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Saving Time – The Economic Consequences of Hurry

Saving Time – The Economic Consequences of Hurry

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Published by Douglas Knight
Bad theology comes from the bad conscience of one generation in the West which has determined to separate itself from its own sources in its inherited culture, and to grasp the present so that no unknown or new thing may ever interrupt it. This bad theology generates the agendas which control an increasing proportion of our national economic product. The fear that as individuals we cannot cope with the responsibility for our own public action and economic relationships, and contrive agendas that delegate this responsibility onto the state institutions from which a large proportion of the population receives their identity and income. This secularist theology can load new burdens on the economy, and it can pay for them for a while by asset-stripping that culture, but it cannot support an open public square or healthy economy for its has no resources of its own.
Good, Christian, theology creates a culture in which we are open to other people and to new encounters with what we cannot control or know in advance, in which we concede our own transience, identify ourselves with those who will come after us and we get on with making the investments that will give them the same hope of prosperity we had.
A healthy economy is embedded within and driven by a healthy culture with a healthy public square. A society is healthy when the current generation acknowledges its obligations to its own progenitors and its duty to its successors and so recognises its place in the transmission of life and does not attempt to out-live its welcome.
Christianity creates secularity (wide tolerance) and cultural confidence. Left to itself, secularity tends to become ideological secularism (tolerance narrowing towards conformity and centralisation). Secularity remains secular only when the public square can receive the contribution of Christianity
Bad theology comes from the bad conscience of one generation in the West which has determined to separate itself from its own sources in its inherited culture, and to grasp the present so that no unknown or new thing may ever interrupt it. This bad theology generates the agendas which control an increasing proportion of our national economic product. The fear that as individuals we cannot cope with the responsibility for our own public action and economic relationships, and contrive agendas that delegate this responsibility onto the state institutions from which a large proportion of the population receives their identity and income. This secularist theology can load new burdens on the economy, and it can pay for them for a while by asset-stripping that culture, but it cannot support an open public square or healthy economy for its has no resources of its own.
Good, Christian, theology creates a culture in which we are open to other people and to new encounters with what we cannot control or know in advance, in which we concede our own transience, identify ourselves with those who will come after us and we get on with making the investments that will give them the same hope of prosperity we had.
A healthy economy is embedded within and driven by a healthy culture with a healthy public square. A society is healthy when the current generation acknowledges its obligations to its own progenitors and its duty to its successors and so recognises its place in the transmission of life and does not attempt to out-live its welcome.
Christianity creates secularity (wide tolerance) and cultural confidence. Left to itself, secularity tends to become ideological secularism (tolerance narrowing towards conformity and centralisation). Secularity remains secular only when the public square can receive the contribution of Christianity

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Published by: Douglas Knight on Jan 27, 2011
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Saving Time  The Economic Consequences of Hurry 
Our economy is in crisis. How should Christians respond?Last time we said that this economic crisis is not simply about academic economics or abouteconomic management but much more about the relationship of an economy to the culturefrom which it emerges. A culture is that stock of fixed capital which enables a population toenter exchanges, amongst themselves and with peoples of other cultures too. It gives us asense of self-worth and confidence. Different religions give us different political cultures,with differing conceptions of the human ability to live together. Economic exchange isabout meeting people you don't know and for specific purposes entering short-termrelationships with them. It relies on a population bold enough to embark on theseencounters, so an economy depends on an underlying political culture that provides thisconfidence, civility and openness. This open economy comes from secularity, and thatsecularity comes from the confidence created by one particular culture, the one that hasbeen shaped over many centuries by the Christian Gospel. This shaping forms a background,so it is not apparent in any day-to-day economic exchange or discussion. But this confidencecan lapse, and when it does we feel less obligation to a common civility and are thentempted to take a more direct control first of the market and then of government to direct alarger proportion of the national economic product our way. When that happens, theeconomy is in trouble.Last time we asked four questions  about the City, baby-boomers, about Christian judgment and Christians as representatives of the nation. About the City we suggested thatthe financial services serve the national economy by directing capital to productive uses, weasked whether banks have stayed from this mandate to direct national wealth into thefinancial services, to the point when they have recently grown large on largesse extractedfrom governments, which is to say from the nation, including its very poorest members. If this is so, are banks holding out against the sovereignty of the whole people, expressedthrough the representative institutions of the nation? Are we being plundered by them?Are the financial services the parasite that eats its host? We may not be able to answerthem, but simply to ask these questions is already some kind of achievement.Last time we suggested that the relationship between the financial services and the widereconomy has got out of balance in part because the Baby-Boomer group of those in late-middle-age have started to look for increasingly desperate ways to ensure their ownsecurity in the face of more difficult times. The massive expansion of financial serviceindustries is the market communicating to us that there will be a short-fall of people, and inparticular of those motivated and economically dynamic people who for make a vibranteconomy. This distended financial sector is the manifestation of an underlying crisis in inter-generational relationships. In the future a smaller active population will have to care for alarger dependent population; The more that prospect emerges, the more people may findthey have other things to do than have children and give them that committed formationthat would enable them to become independent dynamic economic agents. An unsettledeconomy can make for a falling population. The market is therefore telling us that only aminority of its current members will be able to remain in the middle classes.
 
