op-ed

How restoring honor will end the economic crisis

Rob Bennett Contributor
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We’re not there yet. But we are making progress.

The message of this weekend’s Restoring Honor rally was simple and profound: We’re not all Christians, but we all need to follow some core Christian principles if our political and economic systems are to survive and thrive in the future.

The conservative agenda for the next few years will be filling in the details. What does this idea that we need to return to Christian principles mean when it comes to specifics?

One thing it means is that we need to place a greater priority on honesty in our dealings with others. The commandment says: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” You don’t have to believe that the commandments came from God to understand why nothing works if too many of us stop following that one.

Our political system does not work when too many of us stop believing that honesty matters. Our economic system does not work when too many of us stop believing that honesty matters. Nothing works when too many of us stop believing that honesty matters.

People are afraid to spend today. That’s because they are so much farther behind in financing their retirements than they thought they were going to be by now. What happened?

What happened is that we engaged in a huge collective act of dishonesty in the late 1990s. We bid stock prices up to three times their fair value. That was of course a dishonest thing to do and we of course all know this on some level of consciousness.

We all pretended that the money was real, that we could use it to buy cars and houses and vacations. Now we are in the process of paying back the huge debt we foolishly imposed on future investors (The investors of today! Us!)

The politicians don’t want to talk about it. You don’t get voters to like you by telling them that they made a mistake. The economists don’t want to talk about it. You don’t win tenure by talking about “soft” topics like honesty.

The investment experts don’t want to talk about it. You don’t sell stocks (the investment class that pays the biggest commissions) by letting people know that there are times when stocks are so overpriced that they are not worth buying. The personal finance bloggers don’t want to talk about it. You don’t form an emotional attachment with your readers by coming out against get-rich-quick investing strategies, the strategies with the greatest emotional pull.

The commandments, whether they come from God or not (I believe they do) tell us things we don’t want to hear. They tell us things that the politicians and the economists and the investment experts and the personal finance bloggers are never, ever, ever going to tell us — unless they come to be influenced by the commandments.

As they were in the old days.  When things worked.

Rob Bennett often writes on the theme of living on purpose. His bio is here.