The problem with financial success

“Having money is more fun than not having any!” Seems logical, but is it always true? Does having more money always bring joy and life fulfilment?

A documentary on Dutch TV described the rise to fame of a Dutch artist Folkert de Jong, one of the most successful contemporary artists in Holland. His expressive sculptures and installations are very popular and ‘are selling like hot cakes.’ Rich collectors, like Charles Saatchi, Damien First and Tracey Emin fought each other for his work.

Folkert de Jong told of his journey. “One minute you are making something in your atelier  in old Amsterdam and the next it’s worth € 40.000 or even a hundred thousand. The ever increasing bank balance sent him crazy, he tells. ” All of a sudden there were secretaries, and assistants, it became much more commercial. I held lots of exhibitions and had to produce more and more. It was like becoming another person, driven by money and power.”  Eventually stress tore him apart, constantly arguing with his business friends, who ‘turned out not to be friends at all.”
This all led to bankruptcy, and left him with a debt of over half a million euros.

“I knew I had to get back to basics, back to myself … I made by best work when I had no prospects at all!”

This mirrors the experience of probably the richest man who ever lived, Kong Solomon. He said, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)

‘Christians should warn governments about the effects of debt and greed’

‘Christians should warn governments about the effects of debt and greed’ Spanish group Evangelicals in Economy and Business organises conference for business leaders. Meeting regularly with fellow believers is “vitally important.”

“The Bible has much to say about dealing with people and money, innovation and creativity, decision-making and leadership”, believes Peter Briscoe, a former executive of a high-tech company. He will be one of the speakers of a May 2017 conference organised by the Spanish group Evangelicals in Economy and Business (Evangélicos en Economía y Empresa, Tres-e).   Evangelicals in Economy and Business. They bring together people whose desire is to live the professional life according to “biblical values” and see their workplace as their “mission field”.

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“Getting to know other Christian professionals who go through similar situations gives a new perspective and helps to discern ways to address certain challenges”, explains Zulima Sánchez, member of the Tres-e committee.  A wide variety of professionals – such as people working in engineering, human resources, finances or self-employed workers – are active members of  the group. After 6 years of local training, national conferences and production of materials, the group is now organising its first Conference for Executives and Business Leaders (12-14 May, Barcelona).

“The perspectives and needs of executives and business leaders are frquently very specific”, says Sánchez. “Certain topics are addressed from another angle”. Such a conference is important because “we do realise that executives and business leaders have positions that are very visible in the business field, and their testimony has a great impact both inside and outside of their organisation”.

Evangelical Focus asked Peter Briscoe, one of the guest speakers at the Barcelona conference, about the relationship between the Bible and leadership in business.   

Question. Why is it important for business people to spend time with other Christians to think about what the Bible says about their job?

Answer. It is vitally important for leaders in business to meet together with fellow believers for mutual encouragement, guidance, support, and to find God’s direction for their organization… A business leader is faced with multiple decisions almost every day. Many decisions will be taken together with staff or managers, but there are many types of decisions for which it is not practical or possible to discuss with others in the same company. Outside help and guidance can be of great help.  When I was leading a high-tech company in the field of human spaceflight, we called together a team of business owners to advise me on major decisions. I had lots of tough decisions to make! The people I met with were not high paid consultants but Christians leading their own business who wanted to meet to discuss dilemma’s and tough problems in a confidential manner with each other. We searched the scriptures to see if the Bible could shed any light on these problems and prayed together for Gods revelation and guidance. There were eight of us meeting monthly for a half day of talks, prayer and study on practical business problems. Between the eight of us, we had almost 200 years of practical business experience. We supported each other with our time and experience because we wanted to grow as disciples of Jesus and to glorify God with our businesses. There was not one problem which was brought to the table, which someone had not previously encountered! That person was able to give a testimony on how the problem was solved, or which mistakes they had made. This help, advice and support was worth so much to me as a business leader, and even saved me lots of money by avoiding some mistakes and pitfalls. The Bible has so much to say about dealing with people and money, innovation and creativity, decision-making and leadership. It is a wonderful, dynamic resource for building a business which will shine as a light and testimony to God in a sometimes dark and tough marketplace. We need not go it alone in business as God has also given us fellow Christians to help us!

Continue reading ‘‘Christians should warn governments about the effects of debt and greed’’

How Much Is Enough?

This is an excerpt from my presentation at the European Economic Summit, Amsterdam September 7-9, 2016.

How Much is Enough?

How much is enough? This is a very easy question to ask but difficult to answer, but the answer, when found, will lead to the ability to realise the most important things in our lives.

The Greek philosopher Epicurus stated, “nothing is enough, for the man to whom enough is too little.” Contrast that with the well-known answer to our question from J.D. Rockefeller, which although stated over a hundred years ago seems to have characterized our capitalist system recently. When asked ‘how much is enough’ he stated ‘just a little bit more!’

