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March 18, 2008

2008 Economics and Loving One’s Neighbor

Economic concerns have become the elephant in the room people have been afraid to discuss. But there's no getting around the trunk and tusks now: gasoline prices are at an all-time high, the dollar is low and getting lower, the sub-prime crisis continues with more housing foreclosures, and now come stories like this one about credit companies' problems affecting the whole stock market.

While getting one's arms around all these economic problems would require an understanding few outside of high finance have, many people have their theories as to which course to take, how we got here, and what needs to change. Some of my Libertarian friends say that the federal government should not be involved whatsoever in the economy. They say that the government's attempts to manage something that is not meant to be managed only results in an even worse crisis later when the government props fall out. They point to the Great Depression as Exhibit A of their overall thesis.

But elected officials, including those who first started the Federal Reserve, like power, and they like being re-elected, and when enough of their constituents are hurting, it's no huge surprise that the politicians will want to do something or at least be seen doing something to help those who are losing their shirts. Politics in America, unfortunately, always seems to be about short-term solutions, not long-term plans. With elections every 2, 4, or 6 years it is difficult to imagine it being any other way.

From a Christian point of view, whichever way one thought was the best economic path to take, we need to hope for publicly minded men and women who are able to do the one thing sorely lacking: to explain this behemoth of economics enough for us to understand what our true options are and their likely results. 

Most of us see the financial news come on and just turn the channel. But it may be time for all of us to get what crash courses we can and to figure out what really is the most Christian thing to do, in terms of our country's economic policy. It is doubtful that we can go back to a pristine, government-free economic system in America. But deciding what we want to see happen from our economy and the best way to get there is in everyone's best interests.

If the nominees for President want my vote this year, they will bring forward a well-reasoned economic plan, not just throw me some verbal candy and catch phrases. What do YOU think our country should do to address the economic dynamic of America as a whole? Not just drilling in Anwar or letting people fend for themselves with their own foolish sub-prime arrangements. What is the best plan for our country's long-term future, so that we all can see the benefit later?

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I think you've asked a nearly impossible to answer question. From my point of view, I think the fed needs to stop bailing out everyone for this sub-prime mortgage crisis. This is lowering the value of the dollar and driving up prices for everyone.

Though in a way, the bail-outs have been making it less bad for those in trouble, but also making it less good for those who aren't. The damage is being paid off, probably about the same as it would had they let those in trouble sink, but this way the damage is spread out onto everyone and hurts everyone a little bit instead of a few people a lot.

Is this good or bad? Both. Good for the people in trouble, bad for the responsible people. However, I think helping out those in trouble is the job of society and community, not necessarily government. The more societal and communal responsibilities we turn over to the government, the more we destroy our own society and sense of community. Now we no longer help our neighbor because we love our neighbor, we help them because we are forced to. Additionally we don't even have to bother getting to know our neighbors anymore, we don't have to care about them because the government does it for us.

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