Fantasy capitalism, Jabez, and Judeo-Christians

When I hear the stock market has fallen,
I say, “Long live gravity,
Long live stupidity, error and greed
in the palaces of fantasy capitalism!”  –Wendell Berry

We’ve long been told that our country, our western culture, was built on Judeo-Christian principles. We’re told of this by conservative voices, particularly when social issues of abortion and same-sex marriage arise. But then I have to ask, what about the social issue of money? What happened to the concept of enough, and its ancillary notion of contentment? Or is this a concept the rich expect the poor to have?

New Testament contentment seems a quaint notion today. The prayer of Jabez, with its enlarging, its property parlaying, suits better our acquisitive natures. And an expanding economy is taken as evidence of God’s blessing.

But when the economy flags, it’s not corporate gluttony on that’s on trial, it’s all those social morals, as if habitual acquisition wasn’t a moral issue.

stockcrash2008The economy today is a vast and unassailable a deity. Its refrain of everlasting growth is the red of our blood. When it is angry and threatens we are seized by fear and will sacrifice our sweat and sleep, not to mention our freedom, for its appeasement.

And so we ignore the faceless violence of mega corporations whose leaders read the Art of War, pay less tax than a Tim Horton’s employee, and allow governments their pretence of control—and in exchange we are offered, for example, an omnibus crime bill, to keep us safe.

We worry our immigration policies, deport illegals, while ushering through our front door, the greed of global conglomerates who roll over those most passionate about local economy and community.

We clap irons on G8/G20 protesters while allowing gang traders to bet on sinking markets and so remove billions of dollars of value in a single day, placing at risk the jobs and livelihood of millions and foundering entire countries. They are not deemed louts and looters, but shrewd operators.

And how in the first place, did we (particularly we subscribers of Judeo-Christian principles—with our biblical understanding of usury and Jubilee), come to a place where we see nothing wrong with billions of dollars of value having no mooring in time and labour or in an actual product?

There were many things to be sad about in the economic crisis of 2008, and there will be many more in a global calamity, but the end of delusion about perpetual growth, about fantasy capitalism, is not one of them—it is a mercy.


  1. Here’s my line by line vote on keywords in your post. You can call it deconstructionism if you wish.

    abortion – con
    same-sex marriage – con
    money – pro
    enough -pro
    contentment – pro
    expanding economy -pro
    God’s blessing – pro
    corporate gluttony – con
    growth – pro
    faceless violence of mega corporations – con
    omnibus crime bill – pro
    deport illegals – pro
    greed of global conglomerates – con
    local economy – pro
    community – pro
    G8/G20 protesters – con
    gang traders – con

  2. Will The Globe & Mail and/or The Edmonton Journal print this piece, or will the corporate media try to extinguish such exposure of corporate interests like they are ignoring that of the peaceful sit-in protest on Wall Street now in its third week?

  3. The issue here is Corporatism (Government Collusion with Private Enterprise) as well as Investment Banking becoming an end in itself instead of facilitating trade. This has lead to the subversion of risk as something that the public sector must assume as a liability while the private sector can take on the winnings. Capitalism is not the problem. The issue is Statism.

  4. Thanks, Steve, for this provocative piece. “The economy as an unassailable god.” indeed. The economy runs on two principles – limited supply and unlimited demand. This is the underlying theology of this god. I wondered once with an economist friend whether this could ever be turned around, if we could create a world of limited demand and unlimited supply. I think that this might be the real intent of Jabez’ prayer, as it is of Paul’s economic ethic (being content whatever the circumstances, Phil. 4) and indeed of the prayer Jesus taught us (give us this day our daily bread, Matt. 6). It’s my anxiety about tomorrow’s bread that causes me to loose sleep and indulge in greed…..

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