Archive for November, 2011

Protestors and Capitalism: 12 November

November 12, 2011

St Paul’s Cathedral was right to pull back from evicting the protestors camping close by and to open their doors again. For a time it seemed that the Cathedral was siding firmly with The City, using the pretext of Health and Safety to exaggerate the threat from the protestors. Thank God sense and grace prevailed. As many have said, the protestors have a good point.

The City, particularly the Stock Exchange, the original target, does not work for the best interests of the majority of the people but for the best interests of the rich few. This is not acceptable. Something drastic needs to change.

The detrimental effects of the Stock Exchange are well known. A member of my church manages a medium sized firm making food supplements. A couple of years ago the company was bought by a private investor. The company has benefited hugely from having a single investor who is committed to the future of the company and who plans for the long term. The same goes for the success of JCB, the only major British engineering manufacturing company surviving and thriving today. I was told by a manager there that the chief reason for their success is that JCB are privately owned. They have nothing to do with the Stock Exchange. The Stock Exchange does not work for the best interests of British companies.

The Stock Exchange does work for the best interests of shareholders. The purpose of the Stock Exchange is to enable shareholders to sell and buy shares, thereby increasing their wealth. The ability of shareholders quickly to withdraw from a company becomes a kind of blackmail. Keeping the shareholders contented becomes the chief aim of any company quoted on the Stock Exchange. Shareholders’ contentment is understood as them becoming richer. Shareholders, encouraged by the Stock Exchange, are the first and foremost people to benefit from any profit. The best interests of the company take second place to the best interests of the shareholders. This is plain, obvious, indisputable.

The Stock Exchange, and our shareholding system, is not based on loving your neighbour as you love yourself. Can anyone argue that it is?

The problem is with the foundation of the whole system. Ken Costa, banker, Christian and prominent member of Holy Trinity, Brompton wrote in the Financial Times: ‘Worldwide there is an undirected expression of anger and deep frustration that financial markets have drifted from the ethical foundation on which they are supposed to be based.’ The Stock Market does not have an ethical foundation. It is founded to further the interests of shareholders. At its best the Stock Market operates with ethical behaviour, honesty, integrity etc. But these are not the foundation.

The Church of England Newspaper, in a front page editorial, urged the Church to ‘restore faith in the City.’ Christians can only have faith in the City when the City is built on the rock rather than the sand, the rock of hearing Jesus’ words and doing them, the rock of loving your neighbour as you love yourself. We cannot have faith in a system built on the sand.

Alternatives are available. All German companies have to have a Board of Directors with representatives equally of both investors / shareholders and workers. Decisions are taken with the interests of both investors and workers in mind. This leads to investment in securing jobs for the future, retaining manufacturing inGermany, higher levels of commitment and quality by workers – to successful companies with a prospering workforce as well as prospering investors. The success of German companies as opposed to British companies is obvious, dramatic, huge. The success is due to German companies having a different legal foundation, much closer to love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Christian Equitable Companies are a new British model built fully on investors, workers and innovators loving their neighbour as they love themselves. Some detail is at http://www.abritishcrash.co.uk/about-us/index.htm A Venture Capital CEC will be formed to start up or take over a range of CECs. Once the model has been proved to work, it will be commended widely.

There is no point in talking about alternatives to those working in the Stock Exchange. The St Paul’s Institute this week published its Report into Ethics and the City of London 25 years after the ‘Big Bang’ de-regulation. One finding is the 76% of City workers disagree, mostly strongly, that ‘The City of London needs to listen more to the guidance of the Church.’ See http://www.stpaulsinstitute.org.uk/dialogue/st-pauls-institute/article/2011/nov/07/-value-and-values-perceptions-of-ethics-in

The campaign for alternatives has to be aimed at legislators and at Christian entrepreneurs and investors. If we Christians do not build business on the foundation of love your neighbour as you love yourself, then who else will? And the legislators need more than nice ideas. They need to see good working alternatives to then support and foster through legislation. Anyone willing to join in? Please write to lad1@abritishcrash.co.uk

The protestors want ‘economic justice.’ They have little idea of exactly what this is and how to achieve it. The followers of Jesus know. Economic justice is loving your neighbour as you love yourself. It’s time we did it, at last.

Roger Harper

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King and Armies: Debate! 1 November

November 1, 2011

‘Buzz Lightyear’ has commented on a post from last November. Alleluia! May debate continue:

Greetings Roger. Thank you for posting this item.

