It’s that season again. I don’t mean crisp mornings and changing leaves, but the season of presidential politics. But thinking of the fall, in sequence with politics, made me think theology. (It’s a hazard of the job.) This stream-of-consciousness led me to “the fall — of humanity. “You remember the story — that pristine garden where Eve and Adam, an apple and a snake conspired to bring us down. Everything was peachy keen; now there’s deceit and denial, corruption and corporate welfare. You see where I’m going. It’s the fall. It’s a season of political nastiness. It just reminded me of where we started — and how far we are from paradise.
Between now and November 2016 we will have to endure 13 more months of dirty laundry and mud-slinging. Candidates, left and right, will spend more money on their campaigns than we need to actually fix our problems — in the process, telling us the wrong way to solve them.
In one form or another, most of these politicians will tell us that money is the answer to all our problems. And they’re all wrong.
This country doesn’t need more money. What we need is more love.
Over my entire life of political awareness, the political narrative has been “tax and spend.” Democrats have majored in it. Republicans have wrapped their entire (and very successful) political strategy around those three, one-syllable words.
Yes, taxes are part of the problem. But they’re also part of the solution. And spending is part of the answer. But mostly it’s the wrong question, all together.
What we hear from many of the almost 20 presidential candidates is that the answer to our problems is that we don’t have the right CEO in the Oval Office. Hire the right Business Manager in Chief, someone who can watch the bottom line in order to make the profits soar, and once again all will be well in the Garden of the USofA.
Obviously, business is a critical part of our culture. Wages and labor and market dynamics, all those topics that you need an academic degree to understand, are essential parts of the picture of a healthy nation. But the problem, which I’m not sure most politicians even know, is that “business,” per se, isn’t even the most important factor in creating a successful economy.
Listen to economists talk about the economy, and you quickly realize the issue isn’t wages and labor and market dynamics (quantitative factors). The real issue, that “invisible hand” guiding the ultimate success of the economy itself, is qualitative.
Listen to the daily economic reports: “People are anxious … the market dipped today;” “There’s a sense of confidence in the air … the market rebounded.”
Ultimately, people drive economics. Quantitative “economic factors” don’t. People — emotional, spiritual, irrational, sensory creatures — are the real business of the nation, not money.
In his research on “happiness economics,” John Helliwell writes: “if 10 percent more people thought they had someone to count on in life, it would have a greater effect on national life satisfaction than giving everyone a 50 percent raise.”
“Someone to count on” — not economic factors that can be measured. That’s the solution to our problems.
Or, to put it a little differently, business is more emotional than empirical, the economy more spiritual than material.
Show me a leader who understands that people’s most basic need is confidence, trust, security — love — not business success, and I’ll show you a leader who will change the country, not just the economy.
(And since Church is more emotional than empirical, more spiritual than material, too, since we’re about giving people a sense of confidence, trust, security, teaching that the bottom line really is love, showing up for worship might just be the best thing you can do for the American economy. Hope to see you Sunday!)
Image: Carter and Ford debate domestic policy in 1976. (Wikipedia)