Christians & The Credit Crunch
Kevin Moss writes:Our TV screens are saturated with the latest reports of how much the banking bailout is going to cost us. The sheer scale of the figures involved makes our brains boggle, or leaves us hunting for the remote. Even prior to the latest announcement of a £100Bn deal, it has been estimated by reputable authorities that individual UK taxpayers are each underwriting £67,500 of this public sector debt.
Oddly, whilst the media focuses its energies on trumpeting the big, headline-grabbing numbers, there is a conspicuous lack of digging below the surface in order to ascertain whether all this speculative borrowing is either necessary or healthy for the nation’s long-term prosperity. With the BOE base rate reduced to 1.5%, inflation (CPI) at 4.1%, and the average deposit account yielding a net 2.88%, it is all-too evident how this method of managing the economy affects savers. Perhaps the aim in the short term is to make the UK attractive to borrowers and profligate spenders only – a difficult view to endorse when one considers the huge long-term savings deficit that already afflicts our financial capability in retirement.
The unquestioned mantra appears to be, that in such straitened circumstances, the only appropriate thing to do is to borrow more. This rationale seems to contradict basic Scriptural principle, where a far more careful approach to borrowing is inculcated. The sobering fact is that we are in this mess because those who write the textbooks, and who make the big decisions which affect all of us, have largely abandoned anything resembling a Christian worldview.
The writer of Proverbs says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Here we have the basic principle that there are right and wrong ‘ways’, that our choices in this life have an ethical dimension, they result in consequences – both now, and in eternity. Our leaders have chosen to believe that there are no ethical dimensions or consequences, and it shows.
The American economist, Milton Friedman, writing in 1998 about how America could avoid the Japanese slump said, “just print money”. A contemporary of his, Prof. Paul Krugman, expanded this idea, saying, “Don’t ask where the money would come from…it could and should simply be created…”
Any thoughtful person might be inclined to question this kind of thesis, because it flows out of a worldview where there are no consequences. Whereas ‘old school’ economists such as Adam Smith saw “God’s invisible hand” in the workings of the marketplace, Krugman sees no such thing. Speaking of the idea that “slumps are the price we pay for booms, that the suffering the economy experiences during a recession is a necessary punishment for the excesses of the previous expansion…”, he makes it clear that he rejects this concept of consequences in its entirety.
Krugman’s ‘Neo-Keynesian’ economics are pervasive and attractive to the secular mind. Its devotees enjoy the satisfaction of “spending our way out of recession” without the discipline of fiscal prudence during times of prosperity. It is specifically due to this belief system that our nation finds itself in hock at a time when the coffers are empty.
Let’s be clear about the matter. In the same way that the secularist agenda has emptied science of an attitude of careful stewardship, engendered by an appreciation of its Creator, the same worldview has done a remarkably similar job on global finance. It is appropriate for Christians to critique this philosophy. After all, our Lord labels the leaders of his day as “blind guides” and exhorts his listeners not to follow them.
Unfortunately for our short-termist, historically-uninformed politicians, there are consequences, however. Schaeffer draws attention to one in ‘How should we then live?’ where, having reflected on the way in which westernised populations become acclimatised to affluence, he predicts with chilling accuracy the impact of economic breakdown on a society which is no longer concerned about civil
liberties. If we cannot have our new ipods and other trinkets, how easily we are able to embrace even the most counter-intuitive or draconian measures taken by our leaders if they hold out at least the appearance of relief from financial discomfort. It is the appearance of relief from discomfiting consequences that drives current policies.
And there is another aspect hinted at in the Bible. The writer of Proverbs says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” There is a real sense in which those who are in debt become the servants of others: the Government’s initiatives make involuntary debtors of us all, increasing their control over us, restricting our choice and mortgaging the future. Paying for these policies goes way beyond taxes.
~ Kevin Moss, Newsletter February 2009
Kevin is a member of Highfields Church, Cardiff and Director of 2020, a national Independent Financial Advice network.
· Proverbs 14:12
· Investor’s Business Daily, 11/09/1998
· Financial Times, 20/01/1999
· ‘The Hangover Theory’, 04/12/1998
· Matt. 15:14
· Proverbs 22:7
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