Stewardship Resource

A critique of "The Economics Underlying Stewardship: Creation and Distribution of Wealth"

Letter  Letter
  • Author: Ryan Andersen lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 3H6.
  • Updated: 03/20/2008
  • Copyright: Ryan Andersen
    302-393 Portage Avenue
    Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 3H6

In a letter critical of an email newsletter titled,
The Economics Underlying Stewardship: Creation and Distribution of Wealth, Ryan Anderson writes, ". . . look at not just the theory of that system (capitalism), but its reality. The reality is that our current system of global capitalism, while increasing the pie for some, continues to leave the vast majority of the world in poverty, and billions in extreme poverty. The very metaphor of an increasing pie is itself problematic."


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Dear Jerry,

As someone who understands economics, theology and ethics, I am greatly disappointed with the article you posted The Economics Underlying Stewardship: Creation and Distribution of Wealth"

To understand an economic system, and its connection to our lives of faith, it is important to look at not just the theory of that system, but its reality. The reality is that our current system of global capitalism, while increasing the pie for some, continues to leave the vast majority of the world in poverty, and billions in extreme poverty.

The very metaphor of an increasing pie is itself problematic. As the leading economist Jeffrey Sachs argues in his book The End of Poverty the over one billion people who live in extreme poverty exist in a condition which means that no matter how large the pie gets, they are not even in the room where it is shared. What is needed to get the poor in the room, he argues, is aid in quantities of over $60 billion a year to meet the millennium development goals, forgiving the debt of the heavily indebted poor countries, restructuring global trade police so they benefit the world's poor and environmental stewardship. Even according to this supporter of market capitalism, it is not capitalism; rather it is generosity and justice, which will make the difference for the poorest of the poor. His point on environmental stewardship is also important.

The reality is that we are increasingly discovering that the creation which God gave us cannot support such a large economic pie, especially when it is based on the patterns of waste and consumption present in the "developed" capitalist countries. 

Capitalism is also far from a "neutral system". Instead it is a system which concentrates power in the hands of a few, and allows them to shape the system to their own interests.

One only has to look at our corporate controlled media, which promotes consumption and corporate interests so well, while, as we are discovering, silencing dissenting voices (This was seen when MSNBC canceled Donahue's talk show, despite its high ratings, after his program questioned the move toward invading Iraq). 

We can also look at the Structural adjustment policies (SAPs) imposed on countries by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were plans designed to open up the economies of developing countries to global corporations while cutting services and government spending so that the heavily indebted poor countries could continue to make their debt payments to the international banking system. Now, both the IMF and the World Bank themselves recognize that these programs devastated many economies in the world and made the plight of the poor worse, while devastating the ability of African countries to respond to the AIDS crisis.  All of this was predicted when these policies were imposed. These predictions were ignored because the SAP programs served the interest of the rich and powerful capitalist interests. The results are millions who have died unnecessarily.  One can equally look at the Free Trade agreements including the World Trade Organization.

Reading these agreements and seeing their consequences makes it clear that they are far from "free" instead they are highly structured trade arrangements designed to protect and promote particular economic interests. Whose interests they were designed for is now clearly seen when the world's poorest countries argue for an agreement to that will bring them out of poverty and their proposals are rejected and "shut down" the World Trade Organization's negotiations.

One can equally look at how capitalism for years prevented essential medicine, especially for AIDS, from getting to people who need them, thus condemning millions to death so that profits earned by the wealthy could be maintained. The reality is that capitalism has in recent years devastated large parts of humanity, especially the "least of these" in whom we as Christians see Christ (Mathew 25).

What is even a greater concern are the spiritual effects of capitalism. The reality is that at the heart of capitalism is an ethic of greed and selfishness. The capitalistic system is based on the assumption that each of us want to acquire as much as possible for ourselves. It then cultivates this attitude not only through its advertising and consumer culture, but also as we engage in capitalism's practices of competition and acquisition. This greed and selfishness is the polar opposite of the ethic of self giving love which is at the heart of our Christian faith.

The use of Christian faith to defend this system is a betrayal of our faith. One only has to look to the Vatican which condemned both communism and capitalism equally. One only has to share one's life and live with the poor, as Christ calls us, to see these things. Christianity has for too long been used to justify economic systems of exploitation, whether that systems is slavery, colonization or now capitalism. This must stop if we are to be followers of Jesus who himself said that the spirit of the Lord anointed him "to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free" (Luke 4:18). 

I hope that you publish an article which point out the other side of capitalism, and promotes stewardship. That is the economy of generosity, the economy of care of our brothers and sisters and the care for all of creation.

Sincerely,

Ryan Andersen


To access Bob Richard's lecture go to Entire Document -The Economics Underlying Stewardship: Creation and Distribution of Wealth

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