METTLE Weekly Newsletter Volume 4 Issue 8

METTLE

Volume 4

Issue 8

Monday

2-Mar-2009

Hippolite Musings

Thought for the Day

Gentlemen,

Are we witnessing the fall of the American Empire?  I, for one, will be very sad to see it go, whatever its inevitability:

  • Chuck Missler constantly hints that the lack of Bible reference to it in the End Times implies its non-existence;
  • We have an article this week from a (I presume, economics) professor on the likely impact of the current economic crisis;
  • We have a YouTube link to a former American senator’s thoughts on the legality of President Obama’s regime.

These all make for compelling, thought-provoking reading and watching.  Be provoked!

Also, I took that Contagious Christianity questionnaire we’re all meant to be doing for homework this week.  Not surprisingly, I came out heavily biased towards Intellectual, Direct, Testimonial, rather than Interpersonal, Invitational, Serving.

So, I guess I’m doing what my talents equip me to do!  Must be why I love doing it so much.  I hope you are at least inspired a little bit by some of the things I find that catch my eye during the course of the week.


Corres-pondence #1

This article (by one Peter Foster) refers to an increasingly widespread suggestion that Kiwifruit, due to it being grown in remote areas (e.g. New Zealand), contributes to global warming due to the transportation from one country to another. The author believes that this is part of an even wider suggestion that international travel is contributing to global warming.

Now this is scary,  since this is a staple of our economy!!

Does anyone know if this allegation is true? Or is this “reverse hype”, e.g. creating a problem for kiwifruit producers (indeed, any transportation from NZ to the rest of the world) and blaming this on global warming perspectives?

Gentlemen, what do you think?

MJ

http://forums.astronomydaily.com/viewtopic.php?p=49452

James says: I’m no economist, but it appears to me that Global Warming is either designed for or being used as an excuse for:

  • trade protectionism
  • globalisation, bigger world government
  • depopulation

In effect, all the things the Gaia worshippers have always wanted.


Corres-pondence #2

James, I don’t normally forward this sort of stuff, but I was talking to you about my views of debt a while ago, and found this interesting.

Craig L

The Global Culture of Debt

Speech by Professor Prabhu Guptara at the Bettag Konferenz of the EVP, (EVP = Swiss Political Party), 20 September 2008

Mr. Chairman and fellow-companions on the way of Jesus the Lord, I am honoured to have been asked to give the first address at this year’s Bettag Konferenz. Many thanks to Joel Blunier and the members of the Committee for kindly inviting me. And I am delighted that, under God’s providence, you chose several months ago, for this conference, a topic which has suddenly come into the limelight. When you chose the topic, the global economy was probably still booming or perhaps some clouds were just beginning to appear on the horizon. Today, we are in recession if not in crisis – and debt, which is a boring topic as long as an economy is in boom, naturally now occupies front place in everyone’s minds. Martin Luther once said: “A gospel that does not deal with the issues of the day is not THE gospel at all”. He did not say the following, but if you want to understand why the gospel finds declining appeal in the West today, it is because a gospel that evades and avoids the issues of the day will quickly first lose its men, and then slowly lose its teenagers, then its children and finally it will lose also even its women (I am not making a sexist point here, merely a sociological observation). If you want to revive the EVP, think seriously about relating the gospel to the issues of the day, such as the role of Switzerland in a globalising economy, and indeed what kind of globalisation is right, and how best to care for the environment and lessen global poverty – and certainly, the global culture of debt is one key issue.

My main message today, and if you forget everything else I say, the whole of my message, is this: the only cultures which have not been marked by debt have been Biblical cultures, and, with the rejection of the Bible, we should expect the return of the culture of debt – indeed the return of culture of debt was and is inevitable, with all its disastrous consequences. But there is always hope because we are called in every generation on this earth, to the struggle for faith, righteousness and peace.

But let us start with fundamentals: what is debt? It is simply the attempt to use future purchasing power to obtain goods or services now – before they have been earned. Jesus warned us that we do not know what tomorrow will bring, so we should not be over-confident about it, and we should not base our actions on our own assessment of what is ahead. Life itself is not something that we can continue at will. Sometimes, even when we want to die, even death may not be within our grasp. Since debt is essentially a matter of trading the future for the present, and we do not know what the future holds, debt has till recently been universally condemned in relation to private expenditure. Though debt has historically been tolerated in terms of helping business projects, even here the use of debt has been traditionally surrounded by moral as well as practical cautions – again, till modern times, when debt became the main means for governments, companies, families and individuals to improve one’s material circumstances.

Throughout recorded history, there has always been a culture of debt – that is what gave to most high-growth societies the curses of poverty, inequality and disease – at least that is the Biblical analysis. As a believer, one should always start from Scripture, since that is the foundation “building block of our life” worldview – NOT from the unbiblical principles of most modern academic disciplines, such as economics, which were mostly developed by godless people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Starting with the Bible, then, it is interesting to note that God withdrew Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees (at the time, one of the highest civilisations in the then-known world) to lead Abraham into becoming a nomad for some decades before taking him to the tiny and otherwise undistinguished settlement of Hebron.

Later God sent Abraham’s descendants to another high-growth civilisation, Egypt, but he withdrew them from that too – and took them again to what is called Israel today to give them His commands. Why did God do this to Abraham to begin with? It is a thought-provoking question to ask. And why could God not have tried to inculcate His commandments and statutes to the Hebrews in these high-growth societies? That is another provocative question. And, it is worth asking, what are the lessons for us today, living as we do in the highest-growth civilisation of all? How or in what sense can we be taken out of this high-growth civilisation, especially as there are no new Israels waiting for us on earth?

