Bible Economics (Justice,Greed,Tax)

Worship of Idols (like Greed) is Deadly

From an AP article at the Atlanta Journal Constitution site, on Friday October 24, 2008:

Wall Street joined stock markets around the world in a huge selloff Friday, sending major market indexes to their lowest levels in more than five years on the belief that a punishing economic recession is at hand.

The market has been coming back up. But a lot of damage has been done.

I have a couple of questions:

1. What should be a Christian’s attitude as things seem to be – at least to some extent – falling apart? I wrote about that recently.

If greed IS idolatry – no wonder it leads to disaster. We have worshipped a false god! Could anything be more clearly a Biblical values issue than deliberately trusting a false god to run our affairs for us?

2. Is there any value in placing blame? Let’s talk about that.

Placing Blame

If it’s only to be angry and/or condemn, probably not. But this certainly is a marvelous opportunity for some self-education! That requires, unfortunately, some analysis of how we got here.

So what’s the root of this?

Many economists (and others) have been warning us for decades that if we undid the safeguards put in place after the great Crash and Depression of ’29 and the early ’30s it would be because greed blinded our eyes and warped our intelligence.

So I’ll say the culprit is human greed – greed running under a full head of steam, and working vigorously through our governmental institutions to remove all restraints on and supervision of the wealthy greedy. Greed is strong, and can account for a lot.

“Mainstream” Free-Market Theory Boils Down to Greed, Period

This is from Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus – the Pakistani Muslim economic genius. Yunus is not an enemy of free markets. But the version of free market theory that’s been operating for some decades now is very explicitly an economic philosophy of greed.

Mainstream free-market theory postulates that you are contributing to the society and the world in the best possible manner if you just concentrate on getting the most for yourself. (p18)

[In Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, PublicAffairs, 2007, p5-18]

How could it be more explicit? “Just concentrate on getting the most for yourself.”

Is there any better definition of greed? I have heard committed and well-informed Christians argue for this value system with no apparent sense of it’s violation of their Christian faith. That places greed and self-serving at the pinnacle of human value. And there are many who see that clearly and defend it enthusiastically.

Greed as Evaluated in the Bible

Look at a few of the mentions of “greed” in the New Testament:

But Paul spoke of the “greedy person—such a man is an idolater.”
-Ephesians 5:5)

… since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil …
-Romans 1:28-30

I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler
-I Corinthians 5:11

Oooh. What company Paul puts the greedy into!

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
-Ephesians 5:3

Wow. We really ARE expected to be not greedy? But what would happen to the economy? What force could we then trust to arrange our economic life rightly?

Dangers Implicit

Maybe Jesus and Paul had a clue back then about what the prize-winning economist explains so succinctly today.

Unfettered markets in their current form are not meant to solve social problems and instead may actually exacerbate poverty, idisease, pollution, corruption, crime, and inequality. (p5)

So greed not only
1) takes our personal allegiance and faith away from God, as Jesus said (“You cannot serve both God and money”).
2) It also damages and destroys people around us. And probably also even ourselves.

Habbakuk 2:4-7

See, he is puffed up;
   his desires are not upright—
   he is arrogant and never at rest.
   Because he is as greedy as the grave
   and like death is never satisfied …
Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying,
   ‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
   and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
   How long must this go on?’
Will not your debtors suddenly arise?
   Will they not wake up and make you tremble?
   Then you will become their victim.

Debtors could rise up against their oppressors. Creditors can rise up against their debtors and seriously reverse the tables on them.

Maybe that is what’s happening to us now. And this peasant prophet from dozens of centuries ago could see it coming!

But then, if greed IS idolatry – no wonder it leads to disaster. We have worshipped a false god! Could anything be more clearly a Biblical values issue than deliberately trusting a false god to run our affairs for us? This is a very serious matter.

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6 Comments

  • “Interesting times!”

    We are in Phoenix – decided to come see key people now in case that becomes less possible in months to come. Also visited a friend in her new hogan in Navajo country northwest of Albuquerque. Now there’s a different ethos. How odd to arrive in that area on the day Tony Hillerman died.

    I have to say, we love the scenery of the Southwest, but especially northern New Mexico. We expect to be back in Nebraska on Monday.

