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May 2017

Joy and Prosperity

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Paper given at the University of Aberdeen, 11 May 2017 

Luke 18:22-3 ‘Jesus said, “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But when the rich young man heard this, he became very sad, because he was extremely wealthy.’

The hypothesis of this Joy and Prosperity event is that Christians have traditionally driven a wedge between them. A bit like the rich young man, there has been a feeling that you can’t have both joy and prosperity: blessed are the poor. Today we are testing that assumption, and my contribution is to look at the question through the lens of the axioms of classical economic thought. Read More

Thought For The Day – Blessed Transactions – 11th May 2017

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What would it be like if our economy were run by angels? Would we have trade injustice, sharp practice, shoddy goods? My suspicion is that, no matter how hard we try to blame all our ills on ‘the system’, probably we get the market we deserve. Because the market around us is no more than the sum total of all the messages about supply and demand that we put into it. So I wonder what signals you’re intending to send out into the market today. Are you creating around you the kind of market that the angels would be proud of?

Let’s imagine that there’s a new process at the Pearly Gates. Owing to problems with visas, St Peter has decided that in future to get in you need to bring him your Bank Statement, as your report card of your economic activity on earth. Would every transaction bless you?

You may have heard of a study by the New Economics Foundation, about what your pound is worth to the local economy. If you spend it in a chain-store, only 36p stays in the local community, because the money travels to headquarters, in London or offshore. If you spend that pound in a local shop or market stall, it becomes worth £1.76 to the local economy, because the money is then re-spent locally. They illustrate this with the idea of ‘blue hands.’ If everyone in your neighbourhood had blue paint on their hands, how blue could you make that one-pound coin before it came to rest in a bank vault somewhere?

In Cape Cod, they have an interesting way to support their local economy. They ask you to identify 3 local enterprises that you really like having around, and pledge to spend $50 a month in them. Maybe the butcher on the High Street is a great reminder to include sausages in your supermarket shop, but if you don’t support them, they will disappear.

And I wonder if your favourite brands are good citizens, treating their workers well and paying their fair share of tax.

It’s rather terrifying interrogating your bank statement in this way, because there’s probably quite a lot on there that you don’t really think about. But, today, why not have a go at turning more of your transactions into blessings.

That way, we’ll get the sort of economy we really want.

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.