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Stating The Obvious

Created on 11/2/2009

It’s pretty obvious what went wrong with our economies in general, but needs stating anyhow. Too many people were too greedy. Too few people are making stuff and too many are selling and buying things that no one understands.

Abraham Lincoln said part of this better than anyone else, “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich…(But) we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

There is nothing wrong or objectionable about creating wealth but there is certainly something wrong if that becomes the sole motivation for our society. In the last years the deal became king, short-term gains were paramount, above any other consideration. We simply cannot and will not sustain our way of life on this basis.

You cannot build society on consumerism and rising property prices alone.

It only takes a few people obtaining a disproportionate share of the pie to upset the balance for the rest of society. That’s exactly what has been happening with rapacious bankers and deal making entrepreneurs at the very summit of our economies over the last decades. This was exacerbated by insufficiently stringent financial regulation, and where the law was sufficient it was not applied with any rigor.

There was also an entirely cavalier and inappropriate duty of care employed in the hiring of the men to run our leading banks. During yesterday’s inquiry in the UK’s House of Commons it became clear that none of the leaders of the banks that have just been bailed out had any banking qualifications.

All of these financial gluttons should learn something from Millard Fuller who passed away on February 3rd. This was the man who more or less invented the term, “sweat equity” and the “theology of enough.” He developed a philosophy that typified generosity of spirit, which should inform all our thinking for the future well being of our society. He co-founded Habitat for Humanity with his wife, Linda.

He didn’t start off as an altruist, making his first million before he was 30. Linda refused to stick with him if he was going to obsessively collect money as his reason for living. To get her to return he changed himself and his ambitions. He not only got Linda back he also went on to fulfill his dream of building homes with no interest mortgages for the poor. With the help of uncountable volunteers and many future occupants their organizations have built nearly 1.5 million homes with no interest mortgages around the world.

As Fuller said, “There are sufficient resources in the world for everybody but not enough for the greed of even a significant minority.”

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