When God took the Hebrews out of Egypt, the prime purpose of it, from an economic point of view seems to have been to guarantee that they would live in a steady growth society (not a high-growth society), so they could survive only if God protected them – because the high-growth societies around them coveted Hebrew land, and the Hebrews were of course much poorer than the surrounding nations. How do we know that they were much poorer? Well, the Hebrew Bible clearly documents that fact and refers to it again and again – though there are a few exceptions such as King Solomon who, as we know, had supernatural blessing from God because of the faithfulness of his father, King David. Apart from such supernatural blessing, it is entirely logical that the Hebrews would be poorer:

  • In contrast to the surrounding nations which worked 7 days a week, the Hebrews were allowed to work only 6 days. That is, let us say, a 14% disadvantage.
  • In contrast to the surrounding nations, who could farm their land 50 years out of 50, how many years could the Hebrews farm their land? Only six out of every seven and then not in the 50th year either, so only 42 years out of every 50! I make that a 16% disadvantage. These two points alone add up to a 30% disadvantage!
  • In contrast to individuals in surrounding nations, who could increase the land they owned as much as they could afford if they wished, with increasing economies of scale, the Hebrews had to return every 50th year to the family property they were originally allocated – no capital accumulation possible at all in this society!
  • Actually, in Hebrew society there was not even any possibility of income maximisation: in contrast to the surrounding nations who could take every last ear of corn from their fields, the Hebrews were commanded to leave a sufficient margin on every side of their fields unharvested so as to provide enough food not only for birds and insects, but even for refugees and other poor people!
  • In contrast to the surrounding nations who could keep all the wealth they made for themselves and give to their temples only what they wanted, the Hebrews not only gave such freewill offerings but were actually commanded to give a whopping 10% IN ADDITION TO their freewill offerings!
  • In contrast to the surrounding nations who could own slaves till death, the Hebrews could own slaves for only 7 years! If the average productive life expectancy of slaves was, on average 28 years, that amounted to a 75% disadvantage! The list goes on and on.

So, no matter how stupid a person was among the Hebrews, she or he could not have failed to notice that God seemed to be determined to ensure that they would always be poorer than their neighbours. God did not appear to be interested in their material prosperity at all, if one looked only at the rules and regulations they were given.

Yet what was God’s surprising promise? If the Hebrews followed the rules and regulations that God gave them, then three things would follow: (a) they would have no poor among them, and (b) none of the diseases of the rich Egyptians would afflict them. Implicit in these promises was the third, which we today call sustainability: they were taken to a land flowing with milk and honey – and the land would not stop flowing with milk and honey.

The most important point to note, in view of our topic, is that the Hebrews did not, emphatically not, have a culture of debt. Consider: they were not only forbidden to loan money at interest: the permission to lend at interest to outside nations was only because outside nations lent at interest anyway, so the Hebrews would be equal with the non-Hebrews in terms of their relations with outside nations – if the Hebrews had been allowed to loan without interest to the surrounding nations, the Hebrews would have been swamped! Because, actually, they were not only prevented from charging interest on money loaned, even the principal amount had to be forgiven in the 50th year! Certainly, no culture of debt here!

Well, you say, that is all Old Testament stuff and, even if it is true, was not all that abrogated or abolished by the New Testament? And what about the Parable of the Talents in Mathew 25? Well, dear friends, you may want to note that that is the ONLY text in the entire New Testament that can be twisted to provide some sort of defence of the current economic system. That single parable has been so often cited in defence of modern capitalism that one really needs to emphasise that every parable is intended to teach one point and one point only: and the point of that story is not the justification of capitalism, because capitalism did not even exist then, the point of the story is that we are each of us to use our intelligence and our ability to work hard in our Master’s service – we are to work at least as intelligently and as hard as atheists and agnostics and idol-worshippers work for their masters. We are intended to out-think, out-work, out-smart, out-serve and out-love the godless. The whole tenor of the New Testament, as in so many other things, is to go far beyond the Old Testament. Just as the OT forbids adultery but Jesus forbids even the adulterous thought, so also the OT forbids interest and asks for the forgiveness of debt every 50th year, but the Lord Jesus asks us to give our shirt as well to whoever asks only for our coat, to love and give and not to count the cost, because our reward is in heaven. Paul underlines the same message in his letters, so does James, and so does right through to the book of the Revelations.

However, the resulting New Testament equality among believers was subverted by the 3rd century compromise with State power, when the Emperor Constantine is supposed to have become some sort of Christian. That compromise with state power led to the Body of our Lord becoming captive to State power – a situation that continues till today in what became the Roman Catholic sect.

Many people tried to bring the Body back to faithfulness – from the twelfth century onwards in recorded history, including such people as the Waldensians and the followers of Savoranola in Italy, Jan Hus (fourteenth-century Rector of Prague University, the first in Northern Europe), and John Wycliffe (fourteenth century reformer in England)….though all had been killed by the backward-looking social forces represented by the Roman Catholics. In spite of the fact that most people were then, as they are now, concerned about personal peace, comfort, security and survival, the Reformers succeeded in breaking the unification of political, economic, spiritual, technological and intellectual power represented by what became the unreformed and, so far, unreformable Roman Catholics.

The Reformation was the work of a few well-known but multitudes of little-known people who were not only prepared to, but actually did, sacrifice their lives and careers. They transformed Europe by communicating the Biblical view of:

(a) “the value of work” as worthwhile in itself, leading to a culture of industriousness which is deridingly nominated “the Protestant work ethic” and still marks developed countries – though it should be made clear that the work ethic belonging to Protestantism was fairly balanced since it emphasised, for example, care for one’s family (which in those days included ancestors and siblings as well as descendants) and the enjoyment of leisure on Sundays and holidays. The “driven” lifestyle of the workaholic belongs not to Protestantism but to post-Christian times, starting with the end of World War II when Darwinism became the battering ram of godlessness, which therefore came to hold sway over European culture and now threatens to overcome American culture too.

