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food freezers and the credit crunch

Celui qui a pitié du pauvre prête à l’Eternel, et il lui rendra son bien fait. [Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.]             Proverbs 19: 17


These French words must have been important to may people years ago in Jersey because they were cast with an offering box in iron and remain built solidly into a granite wall in St Helier in Library Place outside the Town Church. Nobody believes them today – not even Christians. (?)


But what’s all this got to do with stocking food freezers before an anticipated food shortage? The poor? Stocking up is difficult to evaluate morally. What’s wrong with it, if anything?


Clearly, if one or two families in Jersey believe that there is going to be a shortage of beef and stock their freezers no problems will occur. But if lots of families do it prices rise (for everybody) and some will be unable to buy beef at all. The actions of the many can hardly be described as having pity on the poor.


But what changed the morality from being “right” if one or two do it but “wrong” if many do it? Interesting question.


The question is even more interesting if one applies it to the present credit crunch. Most major banks – and many minor ones – are in a mess. They have accepted money from depositors and lent to others, to individuals, companies, other banks and governments. Now those borrowers cannot repay in full. How much they can repay is open to question and depends in part on the depth of the recession. It follows that the banks themselves now owe more to depositors than they can repay – and need to rebuild reserves by making profits.


What then? Well, why not charge high interest rates to new and renewing borrowers whilst paying next to nothing to depositors? At first blush nothing much can go wrong with that. In that way, banks will stock their freezers and the effect will not be felt.


But what if all banks stock their freezers in that way?  Well, the recession will be much, much deeper because the liquidity necessary for economic activity will not be available. More people (especially the poor) will suffer.


So there will be serious economic problems if all banks follow this - but little if only one or two do it. But even if only one or two banks do it, will they be acting immorally? Because minimal economic consequences will follow?


There is a deep issue here. Please e-mail your views on the morality of stocking food freezers so as to survive (without regard for others who might well suffer)....


But, having honed your views into shape in an e-mail, decide then whether you will implement your conclusions when there is very little at Safeway, C I Co-op and Checkers. Difficult, isn’t it. So difficult that one begins to have sympathy for all the banks that are now seeking to survive by borrowing cheap and lending expensive. Self interest is as strong as iron.


What is the answer?


How about the message in bold above?


The message actually comes from the Hebrew Bible – the ancient books of the nation of Israel. The particular book of Proverbs was compiled (according to the Jews and to present-day scholars) sometime around 950 BC – that’s 2,900 years ago – as maxims to provide guidance and wisdom throughout earthly life.


The unusual (but perhaps not unexpected) thing about that message is that it works well if a couple of families do it but it works even better if all families (and banks) in Jersey do it. Yes, do it – not merely agree with it.


Such is the at-all-times and in-all-places power and glory of the self-giving Jesus Christ (to the death) for others - and of l’Eternel, his Father.

‘If society is uncoupled from a belief in God, who is our judge, we lose any basis for deciding what is right and what is wrong.’ (Jonathan Skinner, Minister and Writer)
Without transcendent norms, laws are either established by social elites or are merely bargains struck by competing forces in society.’ (Charles Colson, Chief Counsel for President Nixon 1969-1973)
Richard Syvret

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