    Everybody keep praying and loving God and neighbors, and remember the teaching of 2 Tim 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

  • Sins of Babylon ad Nauseum

    From this site http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/ :

    ——————————————————————————–
    “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
    Shelley, Ozymandias

    ——————————————————————————–

    Ilargi: Remember the bans on short selling? In the US, 19 major financial institutions were protected from the practice. Now we see that many of them, though they never tire of knee-jerk denying, lose an aggregated $30 billion on shorts they bought on Volkswagen. But does it amtter anymore? They’ll just hold out their hands and get more of your money from the Fed and Treasury. Nice play by Porsche, though. Nice denial too.

    As I said before, ‘moral hazard’ concerns have long since been thrown away with the bathwater of the meek and innocent. All it took was a few ass clowns shouting ‘crisis’ and Mayday. Jim Kunstler this week asked why we hardly ever see terms like ‘fraud’ and ‘swindle’ in the media. Well, because we have a crisis, of course. First things first. The Fed will lower interest rates to levels so low that banks get paid (even more) just to take money from the public trough.

    Nobody wonders anymore whether it’s a good idea to try and ‘save’ bankrput and insolvent gambling houses. It’s a sort of shoot first, talk later mentality. And by golly, it works.

    This is the disaster doctrine. The Chicago school, the IMF, the World Bank and the CIA have long since learned how to shock people into submission. They’ve practiced for years in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and it’s time to bring the doctrine home to the world’s largest economy. Which was always the intention.

    We see it play out in the USA, where Hank Paulson has been handed anti-constitutional dictatorial powers after threatening Congressmen and Senators with hellfire, brimstone and ensuing lost elections.

    We see it in all countries presently being forced to seek help from the IMF. Courageous Turkish prime minister Erdogan vowed never to give in to the demands the IMF links to its financial assistance, but with countries in all corners of the globe facing deep trouble, there is nowhere else to turn.

    We know what havoc and destruction the IMF has left in its wake in the past 50 years. It forces countries to slash programs that help their poorest citizens, a loan condition that has literally killed many milllions of people in the second half of the 20th century.

    Another IMF staple is ‘economic reform’, which is nothing but a different way of saying that US and EU companies must be given unlimited access to a country’s resources, to do with what they please, and at criminally low prices.

    Turkey’s prime minister is wise to resist, but as I said, he has no choice. The fate of many of the world’s developing economies is now in the hands of Cosa Nostra loan sharks with far fewer scruples and honor than Tony Soprano. These guys are the real deal, the ones best known for redesigning knee-caps and cement feet.

    Also, Fannie Mae writes down $20 billlion in -tax deferred- assets. They were already worthless when Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government, but it was a trifle inconvenient to say so at the time. Freddie Mac will soon come with similar losses. This means both companies will need new capital injections from the government. Yes, that means you.

    And while you’re busy handing over your remaning cash, don’t forget that the Treasury, in your name, recently started pressuring them to buy an additional $40 billion in mortgages every month. Which lose value rapidly. The Case/Shiller home price index recorded yet another record drop for August. There are now plenty of places in California where prices are down 50% and counting. And you are buying the mortgages on these properties. How smart does that make you feel?

    The US car industry went bankrupt at least a decade ago. I’ve long predicted that Detroit would be liquidated between two presidencies, in the November 4-January 20 window. Still, the option remains for the Bush gang to throw billions at the Fast Shrinking Three through Paulson’s Roman dictatorship funds. Obama better be careful.

    Making GMAC a bank holding company is a first insane step. They should get the doorman to throw General Motors’ subprime dealer and pusher out of the casino, not furnish more free chips, compliments of the house. They would too, if it were their money. It is not.

  • Pardon me for throwing the scene onto apocalyptic turf here, Larry, but people need to realize the international repercussions.

    I spoke with my bank VP yesterday. While he was indignant enough to prescribe prison for all the Wall Street and government people (Oh that Christians would start asking how the Bush family make their “money”) responsible for it all, he did NOT know there was international condemnation unanimously pointed at the US, per the article above.

    We are warned about the creation of a monetary system requiring a mark. There is abundant information in the secular realm advising us of the readiness of microchip implants as the new level playing field of economics.

    Here we see the moment being created for just such a change. From our secular media (http://www.cnbc.com/id/27208082), have a look at the upshot of the Wall Street Crash:

    US, Europe Agree to Overhaul World Financial System

    US and European Union leaders agreed to meet this weekend to prepare for a global summit to overhaul the world’s financial system, while fears of worldwide recession continued to rattle markets.

