May 25, 2012

Profiting from the poor

I am a capitalist.  I like the profit margin and believe that competition and greed produce some very good things.  That search for profit has given us home improvements, Ipods, great strides in medical technology, and even safer and more efficient cars.

But there are aspects of capitalism that bother me.  Capitalism, after all, cares not if the worker is 12 or the byproduct poisons the local river.  But there is a new trend in capitalism of profiting from the poor.   This occurs in tax policy, in wages, and especially in lending practices.

I still remember when I first discovered "signature loans."  My mother scowled and said very plainly, "those are nothing more than usury."  Now, the payday loan people probably scoff at the signature loans.

Capitalism makes great cars, but there are some areas that are not made better by the free market's drive for profit.  Prisons, poor people, and I would argue, education are not improved by transforming them into revenue streams.

We can do better.  But since we have decided that the free market is a divinely inspired mechanism, it is doubtful we will.


leighton said...

Patrick Nielsen Hayden (an editor of science fiction for Tor) arrives at a similar conclusion via a different route:

The problem is that in order to spur economic development, we created a class of human organizations that are sociopathic. Our army of killer robots has made it clear: they work for themselves, not for us, and they will break the world.

Monk-in-Training said...

Listen to your Mother, she is right.

Amazingly enough, the Scriptures are full of condemnations of profiting from the poor, a good percentage of the Law was concerned with that very fact. The Hebrew Prophets again and again called God's people to account over abusing the poor.

Interestingly enough, the modern, American Church rarely lifts her eyes from complaining about sexual issues to see the larger, systemic sin of our culture.

Usury is more than just excessive interest, it is almost like a vampire like oppression on the poor and God calls it an abomination over and over. Funny, how you don't hear many sermons from Conservative Christians on the subject. They seem to focus on abominations, but miss this one...

We have forgotten the God Who created us.

Ezekiel 22:12 (NIV)
12 In you men accept bribes to shed blood; you take usury and excessive interest and make unjust gain from your neighbors by extortion. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign LORD.