(b) “the importance of time”, by such beliefs as the uniqueness of this life, and the inevitability of God’s assessment regarding how one uses the opportunities offered

(c) “the value of a deliberately modest lifestyle” in contrast to the conspicuous consumption as well as indulgence of the elite in pre-Reformation and non-Reformed Europe (seen down to this day!)

(d) “insistence on the rule of law” – certain principles and rules are agreed by everyone and are intended to be observed by everyone – and if anyone does not observe the agreed rules and principles, then that person should be penalised in proportion to her/his crime, irrespective of their position in society. The current contretemps over the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi’s attempts to place himself beyond the law indicates that this is a battle that is still not won in the non-Reformed parts of Europe; indeed one can no longer with confidence assert that the rule of law is secure in once-Reformed Europe, as the effects of the Reformation are undone by the impact of Darwinism and the resultant adoption of the new trinity (money, technology/power, and personal comfort) as the gods of the modern world.

In any case, the impact of (a) to (d) was that wealth started accumulating among ordinary people for the first time in the history of Europe.

(e) the urgency of “literacy for the masses” (including specifically education for women) and, in contrast to “literacy” in the Islamic and Jewish worlds, the importance of “thinking for yourself”, and “reaching your own conclusions” (let everyone be fully persuaded in their own minds as Romans 14.5 puts it). Why is independent thinking important? Because you are going to be judged by God for your conclusions and how you lived in the light of those conclusions.

(f) However, it is important to “respect” the views of others for they too are made in the image of the same God, are children of the same God and have from the same God an equal right to reach their own conclusions (here again there is a contrast with Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and non-Protestant parts of the world).

The cumulative impact of (e) and (f) was to create a culture which made democracies work for the first time in history. Even though democracy was a Greek idea, they could never make it work across hierarchy or across city states – and in any case, their experiment with democracy ended in the tyranny of Alexander the Great who, you may recollect, set out to create the first world empire! However, even tribal societies practised (and to this day practice) a form of democracy within their societies but they cannot make it work across tribes. This also relates to why democracy does not work in numerous other societies such as in Africa, China, Japan, Russia, and so on.

(g) the cultivation of “literacy, knowledge and independent judgment” resulted in the knowledge explosion that we call the scientific revolution. Other societies (for example in Greece, Babylon, Egypt, India, China, Korea, Japan et al) had certainly produced pre-scientific speculations. But it was the Reformation’s emphasis on the importance of this world and of Truth which gave birth to what we call science – the scientific method assumes that the real world is more important than our speculations, that self-interest ought to be sacrificed to Truth, and that Truth ought to be shared because it is and it is to be publicly established.. Without such assumptions, science could never have been born. And science brings the related assumptions in its wake, which is why science is to this day resisted in traditional societies (for example in contemporary India by Hindu fascists) that do not wish to be de-traditionalised.

This (that is, (g)), together with capital and a democratic culture, produced the technological explosion which changed Europe from one of the poorest parts of the world into one of the richest. The USA was more fully built on these principles (though the abandonment of these principles in recent times by a significant proportion of the population has resulted in the “culture wars”). And, though it was started in 18th century Europe, it was the USA that brought to full flower the modern understanding of philanthropy and charities – not focusing merely on helping individuals but rather on transforming societies.

I probably need to clarify that, as far as I can see, these achievements were even more the result of the Radical Reformation (the Anabaptists and other such despised groups) than they were of the Magisterial Reformation (Luther, Calvin, et al).

Altogether, there was an unleashing of creativity and innovation, and the establishment of liberty, equality and fraternity – which were the realities of the Reformation long before the French Revolution came, and those remain the watchwords long after the French Revolution ate up its own best children, for people who want to continue reforming society in the tradition of the Reformers and indeed of the prophets and of Jesus himself.

As I have already indicated, the impact of the Reformation tended to be undermined by Darwinism from the 1860s or so, and certainly from the 1880s in elite circles. This tendency came to full effect in both Europe and the USA after the Second World War, principally due to the systematic indoctrination of millions of people into the false philosophy of Darwinism (evolution as religion). In the USA, the impact of Darwinism in intellectual circles was, for various reasons, delayed till the 1930s. However, the impact of Darwinism in intellectual circles has been much more complete in the USA than in Europe (where the results of Nazism, and the repugnance against it, turned people away from fully accepting the consequences of Darwinism, at least for that period). However, the full impact in American life as a whole has been resisted with more success than in Europe till the present, so that the US is a much more vigorous and torn society than is Europe.

In summary, the values of Jesus, as rediscovered by the Reformation, built prosperity, democracy, tolerance, and everything we include today under the rubric of civilisation, first in Reformation Europe, then by its influence in non-Reformed Europe, in the USA, and finally (through its flawed mixture with Darwinism), in the rest of the world. However, in the last century or more, the impact of the Reformation has been dulled and diluted. Though many people have struggled to further reform society, with different motivations and points of view, the overall result is has been a rise in extreme individualism (loss of a sense of responsibility for grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, society), extreme scientism (science is seen as saviour – few moral constraints are seen as good/necessary), and extreme self-indulgence and self-disgust, seen for example in the rise of the number of people involved in extreme sports, bulimia, gender change, and so forth.

In other words, the Reformation culture of trust turned to the modern post-Reformation culture of greed. When people do not accept the God of the Bible, they are left with little other their own ambitions, fears and lusts and these become the gods that we must serve.

Not entirely surprising, then, that the result has been a return to the traditional, pre-Biblical, culture of debt. Here is a list of some key dates in relation to the USA, which became the most Reformed nation in history and was able, at least to a certain extent, to remain uncorrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal, because it had, with a few notable exceptions, a moral structure around money. The Puritan legacy inhibited luxury and self-indulgence. Even Benjamin Franklin, though he was not a believer at all, emphasized hard work, temperance and frugality. But once a culture rejects the Lord and the Bible, we all know what happens in two or three generations. Consider that, at their Founding, all of the States in the USA had a ban on excessive interest, with most States setting the limit at 6%. However, once the elite began rejecting the Bible, the history went as follows.

