by the

Credit Crisis

     On the front page of its website, the Society states, without reservation, that it can supply an answer to any moral, social, economic or political problem. The present turmoil in the world's financial system is just such a problem, to which no clear or permanent answer seems presently available. In view of the damage and distress already caused, a Comment on the issue from the Society seems justified.

     From the perspective of the Society, what we need to do is to learn to be truly frugal if we are to escape from the present crisis in the world economy while ensuring that we never again find ourselves in this position. Frugal in the sense of reducing our consumption of the resources available to our species on this planet to the minimum required for our continued survival into the infinite future in peace, good health and safety, and under conditions that will allow us to reach our full potential as individuals: which indeed, is what the Society of HumanKind seeks to achieve through its Aim, Duty and Responsibility, not just in our economic and productive activities, but in every aspect of our lives.

     The main grounds of the argument and evidence which brings the Society to that conclusion are set out in its Essay on the Economy. There it is shown that if we are to behave rationally we must impose an infinite perspective on all our economic planning. When we do so we can see that against that timescale the resources available to us on our planet are very strictly limited. For the Society therefore, economic planning becomes a process of trying to find ways of spreading our limited available resources over an infinite amount of time, and it immediately becomes apparent that we must be frugal.

     Indeed, looked at in this light it is obvious that if humanity is going to try to survive into the infinite future we are going to have to confine ourselves, each and every one of us, to satisfying only our essential material needs, rather than indulging ourselves in any of our wants or desires. Fortunately, the Society regards this as much more than just a sensible and practical approach to our economic decision-making. It also has a powerful moral dimension; because if we fail to plan to survive for ever as a species, we will be deliberately condemning a future generation to be our last, with all the terrors and despair they will face.

     From that perspective, the seemingly elusive cause of our present troubles becomes starkly obvious. What far too many of us have been doing for far too long is to indulge ourselves in excessive and unnecessary consumption; to the point that we have now brought our planet to its knees while wrecking our collective health and communal unity. And we have managed to do all this while leaving large swathes of our species in poverty and distress. Why have we ploughed on so far down this disastrous path? The Society identifies the reason to be our decision to set ourselves, or to have allowed others to set for us, the pernicious and ultimately unsustainable objective of ever-increasing growth as the principal and defining measure of progress in our economic activities. Yet a moment's thought will show that growth must end somewhere and sometime, and not simply because we are bound to come to a saturation point in the number of products and services anyone can use at any moment, or in a single lifetime. There must also be an ultimate limit to the amount of time, resources and energy we can devote to the processes of economic production and consumption.

      For the Society therefore, the task before us is, as the Essay on the Economy sets it out, simple enough to describe. We must abandon the pursuit of endless economic growth, with its concomitant idea of ever-rising levels of output and consumption, and set out collectively to determine exactly what the minimum material needs of an individual member of our species are; that is, what any of us must have in terms of goods and services if we are to survive and prosper in safety and good health, under conditions that will allow us to reach our full potential, whatever that might be. We must then ensure that we collectively produce that minimum provision, and then make whatever arrangements are necessary to ensure that nothing less, but also nothing more, than that minimum is readily supplied to every living member of human kind.

     How that might best be achieved is clearly a matter of debate on which there may be many opinions; there is, for instance, no reason to suppose that success in that endeavour is incompatible with either a centralised economy or with the principles of free enterprise. But that it can be achieved in the sense that it is within both the present capacity of our species and an infinitely sustainable* level of use of the resources now available to us is, for the Society, beyond dispute.

     What the Society also finds to be beyond dispute is that its solution to the economic and financial problems currently facing our world will require radical, even revolutionary, changes in the daily lives of every member of human kind. We need to begin to condemn, rather than to admire or aspire to, conspicuous or unnecessary wealth and consumption. We must finally reject the idea that material possessions are, or can ever be, a measure of personal or communal success. And we will have to accept the full meaning of globalisation and economic interdependence, to which much nodding assent is being given, and truly treat every other member of our species, whatever their background, culture, beliefs or characteristics as of equal value to ourselves, and therefore equally to be fostered, supported and developed.

     But this is not, as many will fear, to destroy our diversity and difference. To the contrary, the programme of the Society of HumanKind positively welcomes the differences between us, both collective and individual, as the Treatise on Peace and the Essays on Equality and Race attest. Because it is difference, and the cooperative combination of all the talents and attributes of our kind, which gives the Society hope for an achievement of its Aim; the economic pursuit of which will, almost as a by-product, bring to an end the debilitating and destructive cycle of boom and bust, of feast and famine, that bedevils our economies.

     Yet that is still not the best the Society can offer. Beyond even that prospect of an economic triumph of humankind over its nature and environment, adoption of the Aim of the Society will bring us real hope that, by our own unaided efforts and through our unity, we will find salvation for ourselves, and for all our predecessors and descendants.

     *The definition of sustainability presently used by the Society is that our species must not consume in any one year more than is added to the resources available to us in that year, by the solar energy falling on our planet.

Addenda (October, 2008)      The programme and prescriptions of the Society for the solution of the present Credit Crisis are also those recommended for a resolution of the problems of Climate Change, dealt with in the Topic of that name. The same actions and decisions will simultaneously solve both.

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©Lawrence Thornton Roach
    September, 2008 AD