SURPLUS VALUE RETURNED TO THE COMMON GOOD – an aspect of the covenant.
Challenged by hearing an ecumenical theologian say ’The neglect of economics is a wound in the side of the church,’ and responding to the pithy goad of ‘God is embarrassed by possession’, I’ve diligently pursued those issues for many years.
I note how readily we say, “I’m no economist”. Yet the economy is the house-keeping of the planet, the very essence of the Covenant that pervades the Abrahamic scriptures, acclaiming the gift of life to the species that emerge on planet earth; and affirming the trusteeship given to humans in that context.
At its simplest and most profound, people of that covenantal tradition seek to follow a double commitment – to love God and neighbour. God being a human metaphor for the realized energetic potential that lies in the laws of nature. This means that we seek to follow two principles in their creative tension – First – to know the gifted universe like the back of one’s hand. Second – to love discovering the right relationship of all its parts.
In that context let me, a Christian and therefore a jobbing economist, declare something we urgently need to acknowledge within the pressures and the complexities of life today, namely a systemic distortion that “began more than 4,000 years ago – the tragedy that befell the peoples of Mesopotamia. An anti-social virus was germinated in the cradle of civilisation, a virus so powerful that it was to divert the path of destiny on which the people of Europe might otherwise have embarked.”
Theses blunt words of an eminent economist inspired by such faith continue…
“Our ancestors had evolved by developing culture. We don’t celebrate that feat for what it was: a unique act of communal co-operation in which gene was moulded by brain, brawn, natural habitat and social community, an act of creation that could not have been executed without a huge investment of material resources. Homo embarked on the greatest of Earth-bound voyages, one that can never be excelled in the universe: the conscious pursuit of the possibilities latent in the genes, made possible by the investment of the surplus income of many communities. When those surplus resources – food, at first; then the artifacts of Early Man, material resources that would ultimately be symbolically converted into that facilitator of exchange and harbour of value: money – were combined in millions of creative exchanges, hominids became human. That’s why the surplus income -needed to support the shaman, the medicine woman, the wise leaders – is Sacred.
The Profane income was retained by individuals for reproduction (of children) and production (of material resources).
The Sacred income was not forcefully extracted; it was voluntarily reserved for the needs of the community. This was not generosity: rather, rational fulfillment of individual interests, which were inseparable from society.
Today there is a technical term for that primordial surplus income. It’s the “‘economic rent of land and natural resources”: the value over and above the “costs of production and reproduction” (profit and wages).”1
This is the stimulus for the Christian Council for Monetary Justice’s 2urgent exploration of why location value should be reallocated to the community by means of a land value charge. Such a charge could gradually replace all the regressive forms of taxing productive activity which presently constrain our search for inclusive justice.
1.Metaman and the Sacred Money Scam’ F Harrison 1997
Canon Peter Challen