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Then we said that Christians bring two contributions which have a direct economic impact.They bring judgment, and they act representatively, for the nation. Christians insist on theinalienability of responsibility, and so of judgment, self-judgment, and the possibility of regret, remorse, repentance and restitution by which we can change our course and a badsituation can give way to a better one. And Christians do this on behalf of the nation.Christians do not wait for new policy to come from the centre, but get on with anticipatingand offering a more self-controlled, truthful and sustainable economy. The surroundingworld may welcome this or oppose it or fail to notice it. Nonetheless Christians bear theirown costs and some of the costs that other people cannot bear for themselves. They actand speak representatively, in their priestly office, for the nation, and if things become dire,pleading to God and atoning for the nation.Christians say that there is good theology and there is bad theology and they show which iswhich. Good theology enables us to live life well together. A society can survive a lot of badtheology if there is a certain amount of the good stuff around in the background culturalassumptions that shape our day-to-day business lives. We said that the first aim of businessand of life is to be independent and self-supporting, and so being economically robustenough to offer support to others, in such a way that they may remain or becomeindependent too. Markets and government offer us a palette of choices, for they may havean interest in streamlining your decision-making. But your determination to remain free tomake your own contribution gives you reason to make many decisions for yourself and sopreserve your freedom to enter and exit economic relationships. An open economy comesfrom the high view of our human ability to form new relationships. If we are all persuadedthat we can make instant relationships with people we have never met before, then this islikely to be so. A high view of man may be partly self-fulfilling. Bad theology not only offersus a reductive account of man, but gives justification when others attempt to inflict thatreductive account on us, with less economic opportunity as a result. A poor theology leavesus with poor but hubristic economics and this has a direct outworking on the economy itself.So we could ask the same question to two sets of people. Has the current crop of Bank CEOsleft the UK business environment as healthy as they found it, or in better or in worse shape?Have bankers served the British economy or failed it? And now the same question forChristians. Have Christians in recent decades served the nation by offering the theology thatallows for a healthy economics and healthy economy to emerge, or have they allowed theenvironment to become less supportive of the open economy, and so failed the nation?Could it be that in recent years Christians have failed to present that large view of humanbeings that enables us all to exercise self-judgment and public judgment? The culture inwhich self-judgment and public challenge are exercised is fundamental to any open society.The society in which no one knows how to exercise judgment, as well as mercy, or how totake criticism, admit mistakes and shoulder blame, will not long sustain open markets or anopen economy. Of bankers and Christians, who is most to blame for this crisis  and whichof the two can make best use of this blame?
1. What is the relationship between economics and the economy?
Economics is good and useful when we allow it to do its job and that only. It allows us togive definition to that set of short-term, limited-purpose relationships that we call
 
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transactions. If we are confident that we can leave them again, we are willing to take onnew economic relationships. As our confidence in our freedom to enter and leave themincreases, the number of transactions goes up and so the economy grows.The great human question is this. How can we live well together? There are many answers,to which Christians contribute one, and all together these amount to one big account of how to live well together. We could call it the humanities. Economics is an abbreviation of this one big account. It leaves out many parts of the big account in order to concentrate onthese well-defined, limited-purpose, short-term relationships. It works when it is nottempted to provide answers to other questions without reference to that one big account.So it is the whole account, given in the humanities, that gives us the proper the limits toeconomics. Economics has to respect and defer to this large account, and not try to replaceit.But what happens if economics does not know its own limits? If they are treated as anunlimitedly valid account of our relationships, economics and its associated disciplines of management and economic policy-making can be used to justify holding one anothercaptive to particular economic arrangements. Economics describes the limited terms whichmake economic exchange possible. But it may be used as an ideology to support theattempts of various groups to exceed those terms, exert a grip on a market and get a freeride. An excessive reliance on economics can turn into the pursuit of a macro- and micro-economic policy with no limits. Since this takes decisions away from individual economicagents, if these agendas and policies become too commonplace we will all hesitate tocommit to any new economic relationships. Then the number of transactions will go downand the economy dwindle. If we call on it to justify too much, economics may beeconomically counter-productive.Business is good. We are primarily concerned with our own affairs, and our own affairs iswhat business is. You support yourself as far as you can, and as you do so you occasionallyhave to ask other people to stop getting in the way and making things difficult for you. Butwe attempt to support ourselves before we give up and ask others to support us.Capitalism, the ability to dispose of your own capital or property in such a way as to raisefuture production, is good too. The market is good, though particular markets are neverquite perfect, vulnerable to the excessive influence of their larger players. So we have to askourselves how far we do in fact have free markets and an open economy or an oligopolisticcorporatism that, though look like capitalism, is a long way short of a free market. Somegroups may achieve such dominance that they are able to prevent new businesses fromentering the market, and this may happen so subtly so that neither we nor they are awareof it and all express their surprise and hurt when the question is raised. Could it be that,without setting out to be this, big business becomes the enemy of small and mediumbusiness? We have government in order to keep markets free and fair, so that the small canmake their way and support themselves as much as the big. Big businesses may be moreefficient at meeting the tax, insurance and pension obligations and meeting the complianceand revenue-raising requirements of government than small businesses are. Sogovernments find it hard not to identify with the big and so be subject to the same processof cognitive capture. But any economy must have a mix of small, of medium and of bigbusinesses, and we could even hazard, a healthy mix is one in which the small and mediumsignificantly consider out-number the large, at least as regards the number of people they

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