Archives For Finance

 

“Christian ‘Realism’ or
a New Reality in Christ”

A Review of

Business for the Common Good:
A Christian Vision for the Marketplace

by Kenman L. Wong and Scott B. Rae
Paperback: IVP Books, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.

When I was in college we had to go to chapel, a requirement I couldn’t hold to regularly enough to keep me off the college’s “chapel probation” list—an honor roll of philosophy majors, artists, and a good smattering English majors.  One of the chapel speakers who came through was a business man who had graduated from the college and made it big with Goldman Sachs, working in a very senior management position.  He was invited by the college to speak to the students about being a Christian in business and also to spend time with the school’s business and economics majors.  He was also a rather large donor to the college.

One of my friends, an economics major, attended one of this man’s lectures with the Business and Economics department.  It turned out that the particular form of investments this Christian business man headed up for Goldman Sachs involved usury, and so my friend asked him how he squared the biblical prohibition on usury with his business practices.  The man responded that in his personal life he holds to the prohibition.  “So you leave your bible at home when you go to work?” my friend retorted.

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“Assessing a Broken System”

A Review of

The Greatest Story Oversold:
Understanding Economic Globalization.

By Stan G. Duncan

Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.


Stan Duncan - Greatest Story OversoldThe Greatest Story Oversold:
Understanding Economic Globalization.

Stan G. Duncan

Paperback: Orbis, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Economics isn’t always the most exciting field of study, and when you factor in the charged politics of globalization, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the flood of graphs, charts, statistics, and emotions. Thankfully, the principal strength of this new book by Stan G. Duncan is the clear, accessible language he uses to outline his thesis and corresponding details. The Greatest Story Oversold is a solid, faith-based introduction to the intricacies of modern global capitalism, with specific attention being given to how this system has created such a profoundly divergent set of winners and losers.

From the outset, Duncan is upfront with his biases, and such blatant openness is refreshing and welcoming, as it allows the reader to not feel like he or she has just cracked open a graduate-level text in macroeconomic theory. It’s plain to see that Duncan comes from the Christian faith, that he’s comfortable with the language of the Church and the Economics, and that he thinks the system is broken. To put a finer point on it, it’s obvious that the author is a progressive activist who seeks to educate and mobilize like-minded believers who are aware that something is wrong in the world, but aren’t clear on the details.

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Ultra-brief Reviews
By Chris Smith

The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity and What We Can Do About It.
Les Leopold.

Paperback: Chelsea Green, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Rich: The Rise and Fall of American Wealth Culture.
Larry Samuel.

Hardback: AMACOM, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


The Seven Faith Tribes:
Who They Are, What They Believe and Why They Matter
.
George Barna.

Hardback: Barna Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Those of you who have listened to William Cavanaugh’s insightful telling of the story of the recent financial collapse will find a similar story told in more detail in Les Leopold’s The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity and What We Can Do About It.  Leopold deftly weaves the tale of how corporate financiers created products such as Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO’s) and Credit Default Swaps (CDS’s) to artificially generate profit for themselves and set the nation’s (and the world’s) economy on a crash-course.  Leopold’s critique of the financial system here is excellent, but he is repeatedly unwilling to critique the widespread greed and unsustainable expectations for profit held by investing individuals and organizations.  He concludes the book with two chapters of “proposals Wall Street won’t like,” which are rooted in a much more sensible economics and leave the reader with much to ponder.

I found Larry Samuel’s new book Rich: The Rise and Fall of American Wealth Culture to be a disturbing complement to Leopold’s work.  Samuel traces the history of America’s über-rich class (which he notes is the “first mass-affluent class in history”) over the course of the twentieth century.  Samuel’s work is fascinating as a cultural history, but it also illuminates – albeit without much reflection – the ubiquitous American desire to enter into this elite class of the richest, a reality that Leopold seemingly wants to avoid discussing.  One of the most intriguing themes in Rich is Samuel’s exploration of how the wealthiest class reconciled their fortunes with Christian faith.  Essential to this justification was the concept of “stewardship,” and the story that Samuel narrates here resonates nicely with Kelly Johnson’s critiques of stewardship in her recent book Fear of Beggars (Eerdmans 2007).

And now for something completely different…

George Barna’s recent book The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe and Why They Matter tackles, in the typical demographic fashion on which we have come to expect from the Barna brand, a religious and political assessment of the broader American culture.  The book, premised on the question “What will it take to restore our country to greatness?” is lacking in serious reflection on – e.g., on questions like what is “greatness” and why should the United States aspire to it and at what cost?  The nationalism that undergirds Barna’s work might work well for selling books especially in a time of apparent national crisis, but it does little to nurture (and arguably is at odds with) the trans-national Kingdom of God that has been secured in the death and resurrection of Jesus and is now breaking into and transforming the world.