By the early 1900s, eleven states had eliminated their usury laws entirely. Nine other states had raised the usury cap to 10% or 12%. As banks were not making personal loans, “Salary Lenders” filled the need by purchasing a worker’s future wages in exchange for a high fee – equal to a lending rate of 10% – 33%. By 1916, a Uniform Small Loan Law allowed “specially-licensed lenders” to charge interest rates up to 36%. In 1933, as a result of a consensus that mixing commercial banking, investment banking, insurance and mortgage activities had led to the Great Depression of 1929, the Glass-Steagall Act separated these various kinds of financial activities, so that companies had to focus on only one of these. From 1945, all states began to adopt special loan laws that capped interest at 36%—but capped it nevertheless.

In February 1970, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development broke the spirit of the Glass-Steagall Act by creating the first mortgage-backed security – encouraged by the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision! – which was one key development leading eventually to the current sub-prime housing crisis. In 1978, a decision of the US Supreme Court abolished the cap on interest rates for any State(s) that wished to do so. Delaware and South Dakota eliminated their interest rate caps entirely, so several credit card issuers moved to these states to operate nationally with no interest rate cap. In 1980, Congress overruled State-level interest rate controls on all first lien mortgages, enabling predatory mortgage lenders to make seemingly affordable loans, like adjustable rate and interest-only loans, which always lead to eventual loss of their homes for many people, whenever interest rates rise. From 1994, many states and cities tried to protect their citizens by adopting state statutes and local ordinances to curb predatory lending, but the federal government impeded their efforts. Numerous bills were introduced in Congress to protect consumers, but none of these bills made it to a hearing. In 1999, The Gramm-Leach-Biley Act 1999 cancelled the regulations separating the different kinds of financial services, in effect abolishing the Glass-Steagall Act. In 2000 The “Enron Loophole” (or the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000) that de-regulated futures trading, caused the prices of oil, gas and food to spiral out of control, and led to the government bailout a few days ago of insurer AIG at the cost of 85 billion to the US taxpayer. In 2007, the increasingly inter-related investment, insurance, mortgage and banking industries started getting into trouble – and it is not only the American taxpayer who is paying and will pay to clean it up. The poor of the world are also paying for it – over one hundred million people had already been freshly thrust into poverty by this Spring as a direct result of the current crisis.

In this story of the rise of the culture of debt, you see how, step by step, the culture of frugality and moderation was broken down by the elites – as well as how, once degeneration starts, it proceeds very quickly. We have looked of course only at the rise of allowable interest rates. We could look at the role of the multi-billion dollar ‘advertising campaigns’ that promoted the easy availability of debt. We could look at the role of ‘moneylenders’ (‘payday lenders’ as they are called in the USA) offering fast cash – at absurdly high interest rates – to 15 million people in the US every month. We could look at the role that ‘Credit Card companies’ have played, making money off the young and the vulnerable who either can’t or won’t bother to pay off their loans every month: fifty-six percent of students in their final year of college carry four or more credit cards. By 2005, Americans held seven hundred million credit cards, which were used to buy $1.8 trillion in goods and services. Per household, this amounted to fourteen credit cards, used to make $14,000 in purchases, representing one-third of median household income. Yes the median FAMILY income in the US is only around $42,000. No wonder ‘Parade’ magazine a short while ago portrayed a family that was not in debt as if they were complete aliens! From one point of view, sensible people are strange to the spirit of our times. No wonder, pre-tax profits for the credit card industry have soared. Between 1989 and 2001, credit-card debt nearly tripled, growing from $238 billion to $692 billion. By last year, it was up to $937 billion.

We could look at the twisting of “bankruptcy law”, which was intended to provide a final chance for people, who had made mistakes, to recover. Instead, bankruptcy laws became things to distort cynically into a deliberate means of evading responsibility.

We have not looked at ‘the role of separating’ paper money from any underpinning of gold or silver, so that paper money has been printed since the 1970s whenever the Administration decides. What the US started in the 1970s, China and India and other countries were glad to follow – and indeed to outdo! The result is that there is a glut of debased money worldwide.

We have not looked at the ‘manipulation of statistics’, so that we don’t have a reliable measure of inflation by any government anywhere in the world or for that matter a reliable indicator of unemployment any more.

We have not looked at the role of ‘executive pay and other incentives’ in creating the global culture of debt. The US government has encouraged expansion in “fat cat” salaries by offering five different kinds of tax breaks for top executives, which cost the US taxpayer $20 billion a year.

We have not looked at the ‘legal tricks’ that have been used, and are being used, not only by companies (which have had to learn from their debacles) but even by governments. Who or what can teach governments that you can’t or shouldn’t use legal tricks such as the Public Finance Initiative in the UK to hide public debt? The Institute for Fiscal Studies (which is independent of political parties) believes that public debt has now reached 45 per cent of gross domestic product – making a mockery of Prime Minister Brown’s ‘sustainable investment’ rule, by which government debt is not meant to exceed the already unbelievably high threshold of 40 per cent of GDP.

Since Labour came to power in 1997, the national debt has risen 25 per cent to £581 billion. One Cabinet member is reported by the British magazine ‘The Spectator’ this week to have said: “What we urgently need to do is help people by cutting taxes, Why can’t we? Debt!”. Each second, the British public debt rises by £1,520 — and that’s by the government’s optimistic measure. The UK’s overall national debt works out as £26,100 for every British household. And that is before the consequences of the Northern Rock crash, or the £1 trillion of unfunded public sector pension liabilities are factored in.

We have not looked at the role of ‘outsourcing’ jobs to China and other countries in eliminating the middle class in the West and encouraging everyone who has money to be more greedy, even at the cost of the environment and social justice – by the way, did you see the announcement yesterday that Adidas is moving manufacturing out of China because Chinese wages are “too high”?!

