Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Scripture Lesson for Goldman Sachs (and their fat-cat brethren)

I'm working on upcoming blog posts on small-scale manufacturing and other technical subjects. This involves a bit of research, and nothing is ready yet, as I've been a bit tied up lately. I am also lining up more interviews with people who will hopefully be able to offer valuable insights into adapting to a post-Peak world.

But in the meantime, I'd like to comment on a story that caught my eye this week. It seems that some of the rich heads of some of the richest investment banks have recently been to church (maybe for the first time in years). Case in point: last month, the Anglican Church held a panel discussion at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The panel discussed “the place of morality in the marketplace.” Goldman Sachs International advisor Brian Griffiths was a prominent speaker at the event. (Source: “Goldman Sachs's Griffiths Says Inequality Helps All,” Bloomberg, 21 October 2009)

At that conference, Mr. Griffiths defended the bonuses planned for Goldman employees for 2009, bonuses so large that they average over $500,000 per capita. (This is at a time when the official unemployment rate in Britain is well over seven percent, and British income inequality is skyrocketing.) Here are some of his outstanding quotes: “The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest...We have to tolerate...inequality as a way to achieving greater prosperity and opportunity for all.” In the days following, bankers from Barclays Plc and Lazard International visited several London churches, delivering messages such as “Profit is not satanic,” and “Is Christianity and banking compatible? Yes. And is Christianity and fair reward compatible? Yes.” (Source: “Profit `Not Satanic,' Barclays Says, After Goldman Invokes Jesus,” Bloomberg, 4 November 2009)

Now I don't claim to be an expert on theology, but I am an evangelical Christian, and I have read the Bible a few times, and I think these banksters are in error on a few points. First, the system of usury (lending at interest) on which modern First World banking is based, was prohibited among Jews in Old Testament Israel (although I believe they were allowed to lend at interest to the Gentiles). In the New Testament, indebtedness is generally discouraged. But there is also the curious defense of inequality by the rich bankster class, at a time when unemployment among the working classes is skyrocketing and fifty percent of all American children (ninety percent of all black American children, according to one source) will require food stamps during their childhood. (Source: “High number of US kids get food stamps,” WiredPR News, 4 November 2009)

The Bible actually has some very negative things to say about inequality, especially that inequality that comes from cheating one's fellows. Yet from the remarks by the banksters, it seems they didn't read those things. So in order to save the banksters from making one Hell of a mistake (this is not frivolous swearing; I mean it literally), I have decided to post a pertinent passage from the Good Book (not that I expect them to read it):

Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. He cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.”

But Abraham said, “Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”

He said, “I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.” – Luke 16:19-31.

Note: this Scripture is taken from the World English Bible, a public domain translation. No royalties are owed to anyone for its use, and it may be freely quoted and read in all settings, public and private.

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