    Markets around the world remained worried about a global recession despite signs that the credit market was finally thawing.

    In Europe, central banks renewed efforts to free up liquidity and unblock frozen lending, with further action from Switzerland, Britain and the European Central Bank.

    French President Nicholas Sarkozy, currently representing the EU on the world stage, said at an EU summit in Brussels he would meet U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday.

    “If we can bring coordinated answers to the financial crisis, can we not bring coordinated answers to the economic crisis?” Sarkozy asked.

    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said EU leaders had agreed on the need to reform the international financial system as the world faced its worst financial crisis in 80 years.

    Underlining the problems, U.S. investment bank Merrill Lynch reported net write-downs of $5.7 billion from toxic assets and Citigroup reported a quarterly net loss of $2.8 billion.

    Japan’s Prime Minister, Taro Aso, said Washington may need to push yet more cash into its banks to restore investor confidence, shattered by a crisis that began with a U.S. housing market collapse and now threatens economies worldwide.

    Switzerland’s two largest banks — UBS and Credit Suisse — became the latest to say they were receiving emergency funding as the country’s government and other investors moved to shore them up.

    “The markets are selling off stocks because investors still think the steps by U.S. authorities are not sufficient,” Japan’s Aso said.

    A Reuters poll of economists said the world’s richest nations are in or close to recession, with a sharp deterioration in the outlook for the United States.

    (please see rest of article)

    And look who’s “coming to dinner” to rule the roost… the chief creditors of US debt… (http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_10844409)

    China wants more say in global financial bodies
    By HENRY SANDERSON Associated Press Writer
    Article Launched: 10/29/2008 05:44:15 AM MDT

    BEIJING—China will want a bigger say in any new global financial order emerging from the current economic crisis, but will likely move cautiously in contributing to a proposed bailout fund for economic reeling countries, economists said Wednesday.
    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on China and oil-rich Persian Gulf states to fund a major increase to a bailout fund at the International Monetary Fund, the latest call for Beijing to use some of its $1.9 trillion of reserves.

    Beijing’s leaders have said they are willing to cooperate internationallly, but have said China’s responsibility lies in keeping its economy going by boosting domestic demand.

    China has already cut interest rates—including by just over a quarter point Wednesday—and economists predict it will take further measures to boost domestic consumption. However, weaker export demand from Western markets means China must remain cautious with its money. The majority of its foreign currency reserves are invested in U.S. Treasury securities, which is also lending support to the U.S. economy.

    If China doles out money as part of any kind of international rescue fund, it should get more influence in bodies such at the International Monetary Fund, said Zuo Xiaolei, chief economist with China Galaxy Securities Company.

    “They think China is rich by only looking at the $1.9 trillion foreign exchange reserves. But China also has to pay external debts and keep the stability of its own financial safety,” she said. “Let’s assume, if China does give money to the IMF, of course China should ask for more rights,” she said.

    In a speech Tuesday in Moscow, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said developing countries should get a bigger voice in international financial institutions and the ability to set rules, though he did not specify which institutions. His comments come as the U.S. hopes China will play an important role in international financial talks at a summit in Washington next month.

    “The right of emerging and developing countries to know what’s going on, have a voice, and the right to set rules should be improved,” he said, according to a transcript on the Foreign Ministry’s Website.

    Wen called for the establishment of a new international financial order because of the financial crisis, and called for the establishment of a multi-currency international monetary system, saying other currencies should be promoted. He did not give details.

    China’s Finance Ministry did not respond to calls and a fax for comment Wednesday. The People’s Bank of China refered calls to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who did not respond to calls. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Tuesday the financial system needs to be reformed effectively.

    Brown said Tuesday that countries with the largest reserves should do the most, and argued that the IMF needs much more than its current $250 billion set aside to assist struggling countries. He did not specify how much more.

    “China also has very substantial reserves. There are a number of countries that actually can do quite a lot in the immediate future to make sure that the international community has sufficient resources to support countries that get themselves into difficulties,” he said. Brown said he would hold telephone talks with Wen later this week.

    The IMF and its sister institution, the World Bank, were founded at the end of World War II and have been dominated by the United States, the largest shareholder, and the major European Union countries.

    Earlier this year, members of the IMF gave final approval to an overhaul that triples the basic votes of developing countries in the 185-nation organization.