We have not looked at the role of governments in encouraging ‘gambling’ by aggressively promoting lottery, which is a kind of “tax on stupidity”. Poor households with income under $13,000 throw away an average of $645 a year – which is about 9 percent of income. And this is not just a few poor people twenty percent of Americans are frequent players, spending about $60 billion a year. Aside from the financial cost, think of the moral impact as the government, which is supposed to be the guardian of order, tells its citizens that they don’t have to work, earn and save in order to build for the future – they can get rich by luck!

No wonder the US Savings rate is zero or rather minus (the average American has been spending 105% of income for several years now!); ironically, of course, that is one reason the US economy has been so resilient. If Americans stop spending money they don’t have, the whole global economy goes into a tailspin! What a way to run a world! To build, first, a house of cards, and then to ensure that the only way for it to avoid collapse is for it to keep growing bigger and bigger! But this house of cards ensured, till last year, economic as well as political peace: stagnating wages while costs rise for food, fuel and health care, would have resulted in riots if people could not borrow money easily. However, the result was that people could live as if their personal prosperity was increasing, even when it wasn’t!

Most importantly, we have not looked at the massive and central role of ‘derivatives, hedge funds and structured finance’ – which have been the key causes of the current crisis. These amount, at their worst, to a kind of global gambling. What is the extent of this ‘global gambling’? According to the latest estimate that I have seen, it is $1,144 TRILLION (contrast that with real wealth which all over the world put together amounts to about 50 Trillion). The effect of such global gambling on the entire economic and financial structure of the globe has been to make our global economy a “casino economy”.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, it is no surprise to anyone who had her or his eyes open, that we have gone from a sub-prime housing bust, to a financial services companies bust, to a consumer cyclicals bust to an industrial companies bust, and we are going to see a commodities bust.

Everyone talks optimistically of whether we are already, or are near, the floor. Dear colleagues, I have bad news for you. Even the sub-prime housing bust is not near its natural floor, though an artificial floor may be put below it by the US administrations’ rescue plan announced on Thursday, which is now supposed to cost 700 billion dollars, but is being put together by a government that is more or less bankrupt already. In view of the fact that a guarantee is only is good as the guarantor, I have to ask the question: Would you trust a promise made by a bankrupt person? I would, but only if her or his character was outstanding. And I do not know what to make of the character of the US government. The only reason that the world is not laughing at the US government is because the world is too worried.

The usual formula of liquidity provision, sale of distressed assets, and capital injections into financial institutions, may suffice for the moment, and the world may believe the US government – and, if so, the floor that is put below the housing market in the US may hold. For all our sakes, I hope so. But even if the world believes the US government, and housing prices stabilise, will that mean no more pain for the financial services sector? Don’t believe it. There is much consolidation yet to come. And even if there is no more pain in the financial services sector, will that mean no pain in consumer cyclicals? Don’t believe it. There is much more pain to come. And even if there was no pain in consumer cyclicals, will there be no pain in commodities? We have seen oil prices decline from roughly $140 to roughly $100 and bounce up and down. I have publicly gone on record to say that oil will drop to around $50 before rising to its natural level which should be around $60-70, or perhaps 80 at most. So when will we know that the floor has been reached? When the oil price hits 50. That is when we should expect a consistent rebound and not earlier. Before then, Russia, China, India and all other emerging markets will have taken a beating. I remember the words of one of my colleagues who once stunned everyone by reminding them, at a time when everyone was being very optimistic about emerging markets, that “emerging markets are markets from which it is very difficult to emerge in an emergency”.

There is a good chance that the global economy will avoid a systemic collapse. But it is difficult to see how we will avoid a painful period of contraction, structural adjustment and regulatory reform. But will that be enough? Don’t we need to think of more fundamental practical actions to put the global economy on a sounder basis? If the global economy is to grow steadily, rather than in the sort of “global boom-global bust” that we have seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall, some quite simple actions can dampen the booms as well as the busts. “What kind of actions?”, I hear you ask.

Well, here is a short list for starters:

  • standardisation and transparency regarding all securitisation products;
  • agreed rules and limits regarding hedge funds, derivatives and structured products;
  • the abolition of special vehicles and the emplacement of agreed global rules, in order to assess public and company debt in a fair and transparent manner;
  • re-establishing limits on the amount of money that can be printed, in order to relate money supply to something like the value of goods and services produced (the US has printed roughly $15 Trillion, when the value of its goods and services is roughly $14 Trillion – no wonder the dollar is in difficulty);
  • the creation of long-term shares for all publicly-traded companies, with global agreement regarding the proportion of long-term shares (not sellable for, say, a year) which must be purchased at the same time as the short-term tradable shares that exist at present (the rules to be reviewable, say, every 5 years);
  • global requirement on, say, the richest 1,000 families in the world to invest 1% of their income in any of the Least Developed Countries of their choice;
  • agreement whereby the top 1,000 families in every WTO country are required to invest say 2% of their income in any micro-credit or micro-investment company of their choice in their own country;
  • reintroducing limits on chargeable interest rates worldwide (though real traditionalists such as myself would argue for the entire abolition of loans, in order to encourage and allow only investment);
  • global standards regarding the environment, pensions, health and safety;
  • the encouragement of complementary currencies which are specifically designed to be counter-cyclical; and so on.

Please note that I am not arguing for the introduction of any single one of these mechanisms, let alone all of them. What I am urging is a wide debate about such counter-cyclical mechanisms so that we can have the possibility of agreement on those which might be most efficacious in countering the global culture of debt. It is clear that the collapse in financial market confidence, and the deleveraging which is still underway, has already done colossal damage. Only the application of further counter-cyclical mechanisms can hope to limit the extent and duration of the damage that is still likely to be caused. The application of such counter-cyclical measures needs to be supplemented with wider cultural measures.

