Monday, January 11, 2010

Why economics?

Some of you may wonder why I post on economics since most of the time I focus on religion and theology (I know my Lutheran news and gossip posts get a lot more hits than my economic ones ever do). While it has always been an interest of mine, last year’s financial crisis convinced me not only of the enormous impact economics has on everyone but also of its vital moral dimension.

The implosion of the banking system showed that something had gone seriously wrong with our economic system. That the multi-billion dollar taxpayer bailout was followed by billions in Wall Street bonuses proved something was seriously morally askew, as well.

I have been trying to follow all this as closely and carefully as my time allows. Internet bloggers not only provide a lot of helpful information and analysis but also lead to other authorities, books and articles. Needless to say, this is a HUGE subject with often violently contrasting viewpoints. One thing I have learned, however, is that most of the “experts” relied on by the mainstream media (MSM) are themselves part of the flawed system. Thus, for example, the economic talking heads on news shows who are financial advisers (as many are) will always be essentially optimistic about the economy. Otherwise people will have no incentive to give them their money to invest.

After sorting through the experts and finding those that seem sincere and honest (especially about their limitations), the message I have gotten loud and clear is that our financial problems are far from resolved. The bailouts in the fall of 2008 stopped the immediate crisis from turning into a financial meltdown. The serious economic problems which created this crisis are still almost entirely unresolved, however, and could easily erupt again.

I have become convinced that this is ultimately a spiritual crisis. The economic questions we are facing are not just technical but are fundamentally questions about values and life. This life is now so much more complex than our ancestors could have imagined, and more complex than most of us are aware. Our ignorance of both micro- and macro-economics leads us to feel overwhelmed and victimized, forced to rely on experts we know nothing about. Yet if we cannot come to a consensus about what constitutes essential economic health for ourselves and our communities, then the future of our democracy is seriously in danger.

So, you can expect more economics posts from me. I hope you’ll read them, read the articles they link to, and start your own economic education program. Economics is not money, numbers and statistics. As its Greek origin suggests, oikonomia is the management of our households, personal and collective. Right now, economic mismanagement is threatening the livelihood and future of every one of us.

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