    But the voting shares of China, India and Brazil do not approach the weight they carry in the global economy. China has one director on the IMF’s 24-member executive board, but only 3.66 percent of the total voting rights even though it accounts for nearly 10 percent of the world’s economy.

    The IMF monitors the global economy, provides economic advice to members and makes loans to countries trying to deal with financial crises.

    The IMF’s executive board is expected soon to consider streamlining its emergency loan programs ahead of a stream of petitions from countries seeking support. It has already agreed to loan Iceland $2.1 billion and Ukraine $16.5 billion, and said Tuesday it is willing to give Hungary $15.7 billion.

    Huang Weiping, an economics professor at Renmin University, said that the financial crisis and the blows it has dealt to Western financial institutions has given developing nations a new opportunity to exert greater influence.

    “In the past if developing countries wanted to raise their voice and take more of a stake in the IMF, developed countries wouldn’t have agreed,” he said. “But the financial crisis has changed the global economic structure.”

  • One other thing… get used to ignominy in the US. From this link on MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26962762/):

    U.S. GAMBLES BLAMED FOR WORLD’S FINANCIAL CRISIS –
    COSTA RICA LEADER: ‘MANAGERS OF BIG BUSINESS TOOK HUGE RISKS OUT OF GREED’

    SAO PAULO, Brazil – Astounded by the U.S. government’s failure to resolve the financial crisis threatening the foundations of the global free market, fingers of blame are pointing at America from around the planet.

    Latin American leaders say the U.S. must quickly fix the financial crisis it created before the rest of the world’s hard-won economic gains are lost.

    “The managers of big business took huge risks out of greed,” said President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, whose economy is highly dependent on U.S. trade. “What happens in the United States will affect the entire world and, above all, small countries like ours.”

    In Europe, where some blame a phenomenon of “casino capitalism” that has become deeply engrained from New York to London to Moscow, there is more of a sense of shared responsibility. But Europeans also blame the U.S. government for letting things get out of hand.

    Amid harsh criticism is a growing consensus that stricter financial regulation is needed to prevent unfettered capitalism from destroying economies around the globe.

    And leaders of developing nations that kept spending tight and opened their economies in response to American demands are warning of other consequences — a loss of U.S. influence globally and the likelihood that the world’s poor will suffer the most from greed by the biggest players in global finance.

    “They spent the last three decades saying we needed to do our chores. They didn’t,” a grim-faced Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Tuesday.

    Late Tuesday, the Senate announced it would vote on a $700 billion bailout proposal Wednesday night.

    Even staunch U.S. allies like Colombian President Alvaro Uribe blasted the world’s most powerful country for egging on uncontrolled financial speculation that he compared to a wild horse with no reins.

    “The whole world has financed the United States, and I believe that they have a reciprocal debt with the planet,” he said

    It’s harder for European leaders to point the finger directly at the United States since many of their financiers participated in the recklessness. London was home to the division of failed insurer AIG that racked up huge losses on credit-default swaps, and many reputable European banks disregarded risk to load up on higher yielding subprime assets.

    But the House’s rejection Monday of the U.S. bank bailout proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson provoked a sharper tone and warnings that America must act. Though global markets on Tuesday recovered some of the ground they lost in a worldwide slide the day before, politicians from Europe to South America insisted the risk of a further plunge remains high.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on U.S. lawmakers to pass a package this week, saying it was the “precondition for creating new confidence on the markets — and that is of incredibly great significance.”

    In an unusually blunt statement from the 27-country European Union, EU Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said: “The United States must take its responsibility in this situation, must show statesmanship for the sake of their own country, and for the sake of the world.”

    The crisis also has strengthened voices in France and Germany calling for EU regulations to eliminate highly deregulated financial markets, despite objections from Britain, which along with the U.S. is considered by some to practice a freer form of “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism.

    “This crisis underlines the excesses and uncertainties of a casino capitalism that has only one logic — lining your pockets,” said German lawmaker Martin Schulz, chairman of the Socialists in the EU assembly. “It also shows the bankruptcy of ‘law of the jungle’ capitalism that no longer invests in companies and job creation, but instead makes money out of money in a totally uncontrolled way.”

    The U.S. government’s failure to apply rules that might have prevented the crisis is seen as a betrayal in many developing countries that faced intense U.S. pressures to liberalize their economies. In some developing nations, state enterprises were privatized, currencies were allowed to float against the U.S. dollar and painful measures were taken to bring down debts.

