Humanity is not on earth to serve economics; rather the function of economics is to serve humanity, in accordance with God’s loving purposes.
J. Philip Wogaman, Economics and Ethics, 38
Maybe it is that my son is looking for a job right now, or maybe it is the brief moment I stopped on Fox News today to listen as some folks argued that unions are nothing but job killers, but news about the economy keeps capturing my attention. Actually, this is a long-standing interest. When I was working on my Ph.D. in Christian Ethics I had, for a time, considered writing a dissertation on economic ethics. Instead I decided on another side of Christian social ethics, Christian ethics and political democracy.
Anyway, there were a couple of interesting items about the economy in the most recent issue of The Atlantic (July/August 2011). Between 2002 and 2007, 65 percent of all income growth in the U.S. went to the richest 1 percent of the population…. Today, half the national income goes to the richest 10 percent…. In 2007, the top 1 percent controlled 34.6 percent of the wealth – significantly more that the bottom 90 percent who controlled just 26.9 percent. These figures represent a significant shift from the recent past. During the Second World War, and in the four decades that followed, the top 10 percent too home just a third of the national income…. The last time the gap between the people on the top and everyone else was as large as it is today was during the Roaring ‘20s.
As the gap between the rich and others widens, what about the middle class? Since 2002, median household income has declined in real terms, as many middle class jobs have been either destroyed by technological innovation or lost to competition from overseas.
These economic realities raise moral questions. Granted that in a vibrant economy, there will be some persons who benefit more than others, is there some point beyond which inequitable distribution becomes counter-productive for the economy and damaging to persons? What are the larger effects of job insecurity and stagnant wages for middle class persons? If people feel the current economic policies and systems provide little security and insufficient opportunity, what may be the result?
These are tough times. They require tough thinking matched with compassionate hearts.
With Faith and With Feathers,