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10/17/2002 Entry: "Conversation with rlw"

When I started, I didn't intend this blog to get involved in disputaions with others. I've strayed further into punditry than I meant to, but I'm here now and it would be bad manners to walk out of a conversation which I initiated.Religious Left Watch has responded to last Monday's entry with good grace, but I do need to come back with comments of own.

Joel (for 'tis his name) states his position succinctly:

As a free-market advocate, I believe that capitalism is the economic system most able to provide for the well-being of humanity.
I might agree with him if I had ever seen a genuinely free market. But where is this mythical beast? The question is not whether markets should be interfered with, because that's a given - markets are routinely tinkered with. The question is rather, who does the tinkering and who are they accountable to? Elected governments are accountable to those who elect them; corporations are accountable only to their shareholders and have no duty beyond maximising the return to their shareholders. Of course, they have a duty to obey the law, but they evade responsibility both by operating in countries which don't have sufficient infrastructure to police their activities and by "obtaining" political influence at home. History demonstrates (at least to me!) that whenever corporations achieve positions of dominance, the "free" part of "free market" comes to mean being allowed to get away with what they like. Micro$oft has no interest in a genuinely free market in software. News International dominates and controls a significant proportion of the media; farmers worldwide are not free to sell their produce because the markets they operate in are controlled by 4 huge companies and it is they who dictate prices, not the producers. I returned recently from the USA and while there I did most of the shopping at Wal-Mart, famous for squashing competition and dominating local markets. Freedom? Only for Wal-Mart.Of course Joel is right when he says that nobody like injustice. But I don't agree that it is as difficult to define injustice as he suggests. "Justice" and "righteousness" are closely linked, so closely that St Paul uses the same set of words for both. So what we're looking for is not adherrence to some law over which we have to agree. The call of God on his church is to be a prophetic voice for righteousness in the affairs of humanity - public and private. Certainly this will be open to mockery and may bring us into conflict. But it's in the church's job description. And the claim of the Kingdom of God upon us must always be stronger than our allegiance to any system or -ism, no matter how much we may believe in it.

Just one more thing for now. I'd like to think that the rightness (or otherwise) of our employment practices is based on a bit more than economic expediency. We don't employ children in British factories because there is a consensus that it is wrong, not because "we don't need to". There is all the difference in the world between children working on a subsistence farm and them being being put to work for 12 hours a day in a western-owned factory in South-East Asia. At least, it seems so to me.

Replies:

Fair points Swan - and I encourage everyone to support the "fair Trade movement"(I use a Mac - actually 2 macs - I've toyed with the idea of a Linux setup, but haven't got round to it)

Mark - thanks for the comments ( and the link!)

Posted by Richard @ 10/18/2002 09:09 PM CST

Noble sentiments but a seemingly a bit misguided on the economic details; I've posted a reply on my site.

Posted by Mark Byron @ 10/18/2002 05:29 AM CST

If you knew this about Wal-Mart, why did you buy there instead of going to another store/other stores?Are you still running Microsoft Windows on your computer, or are you using Linux and open source software?How often do you buy organic food from local farmers?

Sure it would be very hard to impossible to make these kinds of decisions every time we buy something, but we can do the best we can and not support those who we *know* do the wrong thing.

Posted by Swan @ 10/18/2002 12:01 AM CST

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