by Steven Chan
28 September 2008
If you are in tune with the rapidly unfolding events in the financial markets for the past 12 months, especially in the USA, you would have noted with horror the financial carnage on Wall Street that is threatening to spill over to Main Street (where the man on the street lives) – all five largest independent Investment Banks on Wall Street no longer exist as independent Investment Banks – two have disappeared – namely Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers (the latter with USD600bn in assets), and Merrill Lynch is being merged into Bank of America – more than 50,000 investment bankers out of work – and the US Fed is urgently asking US Congress to authorise the use of USD800bn (to be provided by the US Govt – to be raised by the US issuing huge amounts of “IOU notes” to investors) to bail-out the grid-locked financial system.
Many commentators have laid the cause of the massive problems at the door of the regulatory bodies of these financial institutions – for failing to properly regulate, monitor and control the wide-spread poorly-structured loans and often deceptively packaged which have been sold worldwide –thus spreading the toxic assets everywhere. One commented thus: “The Fed’s prevailing regulatory philosophy has shifted from that of 20 or 25 years ago, which in essence was “here is the line between right and wrong, don’t cross it,” to a current underlying policy that “anything and everything that might be called financial innovation ought to be embraced.”
Basically, the educators, regulators, legislators and most of Wall Street participants had subscribed to the prevailing philosophy of regulatory minimalism (i.e. ‘let the market or people decide what they consider good or bad’); hence, advocating a “principles-based approach rather than a more prescriptive approach” to regulation – that in essence means “do whatever you want — anything goes.” In place of prescriptive &/or proscriptive rules, other guiding principles were introduced such as transparency, disclosure and self-regulation. The Bible says: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal 6:7). The entire world is now watching (and likely to be suffering from) the unravelling of the financial mayhem aided and abetted by the modern day philosophy of regulatory minimalism.
What has this got to do with the Christian and why is this worldly matter being discussed in this space? The reason is because the same laissez-faire philosophy that has been deeply imbued by the educators, regulators, legislators and market participants, has similarly been fed to the religious educators, Bible Class teachers and preachers in the religious world as well. Though not necessarily labelled as “Ayn Randian brand of libertarianism”, Ayn Rand was most effective in promulgating this philosophy which has been adopted by the former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan, and even so-called Bible-believing Republicans like former President, Ronald Reagan and former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich – the regulators and legislators overseeing the financial system of the USA.
It has been reported that Ms. Rand taught that selfishness was not a character flaw, but a virtue and that charity is “NOT” a virtue.” According to her, man’s only obligation is to himself and that greed was indeed quite virtuous. To her the very idea of god was contemptuous – as something that people invented as a way to grasp things that they didn’t understand. She strongly disagreed with various teachings of Jesus Christ and other early Christians. She expressly disagreed with the Bible that “The love of money is the root of all evil”
In spite of her antagonism against what the Bible says, her philosophy was widely endorsed and adopted by Bible-believers and we can see the same desires and expressions in our brotherhood literature over the past few decades – such as the clarion call of “let freedom ring” which basically espoused the idea of the replacement of the laws (or rules) of the Bible with the “principles of love and grace”, the rejection and belittling of what is perceived as restrictive/rigid “patternism” with freedom of innovative worship expressions – giving what the market demands (i.e. the so-called worshippers or church attendees want) – otherwise our young people will not come to our boring services!!
Inasmuch as financial disaster is now befalling the financial world because of the reckless adoption of Ayn Rand-inspired ‘regulatory minimalism’, we would do well to re-examine or re-evaluate similar genre of ideas being served to our unsuspecting brethren in the pews during services – such as the aversion to what the Bible says is right or wrong to the distinct preference for most matters to be deemed as “grey” and leaving each to decide for himself or herself what is right or wrong.
As the Bible says, “for as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov 23:7). Let us take heed to what the Bible says: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Gal 6:7-8). We need to make sure that we are sowing the seed, which is the Word of God (Luke 8:11) and building the church of God – and not sowing the thoughts of man and reaping the whirlwind of spiritual disaster – as the Bible says in Hos 8:7: “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.