The Next Bubble – Don’t Get Fooled Again. You might like to take a look at this post. I can’t vouch for the author but I did find his article informative and thought-provoking. The moral dimension here is that people are so easily driven by fear or led by greed into chasing a quick profit. The adage “if it seems too good to be true it probably is” applies here. Virtues like patience, contentment and patience are called for, I suggest.
Since I first noticed that article the world stock markets have indeed taken a bit of a tumble. Some experts suggests putting money into commodities such as food or metals, especially gold. Meanwhile other experts complain that the prices of commodities are artificially higher than would be caused by straight-forward supply and demand – because of people speculating that they might be a safer place for their money. High commodity prices driven, in part at least, by fear.
I’m not about to sink my life savings into some dead cert investment nor do I feel the pressure to follow the crowd into the latest safe haven. But I do get that nagging feeling that I’m not “making the most” of my savings. Why the nagging? Is this fear or greed trying the softly, softly approach?
The Preacher was right: wealth gives you more things to worry about; the more you have the more the concern that your money will either be lost of stolen. “The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain… The surfeit of the rich will not let them sleep.” (Ecclesiastes chapter 5 verses 10 and 12).
I am not vaunting poverty as a good alternative but may be the lesson to learn is that enough is perhaps less than we think it is.
The title of this post intrigued me “Financial lessons from Yoga, Homer Simpson…” and it is a fairly quick read. I’m not necessarily endorsing everything it says but I liked the idea that simple pleasures in life can be just as fulfilling (and fun) as other more expensive ones. The blog also reminds the reader of other obvious but often ignored truths; such as the fact that we are most likely to succeed at what we are good at and have a passion for – the hard part may be in finding that calling we were made for.
Meanwhile, the New Scientist reported the other day (“Virtual money gets real” 04 June 2011) that there is a new virtual currency, the bitcoin, that is becoming popular with some. In an age where money is increasingly so much digital information and decreasingly cash in our pocket, this is a currency which is entirely on-line (there are others linked to particular games or networks like Facebook). Like any other currency, its strength depends very much on the confidence of the people who use it. National currencies used to be mostly backed by precious metals such as gold, or a basket of other currencies. These days they are backed largely by the tax-raising powers of the relevant government. For the time being most of us are likely to have more confidence in the government’s ability to raise tax than in a currency which is little more than an idea.
That set me wondering what the future of money might look like as trade and taxes become more globilised, as commodities become less predictable as a means of backing a currency and if electronic currency does not inspire us with confidence. One possibility might be to make a currency out of a carbon credit. Much of what we buy will have involved the emission of CO2 and an individual annual allocation is one way of managing the CO2 we put into the atmosphere. That would limit the amount of goods and services that could be produced and give value to the “Carbon Credit”. However, this currency would not necessarily take directly into account the rarity or abundance of raw materials or the amount of human skill involved. It would push the market to those things which are more CO2 efficient.
Perhaps another currency might be energy. It could cover all forms of energy, not just electricity generation, and there would be more profit in the more efficient means of making things. It would also encourage consumers to favour the things that require less energy in their production and use. The downside to this one is that it might create an incentive to make more energy and produce more CO2. The advantage of both of these is that they could be universal although I think in practice both would be unworkable as a currency even if we end up with some kind of CO2 and energy rationing in future. As it is essential to all life, water could be considered. OK, so this would only work in a desert or on the moon, but we do need to come to terms with the fact that it is a finite, and therefore precious, resource – more precious I dare say than gold. I don’t know what the currency of the future will look like but I suspect that it will relate to the rationing of finite but essential resources.
Whatever currency we use, I guess that sooner or later there will be some who have rather more of it than others – no matter how egalitarian it starts out. The fact is, some people will save more than others and that will leave them with more than the person who has not. And some truths about money and wealth remain the same: you can’t take it with you (as both the apostle Paul and Job might have said). Money (whatever form it takes) may bring us power and influence but it can’t buy us happiness. An authentic life (a life of godliness) lived contentedly may enrich us more than common currency – and in that respect Homer may well be rich after all.
In quick succession through the post we were sent three lots of raffle tickets which we had not asked for and yet we were expected to sell them to raise money for various charities. Now, to be fair, we do support those and other charities and make regular donations to them but, had they asked, they would have known that I am uncomfortable, to say the least, with selling raffle tickets.
Some years ago I would not have given raffles a second thought and happily bought a ticket at a church fête, say, with a chance of winning a prize cake or some such. Everyone knew that the object of the raffle was to raise money for a good cause and the chance of a prize was secondary. In fact it was not unusual for a prize winner to refuse the prize and another ticket be drawn for someone else instead. It was regarded as a bit of harmless fun and was largely concerned with people’s loose change in their pocket. And, to be fair, I have seen some fairly recent raffle draws that still reflect that more generous spirit.
However, a few years ago the rules changed and some raffles started to become cash prize lotteries and others got bigger or more expensive prizes. Mrs Jones’ famous Victoria sponge was displaced by a holiday for two on the Mediterranean, a new car or the like. The object of the exercise started to shift. Now people were buying tickets primarily to win one of the prizes with raising funds for a good cause being the sweetner. The two motives were the same but they had changed in emphasis. Previously people’s generosity was appealed to with an acknowledgement of human desire to win something. Now people’s greed is being appealed to and the virtue of generosity used as the wrapper so to speak. I think we have lost something when the love of money etc is being used as the incentive. Money is not evil but the love of money is said to be the root of all kinds of evil and I think it is true. Many of these raffles seem to play more on people’s love of money and luxuries than as an invitation to be generous. I think it is wrong to play on human weakness even in a good cause.
Raising money for a good cause is generally a good thing but I am not at all happy when the means is by appealing to human vice, that greed for money or expensive luxuries. I am not suggesting that they all fall into that trap; unfortunately, if you say yes to some raffles for charity it is hard not to say yes to them all. So if I want to support a charity I give a donation, write a letter or e-mail to support their cause, add them to the intercessions and so on. In this imperfect world I’m not campaigning to ban all raffles which aim to raise money for a good cause; but please don’t ask me to buy a raffle ticket and don’t ask me to sell them.