If you are like me, you are wondering what is going on with the economy. This is certainly the worst financial crisis we have witnessed in our lifetimes, and yet it may reach or exceed the severity of what has been known as the Great Depression of the 1930’s. On a personal level, I have watched my life savings diminish by about 35% in the last year, and there seems to be no bottom in sight.
Credit is hard to come by. Food and gas prices have soared. People are losing their houses and their jobs. While this is certainly impacting the poor and the middle class in the industrialized world, it is perhaps a greater crisis for the poor in the least developed world. The rise of food and fuel prices in these countries is devastating.
Who is to blame? In the last few months, people have looked for answers and for scapegoats. Many blame it on the failed economic policies of the Bush administration. Others have suggested the greed of Wall Street and the CEOs of major corporations who drive their companies into the ground and then retire or are fired-but with multi-million dollar pensions. Some suggest a few major “futures traders” based in Dubai who manipulate the global stock and commodities exchanges. Others find blame with high-risk mortgages offered by banks and brokerage houses that allowed people who could not normally qualify for a loan (no job, no assets and/or no income) to get into a home. Many blame Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, or Congress for forcing banks and brokerage houses to offer high-risk mortgages.
Perhaps closer to home is an American culture that is based on consumption: “Buy now! Pay later!” “Spend, spend, spend!” There are 1,200,000,000 credit and retail cards in America. The average American debt (man, woman and child in America) is $175,154. When the USA was attacked on 9/11, George Bush did not call upon the nation to sacrifice for a war effort, he called the nation to “spend,” and the government leads the way in spending. The national debt is at $10.5 trillion dollars, or about $34,500 for every man woman and child. We no longer are a nation of citizens who save for the future and delay our gratification. We want it all NOW!
What is the solution to the existing crisis? We are told to go out and buy more now. The government is offering one bail out program after another with money it does not have. As private citizens and as government officials, we are mortgaging not only our children’s futures, but our grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s futures, too. We are creating new watchdog agencies to watch the old watchdog agencies who failed in their charters. Individually and corporately, we no longer know how to live within our means and govern our own appetites. Who is going to watch these new agencies when they fail?
In all of these months of reading analysis of what went wrong, only one person alluded to the root of this problem. Former Senator Rick Santorium asserted: “The answer is that our beliefs, our choices and our character are not just private matters. They ultimately affect others.” See article here.
We do not have a money problem; we have a moral and metaphysical problem. The root of this crisis is a cultural root. We function from a consumer culture, not a stewardship culture. We are facing financial collapse because the moral and metaphysical infrastructure of our nation and Western materialistic societies is bankrupt.
After the collapse of Enron, my good friend Vishal Mangalwadi commented that its collapse was more problematic than the attack of 9/11. The Jihadists attack was an external attack. Enron was a sign of the moral and spiritual collapse of a nation. If we learn anything from history, it is that nations rot from the inside before they can be defeated from the outside. To solve the current economic crisis, we need to reform culture and we need to call the nation to a moral and metaphysical framework that supports a free, just and equitable society.
Please click on the link at the top of this article to comment with any questions that you may have.