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IS MONEY MORE IMPORTANT THAN PEOPLE (PART 2) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 28 December 2009

IS MONEY MORE IMPORTANT THAN PEOPLE (PART 2)

By Jim Jordal

Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and do not call on God?

Psalm 53:4

For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, says the Lord; I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.

Psalm 12:5

As you remember, last week we discussed three of the six major goals upon which our economic system is supposedly based. The six were freedom, growth, efficiency, security, stability, and justice. Today we discuss the status of the last three—security, stability and justice--in modern American economic society.

The goal of security became an issue mainly as a result of the Great Depression of the 1930s. During that devastating period the financial and physical security of most Americans was threatened. Banks closed and credit disappeared, 25 percent of our workers were unemployed, dust bowl conditions destroyed the Midwestern farm economy, the industrial sector virtually collapsed, bread lines and soup kitchens opened in many large metropolitan areas, and a sense of insecurity pervaded much of the middle and working classes.

Security as an economic goal means that there will be living wage jobs for those desiring to work. It means that families can raise their children without fear of hunger or destitution. It means that adequate housing, education, health care, and prospects for a decent retirement are available. And it means that never will the political and economic powers be dedicated to removing or limiting that security.

As you view the political/economic situation today it must be fairly obvious that for many Americans, economic security is a cruel joke. Money continues to trump human welfare. Why else would we tolerate the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, massive foreclosures that are still increasing, high rates of hunger among American children, inadequate or non-existent health insurance for 50 million of our citizens, substandard education, and retirement programs being scrapped or minimized for millions of retirees?

Then we have the goal of economic stability, meaning protection from massive swings of the business cycle, rampant unemployment, and periodic run-ups and consequent crashes like the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and the recent housing bubble. But capitalistic economic systems going back to the Middle Ages have never been stable. Booms, busts, bubbles, collapses, depressions and the like have always been present. So the real issue is not whether we will have periodic economic readjustments, but how can we control them in the interests of minimizing human suffering.

If you believe that crisis begets opportunity, then periodic disasters might play some significant role in human progress. Out of the ashes of financial disaster arise new systems and strategies better capable of dealing with inherent flaws in the system and its controllers. But what about the people who suffer from these crises? Are they expendable? Are they the cannon fodder of economic growth and redefinition?

It should be obvious that there must be some way of creating new vision and opportunity without periodic collapse and recovery—especially when those crises spread around the world causing massive human suffering.

And now to the goal of economic justice. We could define economic justice as the moral principles governing the creation of economic institutions through which we provide for the production and distribution of needed goods and services. A corollary of this definition is the proposition that all human beings by nature of their birth should have at least some moderate survival share in the earth’s wealth. Another corollary concludes that no person or business entity should have exclusive private possession of any resource, and should never use whatever resources they do possess in a non-sustainable manner. Economic justice would further conclude that economic inequality, while a necessary result of human endeavor, should never reach the point where a few people control most of the earth’s wealth. It’s not evil to be rich, but it is evil to have gained that wealth through denying others the right to exist, or to spend that wealth in creating further oppression and suffering.

In today’s world economic justice hangs crucified on the cross of mammon. The prophet Amos decried such a situation in his country when he lamented "You who turn justice to wormwood, and lay righteousness to rest in the earth" (Amos 5:7). And Isaiah complained: "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off. For truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter" (Isaiah 5914).

They could just as well have been speaking of the world today.