"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A Fragile Economic Recovery

"When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can't eat money..." (words on a Greenpeace banner)

I am reading Jim Wallis’ latest book, Rediscovering Values – On Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street (A Moral Compass for the New Economy) and I was reminded of an article I wrote back in 2008 – and thought it was worth repeating – a little updated.

Do let me have your views.

I wrote this as global stock markets were in turmoil, rocked by the credit crunch and the banking crisis. Whilst stock markets may be a little stabilized, the situation is still clearly fragile. And many still feel the recession gnawing at their financially precarious lives, whilst bankers yet again take huge bonuses. Isn’t more of the same sort of economy just going to get us in the same mess again later? Is this not another warning to us all about the non-sustainability of our economic policies as fuelled by our individual behaviour?
The predominant "free market" system of finance capitalism that operates in the world today is perhaps not what it seems. Many believe that it is seriously flawed. It relies on the creation of fiat money by the banks and a crippling compound interest loan system. It does not value the person, it is fuelled by profit motivation, and it ignores the ancient wisdom of the Old Testament land and debt laws at its peril. It contributes to the malaise of the world, both internationally and at local and national level, by fuelling injustices, increasing the rich/poor divide, failing to protect the environment and helping to destroy probably the most important contribution to trust and security and happiness once a basic standard of living has been achieved – sound personal relationships at family and community level. Strong words I know, and maybe controversial!

But pause and think. Would we as individuals eat everything in our own fridge and leave our elderly and young, our disabled and disadvantaged, all those living under our same roof, without any food and care? Of course not! But that is what we are doing. Because that is the reality of the world today. It is one global household, and we should behave accordingly.
We have to find ways to live more sustainable lives in a world where we can be sure that our good fortune is shared, where everyone has their basic human needs met, where both extremes of wealth and poverty become history.

We have lost our simple values, the art of love and respect and reverence for all living beings, animal and plant and human, the ability to understand ourselves as being part of a finely balanced world wide ecosystem, that together with the Earth we live on, we call Gaia. The economy of the world has to mimic the natural world and be totally cyclical and sustainable and environmentally sound. In nature everything is recycled – everything has a further use. Only if we behave with full understanding of our place within the living world, and build our economy accordingly – build it on principles of sustainability and justice for all – I believe that only then can we hope to heal this fractured world.

So what can we do?

We must support any initiatives that help people get back on their feet. We should support genuine Fair-trade, Traid-craft and other similar schemes wherever we can. We should curb our over consumption and wasteful behaviour, and use local charity shops, the Internet Freecycle facility and our recycling facilities wherever possible.

And we can and must fight to bring ethical trading in from the bottom up – enquire where our goods are produced and in what conditions - eschew all cheap goods where we know that unethical working practices are present. If the information is not available, demand it.

Be responsible shareholders, employees, employers and consumers. Many of us will own stocks and shares in some way, even perhaps without realising it in our pension funds. Some of these shares may well be in companies that operate unethical work practices, deal in weapons, or otherwise demonstrate behaviours that we would not support or condone in our own families. Look for ethical investments before profit motivation and ensure that any financial advisers know your views.
As Employees, Board Members, Non Executive Directors, Trustees, do we take a stand, perhaps against strong opposition, for that which we know to be right? Or do we allow practices to persist that we are uncomfortable with? Do we know what our employer really does – not just at the superficial level of our daily employment – but also at grass roots? Are we absolutely comfortable with its trading practices, its markets, its environmental footprint?
And if not, what are we doing about it?

It may often seem that the individual does not have a voice. But we can have our say – we can influence others – it needs knowledge and courage, and the support of other like-minded people.

And we should all give our support to any movements that are working towards a fairer, safer and happier world for all. Visit for example the website of The Global Justice Movement and support its aims. "Global justice grows from within. It starts with endogenous money and ends with peace."

Finally remember the parables of Jesus in Luke Chapter 12. Do not store up surplus for the future, do not worry about how you will be fed and clothed. In the words of the well-known hymn by Karen Lafferty, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you, allelu, aleluia." This is not saying that we should not work to feed and clothe ourselves, but it is warning us of the dangers of materialism and all that this implies in our world.

This really only scratches the surface of a huge topic – let's have your views.


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