  1. “Our culture needs to be focused again on a realistic optimism not a fatalistic pessimism”. The trend has been in the opposite direction, as is well-documented by Oliver Bennett in his book, “Cultural Pessimism: Narratives of Decline in the Post-modern World” (Edinburgh University Press, UK, 2001). Cultural pessimism arises with the conviction that the culture of a nation, a civilisation, or of humanity itself, is in a process of irreversible decline. Surveying the history of pessimism, Bennett concludes that it will be difficult to turn the tide of contemporary pessimism. It is precisely that difficult task that must be tackled, keeping in mind that it was the Reformation which had historically made Europe uniquely hopeful in the first place.
  2. We need to restore education to its function of nurturing citizenship and genuine personal fulfilment – and move away from the present function of training people for employment by the elite. This will involve restoring the function of enabling individuals to think for themselves, not merely to learn by rote in order to pass exams and gain certificates or college/ university degrees. It will mean moving from presently-dominant ‘merely technical’ training, even in subjects such as economics and IT, to education in the widest sense, reincorporating history, literature, the Bible and philosophy. It is striking how much freedom of thought has been lost even at the doctoral level and at faculty level in universities where, increasingly, one has to follow what is perceived to be ‘politically correct’, in disciplines as diverse as economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology and even science, in order to be hired and then to be granted tenure. Indeed, even tenured faculty have been hounded from their positions because of their views.
    Contemporary educators as well as people in government like to point out how successful we are at education, but fail to observe that we have redefined educational success in such a way that it is empty and meaningless from the viewpoint of nourishing an open, democratic and fulfilling culture. Educational excellence needs to be defined once again to include and emphasise responsibility, not individual greed and collective consumerism. More broadly, there needs to be a cultural inculcation of the notion of ‘enough’ specifically in matters of economics, business and money. The restoration of Sunday as a day of rest, and of limited trading hours during the rest of the week, would in addition go an enormous way towards reducing stress and stress-related diseases – which are now the largest killers, present in epidemic proportions, though it is politically incorrect to recognise their existence.
  3. The media needs to be restored to the function of truth-telling, by removing the obsession with entertainment – partly by global quantity controls, and partly by introducing competition for the commercial sector from socially-sponsored media responsible for quality alone. Britain could have had such a situation, but the elites there have weakened public broadcasting by requiring the BBC to compete with commercial television in entertainment and ratings. As long as budgets were adequate for top-quality productions, the BBC could compete even in entertainment but, as budgets were squeezed, the BBC too has increasingly produced the broadcasting equivalent of candy or aspirin. Public broadcasting needs to be strengthened even in the U.K. By such a dual system as I propose – and mandated worldwide. At present, in most parts of the world, media provide only government propaganda and/ or elite propaganda. Of course the media must entertain! But the central question is: do the media allow sufficient space for debate, discussion, thinking – or do they squeeze out the space for it?
  4. Fundamental and even applied research needs to be liberated from the trammels of private sponsorship. Many react negatively to such a proposal on grounds of efficiency. However, efficiency is less important than the consequences of research for humanity: it does not matter how efficient my car is, if I am driving in the wrong direction! Science and technology are more and more divorced from real human needs: perhaps 98% of worldwide research money goes into the obsessions and problems of the rich, who are certainly by any measure no more than one sixth of the world population. I would not expect only one sixth of research money to be devoted to their needs and desires. In fact, I don’t expect even one third or one half, but perhaps sixty or seventy percent would be fair – 98% certainly does not make sense. However, I agree with the need for efficiency, and believe that we will get it by global mechanisms for ensuring greater competition and commercial freedom for products and services.
  5. A global minimum wage and/or guarantees need to be introduced for food, clothes and shelter. Today, this is not particularly costly and can certainly be easily afforded. That needs to be combined with re-establishing the middle class worldwide (we have a global elite but not a global middle class). In turn, that can only be accomplished by redefining work and strengthening the family, for example moving worldwide from the current marriage penalty to a premium for nurturing children, with encouragement and celebration of parents who bear and bring up children, and do not send the mother out to work in pursuit of illusory material gains.

But the moment one puts forward specific actions such as those above, one is very conscious that one is climbing uphill. We are not guaranteed success on this earth. We are guaranteed a reward in heaven if we continue faithful on this earth in the teeth of opposition, mockery and even persecution.The global culture of debt will be overcome only if we have a new generation of people willing to be transformed as individuals, willing to create a new sense of community, ready to pay the cost of working for the continued transformation of our global society, and of transforming companies from engines to make even richer those who are already rich, to engines that work to produce wealth for the globe. But the global culture of debt, which is a consequence of a global culture of greed, has been overcome in the past by the actions of our outstanding spiritual ancestors from the Radical Reformers to William Wilberforce. And the good news is that the global culture of greed and debt can be overcome again, by measures such as I have mentioned.

Thank you.


James says:

  • Whew!  What a lot to take in.
  • I agree with everything Prof. Guptara says here.
  • Simon, do you have an opinion?

I wouldn’t know where to begin to implement his suggestions.


Sunday Sermon

Praise and Worship

  • (Something modern, instantly forgettable)
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • (something else modern)

Prayer

  • For Pastor Kevin Simmond’s family. Kevin passed away suddenly this week. See obituary notice below.
  • For The Street Church. This economic recession has made possible for them to realise a long-term goal: they are able to afford the entire building next door to them, so as to double their existing size.

