10 Perils of Prosperity

Fan though I am of the free market and economic development, it’s still important to remember we live in a fallen world. Here’s some good reminders of that from John Teevan on Acton PowerBlog. Take a look.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

So Why is Sustained Prosperity a Peril? Nearly everyone on earth prefers a life free from poverty and from the need to focus on survival. Call it liberty or call it comfort, everyone prefers this life. Now nearly 2b people enjoy that level of living thanks to the growth of economic freedom. But there are problems.

  1. People think that nothing can go permanently wrong.
    Money cures everything and there is plenty of it and always will be. Period.
  2. People think that all moral issues are irrelevant.
    Ask Miley Cyrus…the latest casualty who is also a Disney role model: see #9.
  3. People think that they can afford anything and suddenly want everything.
    So the richest people on earth fuel their lives with even more debt financed stuff.
  4. People are dissatisfied with life and find it boring. They are also ungrateful.
    Mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide are ever increasing.
  5. People think that all who lived before their era were deficient or foolish.
    In olden days people had to work hard, be moral, and watch out…what idiots!
  6. People think that it is not necessary to learn, work, or stick to it to have a comfortable life.
    If I get a job I like, fine, otherwise I’ll just move back home with my folks. Big deal.
  7. Governments believe the economy can be taxed to pay for any government program.
    If the rich just paid their fair share we’d all have comfortable incomes; spread it around.
  8. People forget what a life of discomfort was like and are ‘spoiled’.
    OK, I broke the blender, but the jerks at Walmart wouldn’t take it back.
  9. People adopt a new value system that is narcissistic and worships the self.
    How can I go to work today? It’s my birthday. All drama–all the time, for many.
  10. Governments believe that the welfare state is the only compassionate use of such prosperity.
    Even a single dollar of reduction of social security will leave grandma out in the cold.

We must be very careful of prosperity. It has a way of deluding us into thinking that we can afford anything and that we can absorb any shock. For seven decades this has been true. But now we have changed our thinking and our planning and our savings as we ignore the possibility of real economic disaster: Beware.

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  • Chrys

    I also am a strong support of free markets, believing that it offers the most adaptive, innovative and beneficial economic system available. It certainly has created wealth – both financial and technological – for more people than anyone could have imagined. But humanity is still fallen. While wealth removes the issue of want and survival for many, it doesn’t and can’t address the causes of that fallenness. If poverty was a primary catalyst for sin, wealth should result in its lessening – but it doesn’t. It buffers the effects, certainly — one can “afford” to make stupid mistakes (as you have pointed out, more artfully, elsewhere). Wealth simply amplifies and expands choices and means. It allows the virtuous the means to expand the exercise of their virtue, but it also allows the selfish to indulge their selfish; as story after story can attest, often to a tragic outcome. Fallen Man was cast out of paradise for a reason — one of which surely is that paradise would simply feed the selfishness that is at the root, leading to his self-destruction. In the hands of fallen humanity, any gift – that is, wealth in any form (such as beauty or talent or money) – can become the means to foster a self-centered life. It is not the wealth, but the purpose for which it is used that proves corrosive. Christ pointed this out often. Thus, it was the rich man in the parable (Luke 16) who was to be pitied, and not (as we would have expected) Lazarus at the gate; his wealth allowed him to live a life of blind selfishness, unaware of his inner bankruptcy until it was too late. Wealth, like technology, provides powerful means — but to what end. God have mercy on us when we use it to make an idol of ourselves.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Chrys,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Contrary to what I think many people believe, wealth–and for that matter poverty–doesn’t necessarily make us better or worse. In both cases it might magnify certain aspects of my character but neither wealth nor poverty is to be preferred as far as character is concerned.Y The rich can be selfish and the poor have the opportunity to do good
      but in both cases what matters is not how much money the person has but
      what is in his heart.

      That said, I think for most people, most of the time, it is probably better to be relatively better off financially and socially. This might simply reflect my own upbringing–I grew up relative poor–there are advantages and opportunities that simply aren’t available to you if you are scrambling to make ends meet.

      As you say the question is whether or not we are aware of our “inner bankruptcy.”

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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