Hopefully my comments below might generate some discussion. You make lots of interesting points – too many to address in one reply. Indeed, it would be possible to write a book discussing in detail all of the items that you raised. However, playing devil’s advocate and in favour of the existence of our military I offer the following viewpoint.

It would be great if we lived in a world without war, terrorism, famine, natural disasters, etc. Sadly that isn’t the case. There is an argument for the existence of military power alone whilst hoping that it will never have to be used. After all, the use of military force is a last resort when the diplomatic process has failed and our politicians absolutely have to find a solution to a particular problem.

Let’s take the Falkland Islands for example. Since the war of 1982, the UK has military forces stationed on the islands for deterrence (to ensure that Argentina don’t try to invade again) and reassurance (of the Falkland Island locals and the UK population back home). If you asked a Falkland Islander if they thought that the military should be drawn down to the extent that it would affect the military presence on the islands, I think I know what they would say!

The British government has been forced to reduce our military levels substantially since the fall of the Berlin wall and reduction in justification for an enormous military. The current economic situation has accelerated this reduction and whilst cuts in military spending may not be in line with cuts to other areas of government spending, the effect has still been quite noticeable. As a maritime nation, Britain has always placed significant emphasis on military power. We no longer have an empire to defend and we are no longer considered the global policeman that we once might have been. However, our strategic influence has, to a certain extent, been as a result of our military capability. Britain holds a Permanent Seat on the UN Security Counsel and is seen as a leader when it comes to influence amongst other developed nations. Would our global influence remain the same if we were to downsize or completely remove our military?

Military capability also has utility in disaster response – earthquakes in Haiti, peace support operations in Africa. Would disparate aid organisations like the red cross or MSF be able to respond in a similar way to these disasters without military support?

The recent conflict in Libya is another interesting situation. Without military intervention there can be no doubt that there would have been many of the residents of Benghazi killed as a result of Gaddafi’s imminent intention to quash the rebellious uprising. No doubt much blood has been spilt in supporting the rebels but arguably Libya is in a much better place now than it would have been if it was subjected to a continuation of Gaddafi’s oppressive regime.

I could go on, but I won’t as I’ll be here all day! Interested in your thoughts.

Gee, I’m honored Buzz. Many thanks for taking the time to write. More seriously, yes indeed these are matters about which much has been written and much more could be written.

The old American idea, explained by Alastair Cooke, is that military action as a last resort does not happen with a standing army. The difficulty of calling up recruits means that it will always be a last resort. This was the Biblical system of the Book of Judges, superseded by the establishment of the monarchy with its standing army, against the clear, godly, advice of the prophet Samuel. With a standing army it is far too easy to use military action as a second or third option, rather than a last resort.

You refer to the Falklands conflict. At that time, I was studying at theological college. The father of one of my fellow students worked in the diplomatic service. My fellow student told me that the father and his colleagues were distraught that diplomatic attempts to reverse the occupation were not considered. The Argentinean army had gone in. We had to send our army in. End of argument. Now we have to keep our army there indefinitely at great cost.

It was the same withIraq and Afghanistan. A ‘military’ attack had been made on the symbols of American power withinAmerica. Military action, ‘war on terror,’ was rushed into without exploring proper legal action. How many options were tried before the bombs started falling on Kabul?

What non-military options were tried before NATO bombing in Libya? It may be that military power there achieved its result in a short time and with comparatively low loss of life, But what is the evidence to show that bombing was clearly ‘the last resort?’

Do we want our global standing and influence to depend on our military capability? ‘Listen to us or we send in the boys!’ This is indeed too close to our old imperial attitude. I would far rather people across the world respect and heed us for our experience, wisdom, and creativity, our sense of fair play and adherence to the rule of law. It is righteousness which exalts a nation, according to the Bible, not military power (Proverbs 14:34).

Disaster response would be better carried out by a dedicated UN organisation, properly funded and monitored, or by the Red Cross. A concerted international capability is better than separate, rival, national armies. Civil airlines could be used more. Chartering them when needed would be cheaper than maintaining military planes. An older member of the congregation at my church used to work for British Airways, or its predecessors, in less profit-motivated times. She has flown into disaster areas with relief, often, she says proudly, the first on the scene, ahead of the military.

Roger