Matthew at A Fearful Symmetry has an interesting post on the topic built around a long quotation from P. J. O’Rourke:
The Bible might seem an odd place to be doing economic research, especially by someone who goes to church about once a year, and only then because that’s when my wife says the Easter Bunny comes. However, I have been thinking — in socioeconomic terms — about the Tenth Commandment.
The first nine Commandments concern the theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, etc. Fair enough. But then there’s the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”
Here are God’s basic rules about how we should live, a very brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts, and right at the end of it is, “Don’t envy your buddy’s cow.”
What is that doing in there? Why would God, with just ten things to tell Moses, choose, as one of them, jealousy about the livestock next door? And yet, think about how important to the well-being of a community this Commandment is. If you want a donkey, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don’t bitch about what people across the street have. Go get your own.
The Tenth Commandment sends a message to socialists, to egalitarians, to people obsessed with fairness, to American presidential candidates in the year 2000 — to everyone who believes that wealth should be redistributed. And that message is clear and concise: Go to hell.
Of course, the New Testament would seem to obviate much of this analysis, but it’s still amusing.