Life, the Faith, and the Recession: 6 July

The British Medical Association last week said that they were happy with restrictive Government guidelines on doctors praying with patients, preferring to keep medicine and religion separate. (See last week’s blog for a different view.) Spiritual Care is being left entirely to Chaplains, of whom there are far too few to provide a meaningful service.

Walsall Wesley Owen, Christian bookshop, have sold all the 6 copies of A British Crash which they took, but don’t want to stock any more. Their in-house reviewer didn’t like ‘the language.’ This can only mean the sex – there’s no swearing. The manager explained that people look to them for books ‘without that sort of thing.’ Too much religion for general bookshops and too much sex for Christian bookshops…

My mother left hospital rehab to stay with my sister. On Wednesday she was brighter, very grateful for the care and attention, but still struggling…

First Primary School Assembly for years. I thought Jesus was encouraging me to lead a meditation on the children coming to Jesus for His blessing, as I last led 13 years ago! Jewish blessing is not so much, ‘God Bless you,’ as ‘Blessed be God for you.’ So in the meditation, Jesus was saying ‘Thank you, Father in heaven, for …. Thank you for making …’ (They had to put in their own names.) I had also recently read Ecclesiastes: ‘Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.’ It is important for children to keep in mind that God made them – they then feel better about themselves. The Head Teacher thought the children took part well. We followed this with a song they were rehearsing, which I did not know about, the Butterfly Song: ‘I just thank you Father for making me, me.’

Derek Williams, Roman Catholic lay evangelist and friend of a friend came to visit Like me, he has been telling people for some years that a severe economic collapse is on its way. We think our present recession is only the beginning. Derek talked of people not having food to eat, with the Church the only source of meaningful help.

Derek had read a paper I wrote in May on the recession, called ‘Dustbowl Economics.’ As a vicar and writer I wanted the view of some financial experts. Derek used to be an International Banker with Barclays. He described the paper as excellent and circulated it around his supporters. Here it is:

Dustbowl Economics

 Credit is like fertiliser; it helps an economy to grow quickly. Instead of waiting until I have saved enough money to buy a good oak dining table, I borrow money and buy it straight away. The table maker sells more tables more quickly. Gordon Brown understands this fertilising role of credit. He desperately wants the economy to grow again, so he is extravagantly increasing the availability of credit.

 Fertiliser overused, however, poisons the soil. The very chemicals which promote growth also block natural processes; the soil’s capacity to renew itself organically is severely damaged. The land stops producing and becomes a dust bowl desert. Credit overused poisons the economy. The very money which is lent to stimulate spending becomes mounting debt, hindering spending. Because I have to pay more, in the end, for my oak table on credit, I cannot also buy the matching chairs. I may still, recklessly, borrow more money for the chairs, (for, after all, it’s good for the manufacturer and the economy generally.) But then I certainly cannot afford the sideboard. I may even have to sell the table at a reduced price just to pay the debt. Neither I, nor the manufacturer, in the end, have much to show for my spending on credit.

  ‘Natural’ economic processes, such as the operation of the free market, goods being valued at the cost of raw materials plus the cost of labour to process them, hard work being rewarded, in the end, more than indolence, are short-circuited, and eventually poisoned, by credit. As debts mount up, like the residue of fertiliser in the soil, natural growth ceases.

 Years of reliance on credit to boost the economy have led us to the beginning of a dustbowl economy. When the land becomes a dust bowl, throwing in more fertiliser just kills the land even more. What is needed is for the land to rest until the ‘fertilising’ poison is leached out, and for organic processes to be reintroduced to the soil.

 Throwing more credit into our dust bowl economy will only kill the economy more quickly. What is needed instead is time for the poisonous effects of credit to the worked through and out of the economy. Natural economic processes need to be restored; we need to go back to a simpler economics, that of our grandparents: work hard, earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can, and, most importantly never a borrower or a lender be.

 Eventually recovery will come, as spring follows winter. But it will be longer coming than most people imagine, especially now that we have Gordon Brown’s last desperate heap of credit to work its poisonous effects through our economy.

 This dust bowl, or winter (another picture of a season in which nothing grows), has been a long time coming, although foreseen by many people. In 2002 I was talking with an investment manager in the City of London. Tentatively, I mentioned my sense that the economy was soon to enter an economic ‘winter,’ and I was about to go straight on to talk about the consequences of this view. ‘Let me stop you there.’ the City man said, ‘Here, we’re not talking about winter, we’re talking about an Ice Age.’

 2002 to 2008 was an ‘Indian summer’, a freak period of growth which made people think that winter was not about to come. Now we are at the beginning of the winter, the ice age, the dust bowl. I prefer the latter term, for it better describes the reckless human contribution to the present ‘recession,’ and points us to the steps needed to promote true recovery.

 Soil conservation, organic waste laboriously dug in, tree planting, crop rotation, contour ploughing, all help the land to recover from the dust bowl. Let’s not look to fertilising credit to bring us a quick recovery. It will only make our problems worse. Let’s look to economic conservation measures, natural processes of hard work, saving, frugality, for a longer and more sustained recovery.

Roger Harper

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