    These advances are at risk now that credit is drying up. Countries with commodities-based economies are particularly vulnerable since more industrialized nations could reduce their demand for everything from soy to iron ore.

    “It doesn’t seem fair to me that those of us who endured so much hunger in the 20th century, who began to improve in the 21st century, should have to suffer due to the international financial system,” Silva said. “There are going to be a lot of people going hungry in the world.”

    Just before meeting with Silva on Tuesday, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez said he believes a new economic order is in store for the planet.

    “What’s to blame? Imperialism, the United States, the irresponsibility of the United States government,” said the self-avowed socialist and frequent U.S. critic. “From this crisis, a new world has to emerge, and it’s a multi-polar world.”

    China’s influence in the outcome of all this could be profound because it is a huge investor in U.S. debt. It is already calling for strict new international regulatory systems to apply to globalized financial markets.

    Liu Mingkang, chairman of the Chinese Banking Regulatory Commission, said Saturday before a weeklong bank holiday in China that debt in the United States and elsewhere has risen to dangerous and indefensible levels.

    The rest of the world is taking notice. Many newspapers made references Tuesday to China’s increasing importance in global finance. In Algeria, a large cartoon on the front page of the newspaper El-Watan showed Uncle Sam at prayer: “Save us!” he says, kneeling before a portrait of China’s Mao Zedong.

    In London, Jane Ayerson, a 20-year-old Irish exchange student, said Europeans share the blame.

    “The problem started with America, but banks here have been greedy, too,” she said.

  • Great post, Larry,

    And I’m sorry that you seem to stand alone as one of those looking to the root causes instead of tacitly “blaming God.”

    How do they “blame God?” By assuming that an otiose and impotent God is wringing hands somewhere, wishing that humans would “elect the right guy.” Those who fall for this illusion fail to realize that the great day anticipated is to punish all governments as corrupt, not all minus one either. That is the world (kosmos) to be destroyed, not the earth (ge).

    And as to Christians having blinded themselves, the problem is a failure to learn from history. All imperial powers seek to rob their own populace to go on imperial quests.

    Now that there exists a huge public source of funds such as the “equities” markets and “securities,” the mechanism is such that all these “investments” can be exploited and hypothecated by the war-making powers. That is the purpose of the stock market and every other thing on Wall Street. That is how wars are “financed.”

    Therefore all the Christians who pile their monies into those games get caught with hands in the cookie jar. Sorry, but this is not “making money.” Money does not “work.” Instead, interest is hypothecated. Who pays that interest? Those shmoes out there everywhere, such as “emerging markets.” All payment of interest to holders of stock market accounts, etc., is predicated on someone else having to pay interest on their loans.

    We now realize how far beyond usury the interest rates were on the bogus securities. Well surprise. The effects of the greed bled into everyone’s “investments” on Wall Street. All over the world, even.

    How sad that Christians haven’t instead, just for one fantastical notion, piled their monies into the farms of the poor. Indeed once “casino capitalism” collapses, the true wealth of the earth will be: all those subsistance farmers the world over – the humble of the earth even – whose (often crude) homes, lands, and agriculture is all owned free and clear.

    For their “lack” of plasma TVs, fancy cars, entertainment centers and other modern gimmickry, the great monetary controllers the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (who BTW are situated in and controlled by the US) can not put all the farmers’ doings in accountants’ books. They can not be hypothecated, therefore not used as collateral for someone’s war chest as the “investments” of so many Christians have been used.

    Therefore, watch: the poor of the earth are soon going to triumph while those who depend on trucks to bring food from afar to sustain them are going to experience acute shortage.

    This is already happening. It is reported that 1,000’s of ships are now anchored at bay off of Long Beach, CA, unable to unload their cargoes because of the credit crisis. They are waiting while the would-be purchasers frantically run about seeking letters of credit – in vain. The “Baltic Dry Index” (BDI) is down so far, entire freight ships are unable to ask more than $1,000/day for their services!

    In the end, there will be such acute shortage of everything in “economic Babylon,” that the glory of the rich will become instead the horror of all the earth.

    This is it. This is payday.

    Yet there is the former hope: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. This is what ancient Israel awaited… the establishment of righteousness on earth.

    But first, the scourge of that Wall Street witchcraft associated with money and all the wars and death it affords… well…

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