So, Ireland is lined up for a bailout from the EU today. It dwarfs the size of Greece’s bailout and is worth 60% of the Irish economy. The Irish are still nervous about what this means for their country. In the news I hear lots of questions about what this means for their sovereignty and control over their own affairs. It’s an interesting question considering it’s one the majority of the world has been dealing with for decades now.
The IMF and World Bank have been loaning out money to “developing” nations for decades with lots of strings attached to help make these countries do the marionette for the global economy to the benefit of the controlling interests of these organizations (primarily the USA, but also other Western countries).
I wonder what a movement of empathy might look like in the financial system. Suddenly countries that have benefited from a system that used financial instruments to manipulate the “sovereignty” of other countries might now be forced into a similar situation.
It makes sense to me that Jesus’ Golden Rule should apply across the board, including the financial system. Now, most often this is quoted as “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” That’s a good rule and I think applies in this situation. If countries like Ireland, much less the USA, would be nervous about handing over sovereignty and being forced into austerity measures or (God forbid) trade policies that benefit, say, India, or China, then perhaps we should not be doing the same to other countries. Indeed, we should be correcting the effects of these bad policies today.
This brings me to Jesus’ version of this rule. Instead of a negative statement, Jesus puts a positive spin on it. “DO to other what you want them to DO to you” (Matthew 7:12). What would a financial system based on this rule look like?
I can already hear the critics and cynics crying foul, saying that Jesus’ words don’t apply for whatever reason in this case and/or that this impractical and idealistic. Impractical and idealistic for WHO? The idea that economies could experience never-ending growth on the backs of the rest of the world and never face the consequences of policies that impoverish the majority while enriching a small minority… Now, that’s practical. It seems to finally be working itself out.
I think it is a worthwhile principle and question to ask how we would like financial policies and structural adjustment programs if they were applied to our countries. The world would look a lot different if we actually cared about that question. Perhaps the financial crisis will begin to turn the tide and help Western economies see what they have chosen to ignore for decades.
So, Ireland, tell us… How does it feel?