no smiling faces to be seen on the streets). Dr. Daniel Amneus makes the same point in his Garbage Generation, mentioning the idle and purposeless life of US men who, due to the unjust US divorce and family court system, end up living their lives as little more than money-making machines for their ex-wives, putting most of their earnings into a family that's no longer theirs. Paul Graham in his Hackers and Painters mentions that the most important reason for the West's renaissance was likely the first appearance of Italian city-states that allowed men to keep the fruits of their labor, instead of giving it to the ruling prince as was popular at the time elsewhere in the world (it can also be argued that allowing men to keep their wealth was the cause of appearance of the civilizations of Babylon and ancient Athens).

[3] According to many scholars, high intelligence and wealth are correlated: The richest group of society are also the most intelligent (i.e. smart people find it easier to get rich). See The Bell Curve. Here Ruskin is alluding to this observation, which even today is unpopular to state; people don't like the thought that biology can determine a person's chance of getting rich or poor. This is unfortunate, as the scholars who wrote The Bell Curve note, because it creates a society that doesn't teach intelligent people that it is their duty to take care of the poor.

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