After the last crisis, no lessons have been learned! It is business as usual again!.” A leading figure in our economy echoed recently what I have hear from several commentators about lessons learned from the last crisis period.
The former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stieglitz, wrote a 2009 article for Vanity Fair magazine in which he used this cartoon by Edward Sorel, depicting four horsemen responsible for bringing chaos and crisis to our economy, inspired by the apocalyptic horsemen from the Bible book of Revelation.
The real forces behind global economic trends are essentially spiritual, matters affecting the human heart – and this was certainly so for the last crisis period. The four heart issues which Sorel depicted are: Mendacity (=deception), Stupidity, Arrogance and Greed; issues which are still affecting our economy today!
1. Mendacity, or deception, is rife. Just think of identity theft, mail fraud, and business deceit such as falsifying software to achieve certain desired results. (Diesel gate) Deception is rife in government, when our leaders break promises,hide costs and spin arguments … Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9) Solomon gives us the antidote; “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (Proverbs 11:3)
2. Stupidity. We seem to fall so easily for all kind of attractive schemes – ‘get-rich-quick”, pyramid schemes always find plenty of investors. Our economic schemes are so complex that even those who devised them in the first place lose there understanding of what is going on!
One of the most influential economists, Friedrich Hayek, gave us a reality check on our abilities … with this challenge! “The curious task or economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design” In 1968 he wrote, ‘Modern civilization has given man undreamt of powers largely because, without understanding it, he has developed methods of utilizing more knowledge and resources than any one mind is aware of.” And on the title page of his book, he states; “man has become all he is without understanding what happened’. Pursuing profit maximisation leads ultimately to chaos and crisis! Paul warned Timothy, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (6:9,10)
3. Arrogance. Money gives people power and controller others; suppliers, employees, debtors and others around you. Power corrupts and wielding the power of money can lead to arrogance, a feeling of superiority and a detachment from reality. Paul again, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
4. Greed. This is the most quoted of the root causes of the last crisis. Tomas Sedlacek, Czech economist, says,”“The more we have, the more we want. Why? Perhaps we thought (and this sounds truly intuitive) that the more we have, the less we will need. We thought that consumption leads to saturation of our needs. But the opposite has proven to be true. The more we have, the more additional things we need. Every new satisfied want will beget a new one and will leave us wanting. For consumption is like a drug.”
Paul, again, gives Timothy the antidote to greed …”They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:18,19)
We can defeat the four horsemen! Instead of deception- integrity; instead of stupidity – wisdom; instead of arrogance – humility; instead of greed – generosity. Following Jesus and allowing him to direct our lives leads to just this.