By Kurt Koppetsch, Publisher
Shepherd News Trust, Inc.
Shepherd News Trust, Inc.
The economy is an integral part of God's domain. And economics is God's way of managing it. The spiritual treatment of the economy and economics, therefore, is essential for a clearer understanding about our involvement and is also critically important for the survival of humanity as spiritual beings in the image of God. The leitmotiv in this writing about the economy and economics is the spiritual connection.
The economy and economics is not a free-for-all the way greedy people in the secular world would like to have it. The economy and economics are of God, and God is in control. God has definite expectations of people. He expects top performance according to his will and purpose. Indeed, there are obligations in economics, similar to other obligations that we experience in our relationship with God.
Economics is stewardship of God's wealth to a predestined end. God provides the means, and he defines the outcome. The means is the economy, and the predestined end is quality of life. Our performance, therefore, will determine our destinies. Ultimately we will be asked to give full account of our use of time, talents and resources.
In this understanding, trust and faithfulness are words of spiritual importance. As citizens of the world we compliment these spiritual components with civility, honor and respect; our behavior then identifies us as decent human beings in the secular world. As practitioners of the Golden Rule, therefore, we look to our partners in economic matters to have integrity, ethics, respect, honor and commitments that are similar to what they expect of us.
America's current economic difficulties are self-inflicted by a service economy that had its start in the early 1970s.
Low-paying service jobs make it difficult for American families to make ends meet. Two incomes are now essential to support a family. Often parents are forced to work two jobs. The constant loss of manufacturing jobs is wiping out any hope in the future for decent wages with associated benefits.
Whereas manufacturing jobs have a ripple effect on the economy of nations, a lopsided service economy consumes the wealth of nations. A service economy does not contribute to the building of highways, bridges and schools. A service economy offers little support to pay for police and fire protections. And deficit spending in a service economy squanders the future of children.
Compounding the problems of the flimsy service economy is the lack of hope for a better future. Job security has become a foreign concept, but families need a dependable income to prepare their children for the future.
America's economic situation has taken a turn for the worse. Huge corporations continue to wipe out the local manufacturing base that once provided reliable income for many families. In its place we now find these same large corporations peddling foreign-made goods at high profits. They charge the consumer whatever the traffic will bear. In this modern dilemma, trade deficits and foreign investments threaten the future freedom of American children.
The well-being of individuals and families is at the mercy of corporate peddlers of foreign-made merchandise. The citizens of the once most prosperous nation in the world are now trapped in a silly numbers game played by financial manipulators. Financial gurus in control of huge corporations are mercenaries without mercy. Their sole compassion is money. "Paper barons" have replaced the visionary entrepreneur-managers.
"Paper barons" now run huge enterprises in insidiously hidden ways to make high profits for themselves at the expense of consumers. For example, while the contents of food packages are getting smaller, frequent increases in the price of these smaller-sized goods are quite common. While the weekly income of working families diminishes or remains flat, the salaries of "paper barons" are increasing at immoral rates.
The world revolves around economics. Therefore, we rightfully ask: "What is good economics? This is the key economic question for the modern world, as good economics is the criterion for quality of life. Good economics is our statement of faithful stewardship.
A good economy respects the life, liberty and happiness of each individual in his or her search for the way of God. Good economics recognizes that all resources on Earth belong to God, and we are but stewards of his creation. We honor God as supreme reality. And we love him for what he is, and for what he is doing for us in our short pilgrimage on Earth. Good economics is synonymous with a prosperous life on Earth.
Political meddling in economic matters is just a license for greedy people to do as they please. In these aberrations of God's way, the rich get richer, and the poor are being pushed into the bottomless pit. The children of America must pay in the future for the folly in leadership now.
Unscrupulous operators, in America and throughout the world, manipulate supply and demand to their advantage. We see this especially in Third-World nations that depend on goods and services from their more highly developed neighbors. For the residents of Third-World countries, like those in Africa, economic fairness is a matter of life or death. We see death from starvation in many African countries where opportunists have unfairly exploited a nation's natural resources without fair compensation. On top of this evil are power-hungry tyrannical rulers in underdeveloped nations who are in collusion with ruthless global conglomerates and their political cohorts to fill their own pockets.
