Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The point of existence?

Edmund Phelps has just won the Nobel Prize (I found out when put on the spot by an economics professor on Monday afternoon, and found severly wanting...), and he's written an opinion thing in the Wall Street Journal apparently (it's online). It's basically a comparison of the US/Canadian/UK economies, and those of continental Europe, and naturally Phelps favours the US-style system as allowing capitalism to flourish in all its might/glory (delete as applicable).

I'm not about to come down on one side or the other; I love visiting the continent, and I like the idea of some block against the side-effects of capitalism, because enough (American) economists have pointed out that information disparities can (and are) exploited far too much of the time for gain in this fallen world. However, simply having something run by govenment and not private entrepreuners does not affect the fact information will be unevenly spread and there will be potential for gains by some unscrupulous few (a group which always turns out to be larger than we think).

Furthermore, as I Christian it is clear to me that, as the Bible points out, the world is fallen, and stained with sin. So some different type of governance is not about to change that. The solution in the Bible is that, while here on earth, well there isn't a right-away solution. We simply will always sin (cheat, lie, misrepresent, etc), and no wonderful system of government, no contract designed by some clever game theorist who has considered every possible concievable outcome. Even if we try hard to, we won't live up to even the standards we set ourselves each day for "decent" behaviour. The solution to this did come however in the man called Jesus. Through the historical event that was his life and death, accompanied with the prophecies written hundreds of years previously, recorded in the Old Testament, a conclusion can be reached that Jesus was from God, and was God yet died. His death was in place of the judgement we deserve as those who live in a world created by God without any regard for God - God gave us life, so why then shouldn't He take it, if we say we don't want anything from God? By believing in Jesus, God provides forgiveness for us for our sins and we can enter a relationship with Him. This means once things here end (we die most probably), things aren't over, but we get to go to this Heaven place. I wonder what form the economy there will take - I wonder more so whether anyone has considered this in the Christian economics literature.

But anyway, back to the point. Phelps' whole bag is surely dependent on what motivates us? He appears to suggest that now more than before, career gives us "self-realisation". Americans have more job satisfaction than Europeans apparently, according to some survey or other, and this then makes them happier and justifies the American system. However, is work what defines us? Furthermore, is this to be encouraged? A friend related a story to me recently, of a man with wife and kids, who took his own life. It emerged he'd missed out on promotion in his accountancy firm. So, because his life was defined totally around work, he couldn't see the wonder and blessing of having a wife and kids, and took his own life.

This is the horrible side of self-realisation based on a job. In fact, the horrible realisation of having self-worth dependent on anything that is uncertain. But can one make anything certain? There's much to be written on the reliability of the bible as a whole (check out a few of the links here), however the many supposed contradictions flagged up here do not relate to the texts that prophecied Jesus' life and death, and there's more evidence for the existence of Jesus than Caeser, so make up your mind for yourself, but Jesus promised the certainty of Heaven and life with Him if one simply believes in Jesus. No if's and but's. Certainty.

So I'm a little bit wary of anyone who believes self-worth should be found in career, let alone would promote such a system.


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