At the outset, it has to be mentioned that, for the sake of simplicity, we are studying these Bahá’i Writings on economics briefly without going too deeply into their importance and implications. Volumes can be written on each of these Writings, and each could be the subject of extensive research. As time goes by, we will realize their importance and how they can and will bring us towards a totally different economic system. Future economists will write books on how these Sacred Writings changed our spiritual, social, and economic lives. So please bear in mind that the simplicity of the language and my feeble attempts to share my understanding of them does not do them justice. Many Writings could be mentioned here, but I chose these on purpose because they cover many areas related to economics.
“We see you adding every year unto your expenditures and laying the burden thereof on the people whom ye rule; this verily is naught but grievous injustice. Fear the sighs and tears of this Wronged One, and burden not your peoples beyond that which they can endure.” – Bahá’u’lláh, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p.40
“Each person in the community whose need is equal to his individual producing capacity shall be exempt from taxation. But if his income is greater than his needs, he must pay a tax until an adjustment is effected. That is to say, man’s capacity for production and his needs will be equalized and reconciled through taxation. If his production exceeds, he will pay a tax; if his necessities exceed his production he shall receive an amount sufficient to equalize or adjust. Therefore taxation will be proportionate to capacity and production, and there will be no poor in the community.” – Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.217
Taxation is one of the fundamental principles of any economic system. Abdu’l-Baha has proposed graduated taxes which means that the more one makes, the more taxes he pays. Taxes have to be fair and they are levied only after someone has paid all of his expenses and has money left over. This method doesn’t compromise with the quality of life of the individual and monies collected from the taxes are spent on the poor and underprivileged, reducing the number of those who are in need in the community.
HUQÚQU’LLÁH (Right of God)
“The minimum amount subject to Huqúqu’lláh is reached when one’s possessions are worth the number of Vahid (19); that is, whenever one owneth 19 mithqals of gold, or acquireth possessions attaining this value, after having deducted therefrom the yearly expenses, the Huqúq becometh applicable and its payment is obligatory.”– Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. 1, p.493; Huququ’llah-The Right of God, #6
In addition to taxation, Baha’u’llah has devised another means to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. It is the Right of God which is given voluntarily when an individual earns more than all his needs. At that point he gives a voluntary set percentage of his assets. It is important to note that taxes collected, added to money given to charity, as well as giving to the Baha’i fund with money given as the Right of God can really bridge the gap between the two extremes.
RATE OF INTEREST
“Therefore as a token of favor towards men We have prescribed that interest on money should be treated like other business transactions that are current amongst men. Thus, now that this lucid commandment hath descended from the heaven of the Will of God, it is lawful and proper to charge interest on money, that the people of the world may, in a spirit of amity and fellowship and with joy and gladness, devotedly engage themselves in magnifying the Name of Him Who is the Well-Beloved of all mankind. Verily, He ordaineth according to His Own choosing. He hath now made interest on money lawful, even as He had made it unlawful in the past.” – Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pp.133-134
In this quotation “the past” refers to Islam in which interest was forbidden. It is very difficult to run a banking system without interest. But in many societies, the rate of interest is extremely high, on credit cards and student loans, for example. High interest on a student loan is unfair because students charged with this interest do not have jobs to pay the loan or the interest and need to keep paying it for many years once they enter the workforce. That puts a heavy burden on the economic life of the individual which, in turn, diminishes his quality of life. Baha’u’llah emphasized the concept of a good loan, meaning that the rate of interest had to be such that it did not burden the borrower and that it benefited everyone. The person or firm lending the money gets an adequate amount of interest and the person borrowing is happy because he can afford to pay it. A good loan is basically a rate of interest that is fair and reasonable, using the principle of moderation.