Huge corporations have created woes for innocent people as never before. To correct this great evil of huge corporations taking advantage of poor people in the modern world, God is encouraging each person to become self-sufficient. And, by the grace of God, "individual economies" will take root and grow.
In this new approach to economics, pioneers--inventors and innovators--are driving forces. God will help each person in sundry ways to nurture individually owned enterprises, while economies of scale are doomed to failure as a direct result of uncontrollable size. Though the evil may always try to gain the upper hand in controlling the lives of people through large-scale economic oppression, God as the champion of ethics, justice and faith will bless individual entrepreneurs who operate their business according to the Golden Rule.
Some of the tactics of ruthless governments and large scale corporations are not always obvious. The unsuspecting minds of trusting citizens are too innocent, and a gentle citizenry may not immediately come to grips with the antics of economic greed by politicians and their financial backers. Even though we feel the pain of injustice and inequality in the distribution of the national wealth, often they are so overwhelming that we seem helpless and give up. Economic evildoers and their lobbyists seem more powerful than all the citizens of many nations combined.
God expects us to clip the wings of powerful "paper barons" in the community, the nation and the world. God sees our needs, and he wants us to bring about change and correct an evil situation. The masses of American consumers have greater power than all the powers of "paper barons" in the world combined.
About global economics. In the modern concept of global economics, a few select nations control the rest of the world as a matter of greed. Global economics is colonization in disguise. The "paper barons" of international conglomerates and ruthless politicians may temporarily fool the public with their business glamour. In the Era of Faith, God is not interested in business glamour, but God expects our trust and faith through the spiritual connection with God in our consumption of his wealth on Earth.
More than in any other human discipline in the world, economics is full of wolves in sheep's clothing. Christ has warned us about greedy people whose modus operandi is the promotion of falsehoods through misleading statements or selfish business practices. Peers in commerce, industry and financial institutions have coined the phrase "hockey stick cowboys" to identify co-workers whose ambition is rise to power through the promotion of falsehoods. Hockey stick cowboys are ruthless "paper barons." They talk fast. They talk smooth. They want full control of the global economy.
"Hockey stick cowboys" force themselves onto center stage by criticizing conservative management as not aggressive enough for growth. Their growth charts always start out flat to criticize past performance. But once they are in charge, their hockey stick theories of growth opportunities turn into projections, and the exponential growth opportunities that a hockey stick implies never materialize. Hockey stick cowboys take advantage of style without substance. Style without substance has ruined many established businesses, and the employees of defunct enterprises suffer the consequences of folly in leadership when the business fails.
The evil in economics is commonly the fruit of indifferent business leaders, whose prime qualification for dealing with God's wealth is not rooted in the wisdom of God but is based on a piece of paper that bestows on them the secular title of master in business administration. "Paper barons" arrogantly believe that a master's degree from a business school entitles them to rule over God's wealth.
God says: "Wisdom comes with experience. Wisdom is not book knowledge. Wise business leaders are entrepreneurs with vision. They build on their vision, and they know how to correct evil situations. They maintain what they built. On the other hand, book-smart business leaders tear things down. And they flee the scene to pursue other opportunities when chaos confronts them."
Whereas "paper barons" fight for their power, God honors his inspired stewards with dignity and respect, and common people also honor and respect faithful stewards as they have demonstrated responsible leadership in commerce and industry for the well being of all.
The global economy is the supply engine for food and medicine in underdeveloped countries. The pressure is now on inspired leaders in successful economies to be compassionate and attend to the needs of starving and sick people. Any failure to meet the physical needs of suffering people spells disaster for the global economy--and the global supply engine will sputter or may even explode.
People who live according to worldly standards will want to push spiritual involvement aside. So we hear the scornful, though seemingly logical question: "What does the spirit have to do with the price of bananas?"
But as quickly as green bananas ripen and spoil, so will the short human pilgrimage on Earth come to a sudden end.
This sad result will come about because people have failed to realize their spiritual identity. They have failed to recognize God's purpose for their lives. What must we do? This question implies desperation. Seekers of truth will have their answer in the spiritual connection with God.
