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A Pagan Perspective on Economics

Robin Herne's picture

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AFAN – Pagan View of Economics Pagan philosophers have seldom had a great deal to say about economics, so I would like to draw your attention to a theory known as the Scarcity Model. There are a number of variations on this concept, but the one salient for discussion here is that the threat of scarcity is a tool for oppression in the hands of a greedy elite.

Put simply, in a small scale economy (such as that in which most tribes of the ancient world existed) certain resources could often be in very short supply ~ such as food following a bad harvest. When there is less of an important resource to go round a number of ramifications are felt. Most obviously, the price goes up and those who control the resource are able to profiteer to their own advantage. Consequently, people also start to panic buy and hoard (just look at how crazy many drivers went during the petrol shortage of early 2012, which turned out to be total hype whipped up by the media and politicians). Where the resource is significant to survival, such as food or clean water, it is not uncommon for those who can’t afford it to steal it and for those who have a surplus to resort to violence or brutality to try and protect what they have.

As with the example of a bad harvest, sometimes the shortage can be completely genuine. However, in our modern world, it is rare for any shortage to be completely the result of bad weather or other natural phenomena. Most shortages these days are artificially created by human action or inaction. One website reports that “2.9 million people in Mali live in vulnerable areas, where low rainfall, falling groundwater levels, poor harvests, lack of pastureland*” threaten imminent starvation. All of these environmental factors may be true, but there are numerous countries a short plane journey away sitting on food mountains brought about by misguided farming methods, and their choice not to share their excess food will ensure that vast numbers elsewhere starve and die.

In other words, it is rarely the case that there isn’t enough food, minerals or other resources to go round. Rather, those who have plenty refuse to share it with those living in areas where there is little.

It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the ecological factors that lead to some countries having scant natural resources are all too often created by humans waging war, over-farming, deforesting and in other ways ruining what would otherwise have been a luxurious place to live.

Pagans place great emphasis on having sustainable relationships with the Earth, and will particularly appreciate the importance of not destroying our most vital resource for short term gain.

To return to the initial point, convincing people that a given resource is scarce (or engineering situations ensure that it is) enables those who control that source to extort considerable wealth, power and anything else they want out of the needy. Just as it is foolish to violate the planet for a quick gain, so it is ultimately misguided to exploit other humans in order to squeeze them dry. In the long term the resentment and ill-feeling such actions generate lead to crime, warfare, and social disaster.

Arguably the fear that there isn’t enough to go round and that valuable resources must be fought over also leads to a great deal of misery in purely personal areas of life, such as the search for love.

If we can move beyond such a fear to accept that the planet is abundant with what we need ~ provided we correctly steward the means of production, and do not jealously guard our own excess whilst others suffer or die from the lack of them.

Our economy would also be less stressed if more of us could learn to live without the latest transient gadgets and designer labels that the advertisers convince the gullible will make them cooler, sexier, or somehow able to purchase a sense of self-esteem and importance. As Socrates said, “contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty”.

The polytheist religions do not oppose the acquisition of wealth per se ~ indeed most early cultures featured a god or goddess of money amongst their pantheons ~ but pretty much all emphasised the importance of sharing wealth out amongst family, loyal friends and colleagues, worthy causes etc. Greed and avarice were considered vices in the majority of ancient cultures.