The House We Live In

Gordon C. Stewart, April 3, 2012

The economy is broken. While most of us have been holding our breath, some of us have been out buying the most expensive jewelry at Tiffany’s. Investor’s Business Daily reported that Tiffany’s profits rose by 56 percent during the 2nd Quarter of 2011.

‘Economics’ is about the house we all live in. We get the word from the Greek word oikos (household).   Economics (Oikonomia) is how we arrange things in the one household. They don’t teach that in MBA programs.

This is not an economy. It’s something else. It’s an anti-economy, the antithesis of one household in which all residents are housed, fed, secure, and peaceful.

Profit vs. loss is not a way to manage a household. It divides the members of the household into winners and losers, owners and renters, charitable givers and those who receive, or do not receive, the winners’ charity.

What we call the American economy is spiritually and morally bankrupt. It’s not just broken financially.  Warren Buffett’s proposal to increase taxes on those who can afford to shop at Tiffany’s only scratches the surface of the household problem.  One could argue that the system – free market capitalism – is working the way it’s set up to work. Or one could argue that it isn’t.

It all depends on what floor of the house one lives in.

Two percent of the rooms are in the penthouse. They’re very large, decorated by the best interior designers and decorators. The furnishings are custom-made.  Those who live in the penthouse have a private elevator to leave the for lunch at the country club or the yacht club.  Over lunch they discuss how to maximize their profits with more blue chip stocks or bonds and whether to leave the penthouse for a week, a month, a season in exotic places. They discuss their charitable giving, encouraging each other to give to their favorite causes. Sometimes, in the best of clubs and social circles, they argue vociferously, just like the rest of us, about the economy in the Greek sense, the oikos. They are not all of one mind.  Some belong to the  Buffett Fraternity, others to the Trump Circle, even if they wish “the Donald”  would be more subtle.

The other 98 percent of the rooms in the house are rentals of various sizes. Some very large, some modest, and some small.  Only a few of the tenants have long-term leases or the protections of rent control.  The most vulnerable of us live downstairs on the smallest rooms on the lower levels. A growing number of us have been forced into the cellar.

And the rest?  We watch “the Donald” to catch a glimpse of life in the penthouse. We watch our neighbors and family members move to smaller rooms or to the basement, fearing that we, too, will end up in the cellar, but hoping that someday we’ll win the lottery and move upstairs to the penthouse.

Meanwhile, the folks who own Tiffany’s are laughing all the way to the bank, confident that the 98% are too preoccupied to get what’s happening…right there under our noses in the one house where we live.

Economics 101: “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). How, then, shall we re-arrange the one house? How will we Occupy it?

4 thoughts on “The House We Live In

  1. Rearrange the house by taxing access to the penthouse. That accommodation should appropriately help support everyone below. A penthouse can not exist without a foundation. The foundation was established by the 100%. If we are resolved to accommodate the 100%, we have changes to make. The primary mission should be equal rights and security for everyone. We should strive for the thriving of the entire planet. Why should people in Bangladesh deserve less than the rest of us? I don’t understand how people who seem to believe in a Christian “Lord” can calmly accept 40,000 deaths by starvation every day, as the population continues to explode. The earth now has 5 billion more people than can be hoped to live as well as Americans. To clarify this, we Americans claim far more than our share. We believe that we are special and that we deserve the best of the best. We have layers of Americans… with the 1 % cherry on top. That cherry on top expects everything… including the right to make the rules for the 99%. It’s true that the riches of the one per cent are not enough to fully support the rest of us. The big issue is that they should have no priority in the development of the rules for the rest of us, …and they should pay much higher taxes. The rest of us will have to get used to living more simply. Americans are not entitled to riches beyond the imagination of the majority of humans on earth. If we fail to stop the population explosion, we are all doomed, short and sweet… doomed. No “Lord” is going to spare humanity the horrible results of our dim-witted behavior. True, we can develop a myth that encourages action that allows for a nicely timed transport to heaven for the “worthy.” I understand that my dream of maturely facing facts… is also only a dream.


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