If as responsible citizens we fail to speak up and defend what is right, we are guilty of contributing to the tensions of others. For instance, this is the case when economic hardship is caused by deficit spending. We are involved and responsible when we approve the action of government to pay for any programs that may benefit us now but whose debentures have dire consequences on the livelihood of future generations.
We rob our children of their potential in the future by tapping this potential to pay our commitments. We are guilty of dragging future generations, not at all connected with our difficulties, into our predicaments.
It is known that deficit spending transfers purchasing power to higher income groups and those who cannot afford to buy bonds must pay the taxes for retiring a debt issue.
God looks with compassion at modern America, and he suffers with the victims of economic abuse. With scorn he addresses the arrogant and seemingly invincible "paper barons" and impulsive politicians: "You have become too big for your breeches. All the world's resources are mine. Your greedy appetite and lust for power are wasting what belongs to me and all my people."
And God continues: "I have made America the bastion of free enterprise. You have eliminated your competitors by swallowing them up one by one, not with your own money but at the expense of my people. You have borrowed money and then passed on the cost of your insatiable growth to the consumers. They carry the burden of your grandiose scheme through higher costs of the market basket or smaller food packages. In your grandiose plots you start new ventures with borrowed money and then fold them up when things do not work out. Who do you think is absorbing the loss? Surely it is not your financial backers. They are even greedier than you are. They are in business to make money no matter what. And look at your accounting schemes. Suddenly you play the fool, claiming that you do not know what is happening. You know how to give yourselves huge salaries, bonuses and generous pensions. My people must pay for them by your denying jobs, health coverage and pensions for my hard-working people."
God's voice now thunders: "By what rules do you gamble the hard-earned savings of my working people in 401(k) plans? Who decides that you have the right to declare a stock under value or encourage companies to dilute the number of shares? Who do you think is picking up the tab when your schemes fail? Unscrupulous institutional managers of the public trust are great evils in modern times. A lot of money is changing hands without control and without consideration of the needs of the owner."
God says: "You pay obnoxiously high salaries in professional sports. Whose money is it that you are wasting? You recover every penny through advertisements of the products my people must buy in order to live. But it is my people who must swallow with each spoon of food the bitterness of your schemes. I, the Lord, have spoken."
Subtle changes gradually appeared on the horizon. "Efficiency experts" entered the scene. There were shifts away from the personal relationship workers enjoyed with entrepreneurs. Professional managers appeared to run the business on a new and impersonal platform. The new focus was on the bottom line. Ethics was put into the back seat, and the once-vital work ethic slowly faded into oblivion. The 1960s saw the beginning of the end of manufacturing in America.
This shift broke the backbone of the American economy. Cheap labor overseas overpowered the American workforce with the approval of management. The American workforce in textiles, shoes and eventually high technology was hung out to dry by its business leadership. Besides the loss of jobs, America is losing all rights to genuine American technology. Business leaders claim to need the technology transfer to manufacture their products overseas. God is troubled.
God says: "My wealth in America belongs to the American people. It is my gift to them." God admonishes America's leadership--business leaders and politicians alike--concerning job losses: "When you scorn the American workforce as an expense that is prohibitive, you are attacking the foundation of the American dream that I put in place for a bright future of job stability and family income. You are attacking me when you take work away from my people. Your cheap labor tactics are now the cause of many social ills in America. Your greedy appetite is placing the American family in jeopardy. Your greed is a monster that gnaws at the hopes and dreams of my people. And that is not all. You now sell in America for dollars what you have manufactured offshore for cents. Your exploitation of cheap labor markets is slavery. Your greed is responsible for hatred and wars because exploited people feel the injustice done to them. You are fools if you think that I will let you get away with it. Beware of your greed. Greed is a killer. I will not stop your greed, for eventually your own greed will destroy you in due time. Repent therefore. I, the Lord, have spoken."
Copyright (C) 2003 by Kurt Koppetsch/Shepherd News Trust. All rights reserved. Excerpt from the book "Era of Faith" by Kurt Koppetsch and published by Shepherd News Trust, Inc.