In 2012 father and son Sidelsky write a much discussed book with the title, ‘How Much is Enough’ which was inspired by the 1930 essay by Keynes entitled “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” in which he describes a moral economy, wherein we can ask ourselves the question, ‘How much is enough, what do we need money for?’  Keynes proposed the answer – “enough for living a good life.”  Keynes maintained that by 2030, developed societies will be wealthy enough that leisure time, rather than work, will characterize national lifestyles. He uses a realistic estimate for growth — 2 percent per year — and pointed out that with that growth the “capital equipment” in the world would increase seven and a half times. With a world as wealthy as this, he said, “We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day [sic], only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines”

The Wall Street crash was still a year away when in 1928 John Maynard Keynes spoke to an audience of Cambridge undergraduates. The great economist told the students that by the time they were old men the big economic problems of the day would be solved. The capitalist system was capable of delivering such a sustained and steady increase in output that workers would eventually have all the material goods they could possibly want. They would need to toil for only 15 hours a week and could then spend the rest of the time enjoying themselves. I heard this again in the seventies, that with the development of technology, our work would become so efficient that we would enjoy a sea of spare time in which to enjoy our lives and that the 15-hour week would become reality.

The Sidelsky’s described 7 aspects of what Keynes called the good life:  Health, security, respect, personality, free time, friendship and harmony.   Interestingly, they did not include good work, which is essential for human creativity, productivity and dignity. However, if our question of enough is not answered, then Epicurus’ advice is also valid for work. If the question of enough is not answered, then no amount of work is enough and this seems to have negated Keyne’s prediction that we will have less need to work. Continue reading ‘How Much Is Enough?’

Help, I can’t breathe!

Stuffocation’  s a new word which we could easily add to our dictionary. The trend watcher James Wallmann coined the term to describe the feeling that too many things, too much stuff is suffocating our way of life.

Thanks to mass production and global markets, we have access to a huge amount of relatively cheap products which we readily buy … and then store! The explosion of self-storage facilities over the past 10 years testify to the fact that we have too much stuff and too little space to keep it. Not only too little physical space but also too little emotional space. The excess of things is beginning to show us that more is, in fact, less.  grote aankopen

I was very surprised to read some comments from Steve Howard, Head of Sustainability at IKEA, a company which survives very nicely by offering us such a wide range of things we never knew we needed, who said that we have reached a limit on how much we can consume!  “We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products,” Howard said.  In economic terms, Howard says, ““If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings… ”

We have reached a clutter crisis. The more we have the more stress this brings. It all has to be managed, used, repaired, stored, maintained – and this is not bringing the satisfaction we expected!

The Czech professor Dr. Tomas Sedlacek in his book “The Economics of Good and Evil” stated, ““The more we have, the more we want. Why? Perhaps we thought (and this sounds truly intuitive) that the more we have, the less we will need. We thought that consumption leads to saturation of our needs. But the opposite has proven to be true. The more we have, the more additional things we need. Every new satisfied want will beget a new one and will leave us wanting.  For consumption is like a drug.” Continue reading ‘Help, I can’t breathe!’

The Philosopher’s Stone!

From the Middle Ages to the late 17th-century, the so-called “philosopher’s stone” was the most sought-after goal in the world of alchemy, the medieval ancestor of chemistry. According to legend, the philosopher’s stone was a substance that could turn ordinary metals such as iron, tin, lead, zinc, nickel or copper into precious metals like gold and silver. It also acted as an elixir of life, with the power to cure illness, renew the properties of youth and even grant immortality to those who possessed it.

The Bank of England was created in 1694 by a Scotsman William Paterson who famously said: “The bank has benefit of interest on all moneys which it creates out of nothing.”  Today, our banks are enjoying the philosopher’s stone which they have created. Money out of nothing but paper!  It is said that at the incorporation of the bank of England that it was promised, “We will provide unlimited financial means – in return, we will keep the absolute privilege to create money.” (To be precise: false money – or what the banks call fiat money!)  Fiat money is money that has value only because of government regulation or law. The term derives from the Latin fiat, meaning “let it be done.“ (Wikipedia) Fiat money is the opposite of honest money. Fiat money is money that is declared to have value even if it does not.

Faust and Mephistopheles

About a hundred years later. The influential German author Goethe, tells the story of a young scholar, Faust, who enters into a pact with the devil, Mephistopheles. In return for Mephistopheles’ services to help him realize his ambitions, Faust wagers the devil his soul.

The the Second Part of Faust, Faust attends the court of a ruler whose empire is facing financial ruin because of government overspending. (Sounds familiar?) Rather than urging the emperor to be more financially responsible, Mephistopheles—disguised as a court jester—suggests a different approach, one with disturbing parallels to our own age. Continue reading ‘The Philosopher’s Stone!’

Pope-onomics!

Pope Francis, known for his more liberal views than his predecessors, spoke at the US Congress at the end of September. His address made Speaker John Boehner cry …

The Pope described the core of his teaching,  which Time magazine dubbed “Pope-onomics” :

““It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy, which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “

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He spoke against liberal economics, making a good case for reducing income inequality and providing for the poor.