Things you need to know

  • Next week, special guest Dennis Franck, ministering to adult singles
  • March 11-12, special guest Ian Green, ministering to business people (see article below)
  • March 13-15, PowerZone regional Kids Camp, El Rancho, Waikanae.
  • Testimony from Elaine Scott about her miraculous recovery from life-threatening surgery.
  • Easter Festival, combined choir, “we need you”

Crunchies

  • Welcome to newbie, Charlotte
  • John and Heather, tiny tots kids church leaders, recommencing new year
  • Significant birthdays (someone was a “0” birthday e.g. possibly 60, and someone else was 1).
  • First day at uni tomorrow
  • Married 37 years
  • Some special sports achievement (I missed)

Service

  • Visiting speaker Mike Murphy
  • Mike has been in ministry for over 24 yeas and is currently the Senior Pastor of Shirelive Church, located in the southern part of Sydney. He is a member of both the National and State executive bodies for the Australian Christian Churches, and is the founding Chairman of Global Community Initiatives.
  • The leadership emphasis of Mike’s ministry strongly embraces the notion that every believer is called to active disciple-making, and his desire is to equip business people, families and global-hearted churches to excel in this area.,

Introduction

  • Mike told story of his “adventurous” airplane flight
  • Sometimes our plans are diverted

Genesis 1:28

  • “Go and be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”
  • Everything from this verse to current day is a diversion from God’s original good plan

Noah’s Flood

  • God was regretful that He’s created Man.
  • But Noah found favour
  • Started again
  • Genesis 9:1 “Go and be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”
  • It didn’t take long before we mucked it up again

Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)

  • We settled instead of spread out
  • God separated us there

Genesis 28:16

  • Then Jacob awoke from this sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I didn’t even know it…”
  • Jacob the deceiver (James says: was he? Wasn’t Sarah the architect of Jacob’s deception?) met God and his perspective changed.

The “wow” of God

  • If we get that understanding, the only appropriate response is that your place would be a place of worship
  • We are called to be gates of heaven (portals to God)
  • We live, walking around, with a thin membrane in front of our face, between here and eternity. One small tear, and we are instantly catapulted to eternity, either with or without Him.
  • We are the window to the eternity for some people.
  • We are the only Bible some people will ever read in their lives.

Name and nature are synonymous

  • Changed Jacob (the deceiver) to Israel (Prince with God)
  • Genesis 32:28

Altar call

  • Closing prayer

Praise Reports

Local

National

  • It’s autumn!

International

Prayer Requests

Local

  • Tim K’s courier business – needs more work.

  • Richard B. – is looking for a job, after he gets back from Israel!

  • Jerome – a French man I met while on a film shoot last week, is having many and varied spiritual experiences while visiting our country.  Pray that Jesus would make himself real to Jerome.

National

  • Too many youthful and useful Christian leaders are dropping dead.

International

  • Muslims Kill African Union Peacekeepers at Church – Jihadists in Somalia targeted their victims while they were attending a church service. It was the deadliest attack on peacekeepers in the lawless Horn of Africa country since the AMISOM force was deployed there in March 2007. Sunday’s attack came three days after a gathering in Mogadishu of Islamic clerics ended with a call for AMISOM peacekeepers to leave Somalia within 120 days and for shari’a to be implemented.

  • UN Anti-Racism Conference Is Also Anti-Israel – The draft document for the United Nations anti-racism conference, dubbed Durban II, is problematic both for Israel and western democracies in general. "As far as we believe, Durban II is going to be the anti-Semitic event of 2009," said Amos Hermon, the head of the task force. "It looks worse than we expected, even though it’s not yet clear what the end result will be."


Other News

Local

  • On Wednesday 11 March, Elim is hosting a business seminar with Ian Green.  Ian Green’s background is in business leadership development.  He has lead Youth Alive United Kingdom (annual events attracted more than 12,000 people) and launched Next Level International, Proton Foundation and a property company in Europe.  In a nutshell, he is a visionary leader that has a heart to see people developed and nations affected.  He is primarily based in Europe.  The seminar is targeted at Christian business people.  Generally, it will focus on practical and inspirational leadership in business.  He will focus largely on his past experience and what he has learnt from it.  There will also be a questions and answers session at the end. 

    Speaker: Ian Green – Practical and Inspirational Leadership in Business
    Date/Time: 11 March at 7pm
    Venue: Elim Church
    RSVP: Please RSVP to andrewp@wn.elim.org.nz by Friday 6 March.

    This event is not to be mistaken with Thursday evening’s event in which Ian will address business and non-business people at Elim.

    If you know any business orientated people that might like to come along, please forward this to them.

National

International

  • Alan Keyes: Stop Obama or U.S. will cease to exist – Claims ‘communist usurper’ plunges country into chaos.  Check out the YouTube embedded video interview on this page.  Thanks to Renton for this link.  Are we witnessing the fall of the American Empire?  I, for one, will be very sad to see it go.


Obituary #1

Pastor Kevin Charles Simmonds

27 Sept 1953 – 25 February 2009

SUPERKID

A celebration of the life of Kevin held at the Elim Centre, Blenheim; 28th February 2009, at 10.00am; followed by interment at the Fairhall Lawn Cemetery.

Officiating:

  • Pastor Tom Hatch

Eulogy:

  • Ann Wood & Brothers and Sister & Spouses

Reading:

  • Warren Edgecombe
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8, 10-11

Tributes:

  • Samara Edgecombe
  • Mike Knott
  • Clinton Kelleher
  • Luke Brough
  • Shane Pretorius
  • Sonia Crowe

My thoughts:

  • Kevin was children’s pastor at Wellington Elim before Mitch.
  • Kevin and Fiona worked together on the establishment of Capital Care Health Centre.
  • Kevin has been instrumental in a massively popular Super Kids Camp in Blenheim each year.
  • Fiona and Tane attended the funeral.
  • Apparently, there was a fireman’s honour guard, and the mayor was in attendance.
  • Kevin had a sudden and massive heart attack, from which he never woke up.
  • He will be greatly missed.


Obituary #2

Mr Roger Half

1969 – February 2009

Died at Levin

My thoughts:

  • Father of 3 under 10
  • Loving Christian husband of Jo
  • Finally succumbed to long bout of cancer
  • A member of our group
  • Moved north to be near family
  • He was my age.  Gulp.  That means I am mortal.


