Economics

Earth Day Thoughts

The Earth is my home and my favourite place in the universe. I can’t imagine a better place to live. Astronomy has found some wonders, but nothing to rival the Earth. The Earth has allowed us to live for billions of years, to get to our modern human life today. She deserves our love and gratitude.

Maybe you roll your eyes at me personifying a planet. But when science considers people/life as material, spirituality must consider all matter as personal/living.

For too long, we’ve viewed the earth as a dead object to be exploited for private profit. For too long, some (our rich and powerful) have thought they have a right to damage our common home.

‘You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.’
-St. Ambrose of Milan (4th Century Bishop and Doctor of the Church)

God bless you

 

Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert

Hmmmmm… They are using a war that killed millions of people, in order to sell chocolate… They are using the terrible tragedy of the first world war, and the incredibly beautiful and profound Christmas day peace, to increase their own profits… They are trying to connect which rich people receive our money, with our deepest longings for peace and humanity… But they do it so well!

Is there nothing that can’t be capitalised? Is nothing sacred! Well, no, not really. This is capitalism: The religion without any dogmas.

If the production costs are high, the only way it will ever happen is if its profitable in some way. Beautiful and tragic films are also made for the monies. The best modern architecture is for offices (offices!).

G.K. Chesterton understood the matter quite perfectly when he wrote,

‘But the improvement of advertisements is the degradation of artists. It is their degradation for this clear and vital reason: that the artist will work, not only to please the rich, but only to increase their riches; which is a considerable step lower. After all, it was as a human being that a pope took pleasure in a cartoon of Raphael or a prince took pleasure in a statuette of Cellini. The prince paid for the statuette; but he did not expect the statuette to pay him.’
-from Utopia of Usurers

The Sainsbury’s advert is beautiful and profound. Even the chocolate bar at the end, reminds us that it’s not just a chocolate bar. The right use of the most base material goods is for them to be used as more than material goods. It testifies beautifully, that our lowest material goods are destined to embody the highest spiritual goods. But here lies the real perversion of this advert: the advert itself, is using the most profound spiritual goods as just a tool, at the service of the very lowest material good: profit.

It is both beautiful and ugly. Its beauty lies in its lowliness and horror being exalted by love. Its ugliness lies in its glory being chopped down and processed into another product at the service of mammon.

Pope’s prayer intentions this month

‘The Pope’s universal prayer intention for January 2014 is “that all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples”.
‘His prayer intention for evangelization is “that Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity desired by Christ”.’ –From Vatican news

I looked up the pope’s prayer intentions for this month earlier today, and I just loved them so much I decided to spread the word this little bit further.

God bless you

Household debt lowers wages

This is something I recently realised, that I haven’t seen before, and, based on a quick google search, doesn’t seem to be common knowledge on the web.

Debts must be repayed: Failing to repay debts has bad consequences, such as repossessions and higher debt; Debt repayments are a cost to individuals, and, as there is nothing in return, lower standards of living; Because there is a higher cost of living including the repayments, work is needed more, increasing the supply of labour, which increases competition over jobs and over-time, and therefore lowers wages.

I don’t know why this isn’t more well established economic knowledge. There is very little difference between the notion that lowering unemployment benefit will increase work and decrease wages and, what is the same, increasing a cost such as paying off debts will do the same.
I suspect it may be that the wealthy, who set policy, don’t wish to reveal their advantage. It wouldn’t be popular to tell people they will have higher debt and lower income. And the economists are generally in love with the rich, and wish to present them as kind and helpful in all they do. Ultimately, they will see this as an increase in productivity.

Student debt (in many countries) is different, as it doesn’t last forever and is only paid by those on relatively high earnings. This is paid in proportion to earnings over a threshold, and so works as a tax. It should, therefore, disincentivise work over the threshold, and so increase wages (before tax & debt repayments).

Mortgages can be particularly bad, as the cost of missing repayments is extremely high, even if just a short period is missed.

Interest is the key problem here, as receiving a loan would initially improve cash-flow and help absorb falls in income. But as more will have to be paid back due to interest, the dependence on wage-slavery is increased, overall, rather than decreased.

Basically, the important thing about capitalism is that the more needy a person is, the less they are given and the more is demanded of them. And the capitalists still dare to refer to themselves as kind benefactors (however, occasionally one genuinely is).

God bless you.

My dream for this world

I dream of a world, where people acknowledge each other as equals. And not just equals, but as naturally good, and worthy of good things.
A world where people love their neighbours as themselves. And not in word, or tongue, but in deeds and in truth.
A world where people are tolerant of insignificant matters, and pay attention to the truly important things.
Where no one is taking what belongs to another, whether through direct violence, the threat of violence, or trickery guarded by violence. And where if anyone does take something, many seekers of justice quietly take it back.
A world where no one claims to own another’s life, nor a period of their life, nor the means to their life.
A world where people do not use violence to settle their problems or fulfill their desires. Where each human is recognised as an end in themself, and not as merely the means to another’s ends.
A world where truth is known and sought after. Where people speak reasonably and listen to determine the truth on any matter. Where people have the humility to accept the truth, because they know it is more than their own selfish desires.
Where things are not determined by violence, but by freedom and consensus. And if consensus can’t be reached, then they are free to break away and do things differently, or submit to the will of the majority. And if people refuse to accept reasonable decisions at first, they will be convinced eventually by reasonable friends arguments and attitudes towards them.
A world without a proud and pompous above and an angry and miserable below. Where people delight in helping each other, and seeing each other happy.
A world where people are not stressed by the prospect of losing their home, or paying for their next meal. Where they seek truth, justice, and love over security, and so produce a greater security.
A world where we no longer learn how to kill. Where the tools to slaughter millions of innocent children [nukes] aren’t kept, just in case they’re one day needed (to, you know, protect our children from bad men with guns).

Much of this vision is neatly summed up in the word, ‘Anarchism’. The rejection of rulership. But not necessarily all of it. It proceeds largely from Christian ideas of love and justice.

I’m a Christian, so would this dream world ideally be Christian? Maybe… but I would rather non-Christians live this way than Christians fail to live this way. Of course, it’s a very Christianity inspired vision, so I would hope it would come most naturally to Christians (though it seems many Christian groups are far further from these ideas than many non-Christian). It would be a world with religious tolerance.

How to start
First of all I must start with myself. As Leo Tolstoy said,

‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.’

Talking has its uses, but no one will listen to someone who refuses to listen to themselves. The problem isn’t simply outside of me, it’s also within.
Secondly, it must start with the least. They are the ones that need it most, and who I’m most likely to have inadvertently supported the exploitation of.
And thirdly, it must spread to others. Most people aren’t yet capable of living in such a world. Too few of us are good enough so that if all exploiters gave up tomorrow, the world would become good. As we stand, many would try to take their places.
These three are nicely unified, in that I cannot help others without changing myself, I can’t improve myself without helping those in need, and I can’t convince anyone without action in accordance.

God bless you.

P.S.
It’s good to know what I must do, but it sure does look tough. I’m not very comfortable around strangers, but I don’t know many people in need. Of course, I’m sure many of those I know have their own very real needs, but there are fewer people I know anyway, so the majority of my duty will involve strangers.
Thinking over the parable of the Good Samaritan earlier today, I realised that I’m far more like the Levite or the Priest who walk by on the other side than the Samaritan who helps a stranger in need. I desperately need to correct this.