Posts tagged Jubilee Centre
28 Dec 2011
In case you hadn't noticed, our economy is in a bit of a pickle. And our economy is also built around charging interest on loans of money.
The Old Testament included a ban on lending at interest. Instead, a person's capital could be used by others as part of a profit-sharing agreement, or through a rental or hire agreement.
Way back in 1993, economist Paul Mills published a paper on this biblical prohibition of interest. The paper focuses on the bad consequences of an economy based on lending money at interest, as follows:
- It is unjust and destabilising. Unjust, because the lender gets no reward for lending to a successful business and (generally) suffers no harm from lending to an unsuccessful business. And destabilising, because lending at interest encourages further borrowing and investment during a growth period and places high burdens (causing bankruptcies) when profits are low.
- It encourages the allocation of finance to the safest borrowers (e.g., large firms and wealthy individuals) rather than to the most productive borrowers. This is a consequence of the first point.
- It encourages financial speculation in assets and property. "When the price of an asset in relatively fixed supply begins to rise, buyers borrow to purchase more of it," and I think we know what happens next.
- It leads to an inherently unstable banking system. Banks can guarantee the savings they hold only through the possibility of government bailouts.
- It encourages a "short-termist" investment strategy. "[T]he pervasive influence of interest tends to bias business investment towards quick-return, short-term projects even though longer-term, more risky ones may offer greater benefits in the long run."
- It concentrates wealth into fewer and fewer hands. "Interest automatically acts to transfer wealth from net borrowers to net lenders. Not surprisingly, the former tend to be the less well-off and the latter tend to be the richer members of society."
- It leads to a rapid flow of financial capital across regions and countries.
The question now is: how can ordinary members of society support a shift away from an interest-based (and debt-based) economy? Probably there are some answers out there...
12 Sep 2011
Apparently, "In 2005, only 1.3% of the [UK] electorate [44 million] was a member of one of the main political parties", with a few tens of thousands in the smaller parties.
As of today, I'm one of them, having just signed up for the Green Party.
What this will mean in practice, I'm not sure. Being a party member needn't mean more than £2.60 leaving my bank account each month. But hopefully I'll find some way to be involved. (However, joining the Green Party doesn't mean that I hate everything about all of the other parties, or that I will from now on act merely out of tribal loyalty, in case you were wondering!)
I chose the Green Party because I found that its core values resonate with my Christian beliefs. I'll say more about that in a future post. In addition, my personal contact with the Green Party has left good vibes.
In this post I want to indulge in a bit of introspection, and trace out some of my journey towards this point.
I suppose that 10-15 years ago, as a new Christian, my views would have been something like this: the only thing that really matters is hearing the gospel, believing in Jesus, and waiting for Jesus to return (maybe tomorrow). As such, I had no particular inclination to do anything to help tackle the structural problems with the world. In fact, I was very cynical: if Christians put much effort into political issues, then they clearly had their priorities mixed up, and if non-Christians were pushing an agenda for change, then clearly that was contrary to God's will. So I defaulted to a (small-c) conservative position, combined with general indifference and apathy.
So what happened?
- I came to appreciate that everything on this world has significance. This came largely through my contact with L'Abri, first through reading some Schaeffer around 1998, and then, from 2002, through hearing L'Abri speakers giving occasional talks at Calvary Evangelical Church in Brighton, and a couple of stays at the English L'Abri in Hampshire, including a week in the summer of 2006. At L'Abri there is a strong emphasis on the whole of life being under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and that being a created human being with a bodily existence on the earth is a good, significant and meaningful thing.
- I came to appreciate that everything on this world has enduring significance, in other words, that the Christian hope is to spend eternity on the earth (not in heaven), and that there is deep continuity (as well as a discontinuity) between the present age and the age to come. Moreover, I came to appreciate that through Jesus Christ and his resurrection, the age to come has entered the present age, bringing (partial) healing and transformation to this present world. These emphases came largely as a result of reading and listening to things by N.T. Wright, starting in 2005 with What St Paul Really Said.
- I suppose those two factors led me to pay a tiny bit of attention to political matters, and I eventually found myself thinking that politics is important and interesting. My church in Brighton was seeking to serve the local community, and this led to contacts and constructive relationships with people involved in local politics. Being part of that church as we wrestled together with the issue of Christian involvement in politics helped me greatly in shaping my own views. (One friend from that church who was very involved in that is now a Green Party councillor in Brighton.) The 2010 General Election was the first that I really paid much attention to, with stimulating discussions on Tom King's blog, with the help of the Jubilee Centre's Votewise Now! book, and with the Green Party being very strong in Brighton, going on to win their first ever seat in Westminster in the constituency I was living in. Since then, I paid significant attention to the referendum on the Alternative Vote in 2011. And a couple of WYSOCS events in Leeds helped me considerably: a talk on the arms trade by Alan Storkey in October 2010, and a day in March 2011 on The Gospel's Green Light: Motives for Environmental Care.
2 Nov 2010
The commission is not to "make disciples" in our modern individualistic sense. That is included, and amen to it. But the commission as the Lord worded it says that we are to disciple the nations. To say that cultural transformation is not part of this is to completely overlook the direct object of that verb. We are to disciple the ethnoi, their hearts, souls, and minds, but also their court systems, and their film industries, and their politics, and their art studios, and their publishing industries. This certainly means discipling their citizens, and we start with that. But it is just the beginning.
5 Oct 2010
For a long time I've been aware of the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge, but only recently have I started to delve more deeply into their resources.
Tonight's reading was a Cambridge Paper from September 2009 by Michael Schluter, entitled Is Capitalism morally bankrupt? Five moral flaws and their social consequences.
My immediate reaction to that kind of question is "Yes, probably, but I think we're stuck with it." Now, according to the Jubilee Centre, there is an alternative towards which we can move; that will have to wait for another day. Until then, here are some reasons why we might dream of finding an alternative. First, the five moral flaws of capitalism that Michael Schluter identifies:
- An exclusively materialistic vision
- Reward without responsibility
- Limited liability of shareholders
- People disconnected from place
- Inadequate social safeguards
and then the two social consequences:
- Family and community breakdown
- Giant government and giant corporates
Definitely worth reading.
26 Aug 2009
I know nothing about politics. Okay, I know what I think about a few controversial moral issues, but the rest - the other 99% or so - is a complete mystery to me.