“Jesus affirms that you cannot serve two masters, God and wealth,” Francis states in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, bluntly asking: “Is it pauperism?”

“Jesus tells us that it is the ‘protocol’ on the basis of which we will be judged, it is what we read in Chapter 25 of Matthew: I had hunger, I had thirst, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked and you helped me: dressed me, visited me, you took care of me,” the pontiff continues.

“Every time that we do this to our brother, we do this to Jesus. To have care of our neighbour: who is poor, who suffers in the spirit, who is in need. This is the touchstone. ,” he states, asking again: “Is it pauperism? No, it is the Gospel.”

“The Gospel message is a message open to all,” the pope continues. “The Gospel does not condemn the rich but idolatry of wealth, that idolatry that renders [us] insensitive to the cries of the poor.”

Continue reading ‘Pope-onomics!’

The Four Horsemen of the Economic Apocalypse

After the last crisis, no lessons have been learned!  It is business as usual again!.”  A leading figure in our economy echoed recently what I have hear from several commentators about lessons learned from the last crisis period.

The former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stieglitz, wrote a 2009 article for Vanity Fair magazine in which he used this cartoon by Edward Sorel, depicting four horsemen responsible for bringing chaos and crisis to our economy, inspired by the apocalyptic horsemen from the Bible book of Revelation.4 horsemen of the wall st apocalypse

The real forces behind global economic trends are essentially spiritual, matters affecting the human heart – and this was certainly so for the last crisis period.  The four heart issues which Sorel depicted are: Mendacity (=deception), Stupidity, Arrogance and Greed; issues which are still affecting our economy today!

1. Mendacity, or deception, is rife. Just think of identity theft, mail fraud, and business deceit such as falsifying software to achieve certain desired results. (Diesel gate) Deception is rife in government, when our leaders break promises,hide costs and spin arguments … Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9)  Solomon gives us the antidote; “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (Proverbs 11:3)

2. Stupidity.  We seem to fall so easily for all kind of attractive schemes – ‘get-rich-quick”, pyramid schemes always find plenty of investors. Our economic schemes are so complex that even those who devised them in the first place lose there understanding of what is going on!  Continue reading ‘The Four Horsemen of the Economic Apocalypse’

New capitalism!

Churchill said, “”Capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all the others.” “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
Although the Bible dopes not explicitly promote or defend the capitalist system, it is the best we have …  but it needs to be strongly influenced by Gods economy.

Last week, I was privileged to be with Bruno Roche, Chief Economist at Mars Inc. at a meeting of the European Economic Summit, rochewho proposed an economics of mutuality. This is based on the value of the individual.
Starting with the value of the individual, the first task is to develop and invest in Human Capital. Then in the way each individual relates to and interacts with others – developing Social Capital with shared identity and values.. And then this should be developed within the framework of our Natural Capital, investing in environmental capital. Lastly, this all leads to developing financial capital.

Bruno Roche stated that if we start with developing Financial Capital as the primary goal, then this will always transpire to the cost of human capital, social capital and environmental capital. Financial Capital is the fruit of investing in human, social and natural capital and is needed for liquidity in the system.

Roche, “Marxism only wanted to pay the people at the expense of the others; Greens only want to pay the land at the expense of the others: and Modern capitalism only wants to pay the capital at the expense of the others!”
This is merely a re-iteration of the creation order! Firstly, God created the earth and gave it to man to provide and enjoy! That is natural, environmental capital. Then, God created man to enjoy the creation and develop this natural capital. He wanted people to grow and develop their gifs and talents. Human Capital. Then God observed that it was ‘not good that man should be alone,’ and created woman. Social Capital was born! Financial Capital only came as a means of facilitating the exchange of goods and services allowing people to interact, share and grow their economy. The purpose of money is not to accumulate but to facilitate!
Focus on developing human, social and natural capital and the shared financial capital will follow.
Don’t follow money, money will follow you. Continue reading ‘New capitalism!’

Lessons from Scrooge!

An excellent presentation on money! Make full screen to read!

Help … the invisible hand has disappeared!

Where is this supposed invisible hand gone? Did it ever exist?

 

The invisible hand is a term coined by economist Adam Smith in his 1776 book “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”. In his book he states:

“Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it … He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

Supposedly, this invisible hand will miraculously turn business which is based on self-interest into some public good.  What has happened to our free market system in which this hand seems to have diasppeared?  What happened to the economists and politicians in Greece some years ago when cooking the books in order to get into the eurozone?  What happened to our bankers who used our money to speculate using systems they didn’t understand and lose noinvisible-handt only our money but our trust? What happened to our major corporations who use people in order to improve share prices?

Where has it gone? I believe that this is Gods Spirit. We are all made in th image of God and it is only the presence of the Spirit of God on this earth which prevent us all from descending into complete disaster. God never has to punish us. He only has to leave us alone and we can do that job quite nicely.   We need to rediscover the role of Gods Spirit in turning self-interest into public good.  Only God can do that …! Continue reading ‘Help … the invisible hand has disappeared!’