Why I Am A Creationist

What’s wrong with Darwinism?

What’s wrong with Darwinism?

by Tony Campolo

(Note by James: Intelligent Design is NOT Creationism, but it’s a first step to breaking down the barriers of unbelief set up by the scientific establishment.)

Many supporters of the principle of separation of church and state say that the Intelligent Design Theory of creation ought not to be taught in public schools because that it contains a religious bias.

They say that Intelligent Design proponents suggest that the evolutionary development of life was not the result of natural selection, as Charles Darwin suggested, but was somehow given purposeful direction and, by implication, was guided by God.

(Read the rest of this article


Humour

Dilbert

Dilbert.com 


Book Review

Title

Deuteronomy

Sub-Title

The book of the Second Law

Author

Moses

Publisher

God

Pages

Lots

Price

Priceless

Description

It was almost time for the people of Israel to cross the Jordan River and conquer Canaan.  But God refused to let Moses lead them into the land.  Instead, Moses had been told that he was going to die on the eastern side of the Jordan.  So Moses gave several farewell speeches to the people of Israel in which he repeated many of Gods laws.

Because Moses was giving these laws to Israel for a second time, the book is now called “Deuteronomy”, which comes from a Greek phrase meaning “second law.”

Moses also reminded the Israelites about the past 40 years.  God had rescued them from Egypt and taken care of them in the desert, but they had not always been faithful or obedient to him.

Moses told the Israelites that if they kept their agreement to worship and obey the Lord, they would be a successful and powerful nation.   But if they broke their agreement and worshipped idols, the Lord promised to put terrible curses on the people.  They would be defeated by their enemies and lose their land and their lives.

Contents

  1. The Final Speeches of Moses
  2. Israel Spent Years in the Desert
  3. The Defeat of King Og of Bashan
  4. Israel Must Obey God
  5. The Ten Commandments
  6. The Most Important Commandment
  7. Force the Other Nations Out of the Land
  8. The Lord Takes Care of You
  9. Why the Lord Will Help Israel
  10. The Second Set of Commandments
  11. If You are Loyal to the Lord, He Will Bless You
  12. Only One Place To Worship the Lord
  13. Don’t Worship Other Gods
  14. Don’t Mourn Like Other Nations
  15. Loans
  16. Passover
  17. Sacrifices That Have Something Wrong with Them
  18. Special Privileges for Priests and Levites
  19. Safe Towns
  20. Laws for Going to War
  21. Unsolved Murder
  22. Helping Others
  23. Who Can’t Become One of the Lord’s People
  24. A Law about Divorce
  25. Whipping as Punishment for a Crime
  26. Give the Lord the First Part of Your Harvest
  27. Build an Altar on Mount Ebal
  28. The Lord Will Bless You If You Obey
  29. The Agreement in Moab
  30. The Lord Will Bring You Back
  31. Joshua Is Appointed the Leader of Israel
  32. The Song of Moses
  33. Moses Blesses the Tribes of Israel
  34. The Death of Moses

Review

As a Gentile believer in YHWH, even though I am not bound by the Jewish law, it is sobering to realise just how holy He is.  And yet throughout this book, are the subtle signs of His faithfulness, His longsuffering, His mercy and His grace to come in the fulfilment of Jesus Christ.  You can’t read this book and be unmoved either by the plight of the Israelites, or conversely, if you are so inclined, by the plight of the Canaanites.

Yes, it is largely repetitive and apparently irrelevant to modern Christians, but let’s review that shall we?

  • Its detail lends credence to its historicity;
  • Its historicity lends credence to its authenticity;
  • Its authenticity lends credence to the earlier books; and
  • Its laws for the protection of the weak, the powerless, the widowed and the orphans were ground-breaking at the time when kings would wipe out villages for the merest slight.

Besides, after 40 years, you could forgive a 120 year old man the odd recounting of the same tale or two!

8/10


Bible Reading

Week to 2 Mar 2009

  1. Deuteronomy 24:1 – 27:26
  2. Deuteronomy 28:1 – 29:29
  3. Deuteronomy 30:1 – 32:47
  4. Deuteronomy 32:48 – 34:12
  5. Joshua 1:1 – 6:27
  6. Joshua 7:1 – 10:15
  7. Joshua 10:16 – 13:33

Week to 9 Mar 2009

  1. Joshua 14:1 – 17:18
  2. Joshua 18:1 – 21:45
  3. Joshua 22:1 – 24:33
  4. Judges 1:1 – 3:31
  5. Judges 4:1 – 5:31
  6. Judges 6:1 – 8:35
  7. Judges 9:1 – 11:21

Week to 16 Mar 2009

  1. Judges 11:22 – 14:20
  2. Judges 15:1 – 17:13
  3. Judges 18:1 – 19:30
  4. Judges 20:1 – 21:25
  5. Ruth 1:1 – 4:22
  6. 1 Chronicles 1:1 – 3:24
  7. 1 Chronicles 4:1 – 6:47

End Notes

  • METTLE is an acronym for Men’s Evangelical Team Together for Learning Experiences. We are primarily Christian businessmen from Wellington, who meet occasionally in the CBD to encourage each other in our daily walk with Jesus. This Weekly Collaborative Blog (WCB) is our primary means of communication.  If you know of anyone who may benefit from this WCB, you are welcome to forward them along. Similarly, if your circumstances are such that membership in this distribution list is no longer relevant, then hit reply and type UNSUBSCRIBE to have it removed.
  • If you choose to respond to any item raised in this WCB, please indicate clearly which items you wish to remain Private, as any correspondence may be considered Public and could be published.
  • If this fortnight’s newsletter has been of benefit to you, why not drop a line and say so.  Or better yet, visit the TVORNZ website to read past issues and add a comment!
  • Published by The Voice of Reason, New Zealand, copyright (C) 2009

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