[LINK] Gimme that old time religion [WAS: MR72/2010: Hector’s World™ teaches children important online security lessons]
david.boxall at hunterlink.net.au
Tue Jun 15 09:37:23 EST 2010
On 14/06/2010 5:28 PM, Ivan Trundle wrote:
>> ps. Internet is spelled with a I.
> These days, editors appear to be happy with either. It's become so
> commonplace that it is no longer seen as a proper noun. A bit like god.
Which segues obliquely into:
What would Jesus do about economic growth?
June 14, 2010
Should Christians support capitalism? According to a leading English
layman, despite all its material benefits, capitalism as we know it
contains moral flaws with serious social consequences.
I'm in no position to preach to Christians, but I'm happy to pass on the
views of Dr Michael Schluter, founder of Britain's Relationships
Foundation, which will be of interest to a wider audience (and can be
found at www.jubilee-centre.org/resources.php?catID=1).
Schluter's beef is against the failings of capitalism that arise from
corporations, which have developed as its primary engine.
His starting point is the belief that God is a relational being, whose
priority is not economic growth, but right relationships between
humanity and himself and between human beings. Christ's injunction to
''love God and love your neighbour'' points to the priority of
relational wealth over financial wealth because love is a quality of
Corporate capitalism's first moral flaw, he says, is its exclusively
materialistic vision. It rests on the pursuit of business profit and
personal gain. It promotes the idolising of money, which Jesus calls
''People are regarded by companies as a resource, or as a cost in the
profit and loss account, devoid of relational or environmental context.
So capitalism constantly has to be restrained from destroying the social
capital on which it depends for its future existence,'' he says.
This focus on capital lends itself to the idolatry of wealth at a
personal level, and the idolatry of economic growth at a corporate and
national level. Shareholders pursue personal wealth with little
knowledge of how it is generated, and senior management with scant
regard for pay structures at lower levels of the company, while
customers are persuaded by advertising to pursue self-gratification in
its many forms.
Corporate capitalism's second moral flaw is that it offers reward
without responsibility. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus implies
that gaining money through interest on a loan is ''reaping where you
haven't sown''. Lenders may accept some small risk, but they accept no
responsibility for how or where the money is used.
Debt finance generally results in relational distance rather than
relational ''proximity'' because the lender generally has no incentive
to remain engaged with, or even in regular contact with, the borrower.
In the workings of large corporations, shareholders generally have
little say in decision-making. Most investors provide share capital
through a financial intermediary, such as a pension fund. Often they
don't know or care in which companies they hold shares. Even the
financial intermediaries generally do little to influence company policy.
Perhaps, Schluter says, instead of ''no taxation without
representation'' we should adopt the slogan ''no reward without
responsibility, no profit without participation''.
Corporate capitalism's third moral failing arises from the limited
liability of shareholders, which allows debts to be left unpaid where
the company becomes insolvent. Worse, the unpaid creditors are often
employees, consumers and smaller companies supplying goods and services.
Because the downside risks of borrowing are capped, while the upside
risks aren't, management has been willing to borrow huge sums relative
to the company's share capital and thus expand companies at a frantic pace.
In the finance sector, incentive schemes often reward risk-taking
excessively on the upside with no downside penalties, reflecting the
risk position of shareholders. Consequent mega-losses have to be
financed by taxpayers to limit wider economic fallout.
Schluter's fourth charge against corporate capitalism is that it
disconnects people from place. In the Old Testament, the jubilee laws
required all rural property to be returned free to its original family
owners every 50th year.
This ensured long-term rootedness in a particular place for every
extended family. A byproduct was to ensure a measure of equity in the
distribution of property, which ensured a broad distribution of
By contrast, capitalism regards land and property as assets without
relational significance. This greater flexibility and mobility
undoubtedly bring material benefits. But as extended family members move
away from one another, and communities become more transient, they can
no longer fulfil welfare roles.
Grandparents can no longer help look after grandchildren, and
responsibility for care of older people and those with disabilities
falls on the state, with the costs having to be met from tax revenues.
Schluter's final charge is that corporate capitalism provides inadequate
social safeguards. It has no concept of protecting the vulnerable
through constraints on the market. Deregulation limits constraints on
consumer credit although the devastating consequences of debt for
personal health and family relationships are well known.
Deregulation ensures labour is available for hire 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, whereas biblical law protected a day a week for non-work
priorities including rest, worship and family.
The adverse consequences of these flaws start with family and community
breakdown. ''The greater wealth of some sections of society in
capitalist nations has to be set against the greater 'relational
poverty' which extends to an ever greater proportion of the population.
The danger is that over time these relational problems become
self-reinforcing and self-replicating,'' Schluter says.
Another consequence of capitalism's failings over the longer term is a
huge growth in government spending. As the number of damaged households
increases, so does the size of the bureaucracy.
Government spending on welfare has reached a level many regard as
unsustainable, Schluter argues, yet without it many vulnerable people
would have little or no physical or emotional support.
As state agencies take over many of the roles of family and local
community, they undermine the reasons why these institutions exist and
thus further lower people's loyalty and commitment to them.
Schluter's conclusion is that Christians need to search urgently for a
new economic order based on biblical revelation.
Ross Gittins is the economics editor.
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David Boxall | All that is required
| for evil to prevail is
http://david.boxall.id.au | for good men to do nothing.
| -- Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
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