#BTColumn – The Statesman and the Prophet

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by Adrian Sobers

“Fear of your recession and depression cannot delay you.” – (Damian Marley, Dispear) Robert Sirico’s Economy of Parables is short in page count but long in life.

Readers will be richly rewarded upon first reading, and exponentially with each subsequent visit. Sirico’s clear reflection on the economic implications of Jesus’ parables is timely given the state of the global economy.

In his general thoughts on economics and the New Testament, he says “a just legal system”, “will militate against the unjust acquisition and accumulation of wealth, whether by governments – as when they plunder property in wars or by taxes or inflationary monetary policy – or by thieves in the back alley. There is no difference between back alley robbers and inflationary monetary policy. (Read it again.)

Despite the backlogs, the justice system must catch up with those who loot the pockets of citizens through such policies. Governments that binge on debt are aided by “independent” (wink, wink) central banks that monetize said debt.

Their back alley counterparts could only dream of pulling off a job like this. But, nothing new under the sun.

The corrupt temple state of Judea and Rome in the time of Jesus was the precursor to our inherently inflationary state. It is not surprising that Jesus, Prophet par excellence, died as a criminal rejected by the State. In Leadership: Six Strategies in World Leadership, Henry Kissinger discusses the “virtue of prophets” in the section “Epitomes of Leadership: The Statesman and the Prophet.”

Kissinger says the prophet redefines “what seems possible; they are the “unreasonable men” to whom George Bernard Shaw attributes “all progress”. Believing in ultimate solutions, prophetic leaders tend to be wary of incrementalism as an unnecessary concession to time and circumstances;
their goal is to transcend, rather than manage, the status quo.

If there was ever a time when the status quo needed to be transcended, it’s now. The church, as a people of the age to come, must play a role in this transcendence. It must keep before it the question posed by Emerson B. Powery (The Good Samaritan): Are we engaged in good business?

(Bad issues persist, in part because the church is not engaged in enough good issues.) On that note, we must bear in mind the point made by Oral A. W. Thomas (Reimagining Caribbean Methodism For Contemporary Missions ). To Howzat!
With cricket as a model of resistance and the Church as an arbiter, he makes a good point about the Church and the status quo.

He says, “[…] the above raises the question of whether the Church in the Caribbean today and in it is a collaborator of the social system, accomplice and guardian of the status quo; or whether the church is acting in the public interest to bring about the transformation of oppressive systems and structures.

With everything going on, it’s hard to think of a more oppressive structure than fiat currency as it is currently constituted and how monetary policy is practiced, or rather perverted, in the 21st century.

The US dollar index is at its highest in 20 years. This index is a measure of the US dollar against a basket of six currencies: the euro, the Japanese yen, the pound sterling, the Canadian dollar, the Swedish krona and the Swiss franc. For practical reasons, we only have to pay attention to the euro and the yen which represent a little more
71% of the index.

This is important now due to the different monetary policy stances of the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Japan (BOJ).

Here is also a good place to remind readers that we are still in the throes of the biggest failed monetary policy experiment in human history for which no one is held accountable. (The backstreet thieves blush.)

The minutiae of political differences need not hold us back but, briefly, the Fed is tightening more aggressively than the ECB and BOJ. Allow me to hasten to add that this is a comparative and not an absolute aggression.

The Fed painted itself and the dollar-pegged world into a corner and kicked the streets until reality called their bluff. Thus, inflation was “transient” until it became permanent and reached multi-decade highs, and the money supply did not matter, until it did. The Fed has embarked on quantitative tightening (QT), namely the destruction of the dollars created by quantitative easing (QE). You remember QE, right?

Marketed under the auspices of Aid to the Global Economy, QE was code for a collective squeeze on consumers’ throats and pockets. QT is a change in the name of the beast and not in its nature, so we will experience more of the same, especially in emerging markets and small island developing states pegged to the dollar.

With an impending US recession, we are seeing a repeat of what happened with inflation, namely, playing fast and loose with the definition. In addition to hurting the poor the most, it gives central banks and governments the time and space to continue printing the purchasing power of the public.

Spoiler alert: As the US eyes a recession, the Fed will blink first in its QT program; QE will resume (and the inflation it creates will continue).

World leaders, who are quite stubborn, vigorously defend the status quo. They do not recognize or address the governance deficit, so economic deficits will continue to grow and the inevitable/associated fallout will worsen.

It has been well said that if you can’t find the words, find the words. It is left as an exercise for the reader to find the lyrics to Caution and Dispear by Damian Marley. Both serve as anthems (and running commentaries) for the fallout of what’s happening in the monetary policy space.

Economics and eschatology are no strange bedfellows, and the streets and scholarship should follow suit. We no longer have statesmen/women but prophets (even if they are more prophetic than predictors) will always be with us.

Adrian Sobers is a prolific writer and commentator on social issues.

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