Saturday, 23 November 2013

Free Market System – Some Uneducated Speculations.

I say these are uneducated because I really don’t know much about the free market, but I learned some things today, and this is my push back:
Unprofiting endeavours
Profit motivation
And workers.

There are some things which do not create a profit even though they are worthwhile endeavours.  I found out today that my uncle had a cancerous polyp removed so a thought that came to me is cancer research.  One could spend their entire life searching for a cure, find things that point other researchers in the right direction, but ultimate find nothing they can sell. 
A similar concern I have is with Children.  I think they should all get equal opportunities.  I hope they can all have quality education. 
I think in the ideal free market, teachers and researchers would be funded by donations of the people.  It would be neither force nor coercion that made people pay taxes to the system, but out of freewill and goodness people would donate to such noble causes.  Sounds great, but what if people don’t donate very much?  Is it right for a researcher to struggle to get by because people give him little support?  Or what if he takes a pay cut to get cutting edge technologies.  Worse even would be if the leading researchers and top teachers gave up their jobs to become dog trainers because it made them more money.
I think profit motivation is ugly.  It seems to suggest that more money brings more happiness.  I doubt this is the case.  I am not alone in this doubt:

(but how can one measure happiness?)
It seems criminal to me for a society to function by profit motivation.  Perhaps I am unrealistically optimistic in believing motivation could happen any other way.  However, Seeking more money is akin to seeking more stuff in a world of limited resources.  Th more I take for myself, the less there is for others.  As Walter Rauschenbusch wrote in Christianity and the Social Gospel, “The rule of trade, to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest, simply means that a man must give as little to the other man and get as much for himself as possible.  This rule makes even honest competitive trade – to say nothing of the immense volume of more or less dishonest and rapacious trade – antagonistic to Christian principles.  The law of Christ, wherever it finds expression, reverses the law of trade.  It bids us demand little for ourselves and give much service.  A mother does not try to make as rich a living as possible, and give minimum of service to her children.  It would be a sorry teacher who would lie awake thinking how he could corner the market on education and give his students as small a chunk of information as possible from the pedagogic ice-wagon.”  I have a hard time meshing the profit motif with love, generosity or compassion.  Profit maximizing often leads to exploitation.
Two things were mentioned today that I have a hard time reconciling.  “No minimum wage” and “do no harm.”  Let’s face it, people in difficult situations will be willing to work for exceedingly little.  Humans enter into exploitative environments because they feel they have no choice.  Desperation will lead one to work 14 hours a day in unsafe conditions with the hope of feeding the children, even if nothing is left for oneself.  Just because someone, by choice, enters into an exploitative situation does not mean they deserve to be exploited.   Such situations are harmful.  If someone if doing valuable work, they deserved to be paid a minimum wage.  They deserve to eat and feed their family and have a place to live.  To pay them any less is harmful, it’s ugly.  While our system is not free today, such situations still happen.  A successful way of lowering costs (ergo increase profit) is to pay your workers less.  If people can get away with paying their workers less, they will, even if their workers are worth more.  In my estimation, a free market without regulations ensuring the rights of workers to earn a fair wage will exploit the poor for profit.

As mentioned above, I don’t know tons about the free market ideal.  These are just some of my hesitations based on my (mis)understandings.  Please, push back.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Dang Christian Hope

There are a lot of problems in this world: children dying of hunger, people exploited as labourers or trafficked for sex, people killed in wars for freedom.  This stuff is bad, and so I ask, what can we do, what can I do, to change the situation?
I've been told that I should do my part, be faithful with what I have, do as I should, and even if I don’t accomplish much, it will all work out in the eschatological end.  God will come back and set things right.  Don’t worry too much if a child dies of hunger, this life is a short trial, but heaven will be so lovely that these earthly struggles will be forgotten.
I don’t like it.  I find this answer to be too simplistic.  It feels like a cop-out to me.  It seems to me to render this live meaningless, or at least relatively insignificant.  While those with such a mindset often seek to alleviate the suffering of others, it seems they often to the good for the sake of doing the good.  They do care for those in their immediate presence, but don’t attempt to make the world a better place for everyone.  They realize they can’t, but they do their part to make life better for a few.  The do their part, God will take care of the rest… after they die.  I don’t like it.  It doesn't sit well with me.
The alternative seems to say, “Make the world better!”  It urges me not to be content with improving a few lives, but to seek world change, mass economic revolution and equality of all.  That begs the question, “how do we get there?”  Here’s the danger.  With such ambitious goals a temptation presents itself.  It is a little voice that answers the question slyly.  “By any means,” it says.  “By any means.”  Then those who dream about economic equality violently fight against the current powers.  Those who long that all be free and democratic use violence to work towards this end.
I don’t like it.  I fear this mentality all too often leads first to violence and rarely accomplishes what it set out to do.  I think extreme is good, but not all extremes.  We forget to do good in our immediate settings and dream only of what the world might be.  We might fight to get there, but in the way do more harm and actually accomplish little good.  A problem exists within this mindset because people are causing the problems, and getting rid of the problems all too often means causing harm to people.  I don’t like it.  It doesn’t sit well with me.
Well, my prof tried to offer me a third option, an option which hopes, which is a call not just to do our part, but to do all we can, together.  It is an option that recognizes limits and means congruent with the end.  It is an option that believe in the church, people, and hopes that they will come together to create social change.  He thinks that the church can have a greater influence than policy makers, politics or radicals…  I’m not sure I’m that hopeful.  I’m not sure I have that much faith.