Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Economics (Page 3 of 3)

The weaknesses of capitalism and the non-answer of socialism

With the inherent weaknesses of unfettered market capitalism being exposed in recent months by the global economic situation, socialists have been trumpeting the apparent downfall of this economic system. And well they might. I have already explained my views on unregulated capitalism. However, on the cover of one left-leaning publication was the proud headline ‘Capitalism is bankrupt; socialism is the only answer’. I think the first part of that headline is correct and the second part is not.

485085_new_york_stock_exchangeSocialism is no more the answer to humanity’s problems than capitalism. While capitalism survives no the backs of the poor, the history of socialism survives the same way. Any look at the atrocities committed in Eastern Europe since the Second World War have shown that. While socialism as an idea is fine – public ownership of the means of production, in practice it has limited freedom for its own citizens.

At the centre of socialism lies the idea of the utopian society being achieved through the work of humanity, unaided by any higher power. The classless society is a great idea, outlined in Acts, but it can never be achieved as long as humanity works on its own. 

Human hearts need changing and no human economic system can ever do that. Martin Luther King, talking about communism, said that it 

thrives on the grand illusion that man, unaided by any divine power, can save himself and usher in a new society.

Socialism does not take into account the fact of humanity’s tendency toward selfishness. Bono has said that the 20th century is not a good advertisement for atheism. What does atheism have to do with it? Well, socialism is based on a secular vision of the new society, a kingdom without a king. The 20th century proves once and for all that a kingdom without a king will eventually fall in on itself.

For more on Dr. King’s views of a Christian response to communism, see his Strength to Love, pp 97-106.

Global Food Crisis: International donors’ response inadequate

This from IRIN and Reliefweb today:

Food security experts say international donors’ response to the world’s food crisis has been inadequate when compared to interventions to contain the global financial meltdown.

Huge financial resources have been mobilised by the international community in a matter of days

in response to the global financial crisis, according to a report by Oxfam. While the US Government put up US$700billion to bail out financial institutions in one day, on 3 October total global development aid for 2007 was US$104billion. The World Bank predicts that high food and fuel prices will increase the number of malnourished people in the world by 44 million this year to reach a total of 967 million.


Some thoughts about the financial crisis

I’ve been thinking about the impact this crisis is having on those who have been sucked into the prosperity gospel idea. I wonder what they are thinking now as they lose their investments. One of the reasons the prosperity gospel is so disastrous is because, when events like this come along, they will turn alot of people away from God as they become disillusioned with what they have been taught about God’s apparent desire for them to be wealthy. Hopefully the good that will come out of this will be that people will begin to see the prosperity gospel for what it really is – a heresy and idolatry. Jesus’ words that you cannot serve both God and money have never been more

Soon after this issue arose, I also felt uneasy about the media frenzy associated with it. Recently one of the commercial TV channels in Melbourne ran a documentary about how to survive the crisis and keep from losing your investments. The response of bailing out the banks in the US (and now elsewhere) with the extraordinary amount of hundreds of billions of dollars is the same. It reflects on our society’s self-interest and priorities. As Bono said recently,

“I find it extraordinary that the US Government can find $700 billion to bail out the banks, but the entire G8 cannot find $25billion to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.”

I think the prophets of old would be turning in their graves at the immorality of bailing out the banks with this amount of money. I also think of the rich man who ignored Lazarus. I think this idea is obscene and an insult to the world’s poor.

What this crisis also reveals is the destructive nature of unregulated market capitalism. The idea that the market knows best has always been misguided, especially for the poor. The nature of capitalism is that there always has to be a loser. I reckon this is what Jesus meant when he said “the poor you will always have with you.” He knows what human nature is capable of.

Mention has been made during this crisis of the movie, ‘Wall Street’, where Michael Douglas’ character, Gordon Gekko, utters the infamous words, “Greed is good.” People have been referring to this because of the reasons this crisis has eventuated. The unregulated market has allowed the greedy to get away with murder, and now may nations are paying the price. In stark contrast to the ‘greed is good’ mantra espoused by many, Gandhi once famously said that there is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.

This is a time when the voice of the church needs to be heard from the mountain tops, a time when part of God’s kingdom coming on earth involves speaking out against greed and excess. Following Jesus and living a kingdom lifestyle involves living recklessly for others. The life of Jesus and the early church give us the best example of how to do this. In Acts we are told that “all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” (Acts 2:44-45)

Some useful articles about a Christ-like response to the crisis:

Jubilee on Wall Street: Reimagining God’s Vision in Action

Orgy of Greed, Action Without Forethought

The wage of sin is the death of the market

It’s time to ditch GDP

Photo by Jorge Vicente (

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