Bring on the Recession

This is the startling title and thesis of an article by George Monbiot, published in the Guardian on 9th October, and brought to my attention by Paul Trathen. To summarise, Monbiot argues that continued economic growth is unsustainable and likely to lead to ecological disaster, and that we, in western countries, are no longer in poverty and so have no need for further growth.

Is it not time to recognise that we have reached the promised land, and should seek to stay there? Why would we want to leave this place in order to explore the blackened wastes of consumer frenzy followed by ecological collapse? Surely the rational policy for the governments of the rich world is now to keep growth rates as close to zero as possible?

Of course governments will not follow this rational policy, but will seek continued growth. But will it work? Recent events in the banking system have shown how volatile things may be, and people are beginning to realise this.

My new houseI have just decided to buy a new house (and have had an offer accepted on this one, just a mile from my current home and very near my church), rather than leave in a bank the money from the house I sold earlier in the year (which I bought with money inherited from my parents). I am doing this even though everyone is predicting that the housing market is likely to fall. One reason for this was my concern about the security of even the safest bank deposit. I was also challenged to some extent by John Richardson on the ethics of living on interest; and someone gave me a word about Jeremiah buying a field. I thought I was going against the standards of the world in doing so. So I was actually a bit startled to read on the BBC website today that

A majority of British people believe buying property is now a safer place to put their money than saving with a bank or building society. …

That belief is directly at odds with the view accepted by the overwhelming majority of investment professionals.

They regard cash as safer than property because as long as the bank is solvent, there is no risk to your capital.

Of course the point, following the Northern Rock scare, is that people no longer trust that banks will remain solvent. Or they might recognise that “no risk to your capital” doesn’t apply in a situation of high inflation and collapse of a currency, which might be triggered by major bank failures.

The financial professionals may have no time for Monbiot’s thesis, but perhaps it resonates a bit better with ordinary people who prefer to find their security in bricks and mortar rather than in financial spheres that are starting to look like bubbles.

0 thoughts on “Bring on the Recession

  1. peter–

    good luck!! a very, very busy time for you. is this new place bigger or smaller than the old? separate library/study of course? room for all your books?



  2. Thanks, Scott. The new place has plenty of space for me, as does my current one. But I’m not actually sure that I am going to move to it. I intend to rent out either the new house or my existing one.

  3. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » My ancestral home

  4. I, also, recall being challenged by reading something of John Richardson’s about financial interest a while back. I think the whole area is a real issue for us, now.

    Of course, the idea of interest ‘earned’ on capital or asset is to be found throughout our economic systems. We have particularly problematised the question of housing. I feel that Christians should have spoken out much more than they have about the sin involved in us treating houses as investment opportunities rather than homes. We will reap the whirlwind for this, I feel.

    Many of the early Church Fathers were quite adament that private property of any kind is – apart from being a misnomer (cos all belongs to God!) – a grave sin, a living heresy ag against the promise of Pentecost. St John Chrysostom is particularly hot on this!

    Go well!

  5. Thanks, Paul. But what should I do with my money, if St John Richardson says I shouldn’t invest it and St John Chrysostom says I shouldn’t buy anything with it? Give it away, and live in poverty? Maybe. But my intention with the new house is to use it for God’s work in some very real ways, details still to be worked out – and to trust the Lord to provide me with some income through it.

  6. There is always the very real possibility that God will simply ask us to give it away to someone else! For both you and I!

    It seems to me that we always need to work out how to engage in the clear Gospel directive to share in the creative stewarding of creation – Parable of the Talents, etal – and this includes all of our work, our ability to make things ‘profitable’ (ie. more than the sum of their parts) and, I certainly believe, this includes the creation of wealth…
    The tension then is with the like of the Lucan telling of Jesus’ Beatitudes and Woes (up for our reading in church this coming Sunday, for All Saints’ Sunday!) – we are blessed when poor, grieving, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, etc. and suffering the wrath of God when we hoard riches, seek security in self, avoid compassion, etc…

    The thing – it seems to me – is to love God’s splendid creation with such a heart of astounded, overwhelmed awe – that we do not dare fall into the traps of either cowardice or avarice. At the same time, constantly chanting the Methodist mantra (from the Covenant Service, in case you are unfamiliar with it!) “put me to what You will.”

    Dear old St JOhn Chrysostom again (oh, I do like him!)…

    “It is not for lack of miracles that the church is stagnant; it is because we have forsaken the angelic life of Pentecost, and fallen back on private property. If we lived as they did, with all things common, we should soon convert the whole world without any need of miracles at all.”
    “For ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ — those chilly words which introduce innumerable wars into the world — should be eliminated from that holy Church . . .The poor would not envy the rich because there would be no rich. Neither would the poor be despised by the rich, for there would be no poor. All things would be in common.”

  7. Indeed, Paul, God may ask me to give it away. Perhaps that’s what I’m afraid of. Chrysostom did indeed put his finger on a very important issue. But for the moment what I feel God is calling me to do is use the money to buy another house which can be used for the Lord’s work, and trust the Lord that I will get some kind of income from it.

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