Archive for the 'Learning to live and work in Gods economy!' Category

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?’

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. “

imgres.jpg

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!’

Little interest

I just received a mail from my bank that the interest on my savings account was reduced  to 1.1%.  On top of that, I pay double tax on my savings. Once when earned and the Dutch government taxes all savings above €22,000! I am lucky … in Portugal they are starting to charge people for saving money!  Our interest in the financial world depends on our personal interest in our personal money. If I am told that my savings are in danger, I wake up and take note. When I hear the words ‘financial reforms’ I begin to yawn sleepily.

marble bankI read an interesting book recently by Joris Luyendijk, a Dutch journalist working for the Guardian newspaper in London. He interviewed many top- and middle level executives in the City of London, trying to understand how te financial system works, and if there have been any lessons learned from the past 7 years crisis.  The bottom line?  No lessons have been learned. It is business as usual.  He write “If you had described the effects of the crisis to anyone in 2008 and said that 7 years later nothing had changed, no-one would believe you.”  The only thing the bankers have learned is that they can get away with anything! Continue reading ‘Little interest’

Economy of the Kingdom

From September 18-20 we will be in Amsterdam for the very first Christian Economic Summit!  www.economicsummit.eu

I have been asked to speak on the Economy of the Kingdom … a daunting task!  That the Kingdom of God has its own economy with its own chanacteristics  is not evident to many.

I often start with a quote from the English playwright, Tom Stoppard: ‘A door like this has opened five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It is the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.’

The upside down economics of the Kingdom is illustrated by some Bible verses such as the words spoken to Joshua on entering the promised land, “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant” (Josh 24:13); and the invitation given by God Himself to “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?”  (Isaiah 53:1,2)

And the early church illustrated the coming of the economics of the Kingdom where we read in Acts 4 “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all hat there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.  Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

Provision for needs, the meaninglessness of money, elimination of poverty, sharing liberally, asset distribution … sound good?  Well, we pray every day for God to “give us our daily bread, and that His will be done on earth … as it is in heaven.”  Therefore the standards in heaven should also become applicable to our earthly economy! Continue reading ‘Economy of the Kingdom’

Towards a new economic paradigm

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz made the case for creating a new economic paradigm in a 2010 letter to the Financial Times. “Today, not only is our economy in a shambles,” Stiglitz writes, “but so too is the economic paradigm that predominated in the years before the crisis – or at least it should be.”

“Changing paradigms is not easy. Too many have invested too much in the wrong models. Like the Ptolemaic attempts to preserve earth-centric views of the universe, there will be heroic efforts to add complexities and refinements to the standard paradigm. The resulting models will be an improvement and policies based on them may do better, but they too are likely to fail. Nothing less than a paradigm shift will do.”

He goes on to note deficiencies in the current economic paradigm and models, and ends the letter with “a new paradigm, I believe, is within our grasp…”

From September 18-20, we are co-organising the first christian Economic Summit in Amsterdam.

I will be leading an afternoon discussion on “New Economic Paradigms” and we have a very impressive line-up of International contributors.  For us, as Christians, it is not a matter of ‘thinking up’  a new paradigm, but of seeing why God is revealing to us. It is said in the Bible, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing 
without revealing his plan
    to his servants the prophets.”  (Amos 3:7). To believers in exile in babylon, Jeremiah wrote these encouraging words, ” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

Join us in Amsterdam for these inspiring days! www.economicsummit.eu 

Nationalism < > patriotism

Last month, I participated in the “State of Europe Forum”  in Athens, organised by the Schuman Centre, and the European Christian Political Movement.

One of the fabulous quotes was from a Polish priest Father Piotr who said, ‘Nationalism is a pathological overemphasis on the nation, and patriotism correctly understood is the antithesis of nationalism. Characteristic of nationalism is the fact that it recognizes only the good of its own people and seeks only its own fulfilment, neglecting the rights of others. Patriotism, however, as love of one’s own country, recognises the same rights of every nation, and is therefore a good tool to set social love in order. It seems that the difference between patriotism and nationalism can be clarified by recalling the difference between self-love and selfishness.’

This reflects Jesus’ words to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.

Continue reading ‘Nationalism <> patriotism’

Lessons from the crisis

(Excerpt from a speech at the Hilton Hotel, Budapest – March 28)

What lessons can we learn from the financial crisis of the past 5 years? How can we avoid making the same mistakes in the future? Einstein famously quoted, “we cannot solve problems using the same thinking that originally caused the problems.”  How can we think differently about personal and corporate finance in a vulnerable economy. It is also said that money will not solve financial problems  – only alleviate the symptoms for a short time – and that the financial crisis is, at its core, a problem of the human heart, not a technical problem. We need a new way of thinking, both collectively and individually, which changes our behaviour.

But how can we change in the midst of a crisis?  And I think we are still right in the middle.

Last month in Prague, I spoke to Bruno Roche, chief economist of Mars Inc., one of our speakers, recently and asked him what he thinks of the economic recovery we seem to be in and does he think that it will last? His answer: This recovery cannot last. He, and others who he knows, are expecting another downturn. This will most likely occur in 2015. He then went on to say that this next downturn is going to make what happened in 2008 look like peanuts because the world is much more in  debt now than it was then.”

Continue reading ‘Lessons from the crisis’