I just received a mail from my bank that the interest on my savings account was reduced to 1.1%. On top of that, I pay double tax on my savings. Once when earned and the Dutch government taxes all savings above €22,000! I am lucky … in Portugal they are starting to charge people for saving money! Our interest in the financial world depends on our personal interest in our personal money. If I am told that my savings are in danger, I wake up and take note. When I hear the words ‘financial reforms’ I begin to yawn sleepily.
I read an interesting book recently by Joris Luyendijk, a Dutch journalist working for the Guardian newspaper in London. He interviewed many top- and middle level executives in the City of London, trying to understand how te financial system works, and if there have been any lessons learned from the past 7 years crisis. The bottom line? No lessons have been learned. It is business as usual. He write “If you had described the effects of the crisis to anyone in 2008 and said that 7 years later nothing had changed, no-one would believe you.” The only thing the bankers have learned is that they can get away with anything!
On April 1 of this year, a banker’s oath was introduced. Luyendijk is very sceptical about this. “What you are doing is maintaining the temptations for them. You are saying, “Children, here is a box of sweets and `I am leaving the room. I want you to promise not to touch them.” We have learned from 2008 on that bankers cannot control themselves.
I found some of his comments about Christians in the banking world disturbing. Luyendijk said in an interview with the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad, “Bankers have delegated their conscience to the law-giver. If it is permissible it’s ok. Good and evil do not play any part on the banking floor. Developing a new, risky financial product is possible so long the law allows it.We would never introduce a medicine in that way! The financial world uses us as Guinee pigs to try out new instruments. Luyendijk, “The Christians , Jews and Moslims I spoke to zijn very good in compartmentalising. They are people with a highly developed ethical awareness, but when they enter the bank, it is like they enter a space ship where other norms apply. It is like a soldier who, when he pulls on a uniform, suddenly startes shooting people, something they would never do in daily life.”
Compartmentalisation is a danger to all Christians and a common problem. When the Titanic was built, they thought that it’s 6 compartments woud hold any water which may get into several of them. It didn’t work. The water flowed from one to another and the ship sank. Ethical behaviour cannot be compartmentalised – it will flow from one part of my life to the next. That is integrity .. that all parts behave in the same way.
Can all this happen again? I don’t know. But I get nervous when I read last week that the European Central Bank printed 1.140 billion euro and pumped it into the economy. That is € 11.400.000.000 ….. I am not an economist, but some years ago we were talking about a ‘soap bubble’ and ‘money which was never there.’
I want to read another book about the financial crisis, written by two members of the House of Commons in the UK parliament with an intriguing title. “Masters of Nothing: How The Crash Will Happen Again Unless We Understand Human Nature.”
There is no better source to understand human nature than the Bible. Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”