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?