RISKING EVERYTHING (EVERYTHING IS RISKY)
February 22, 2009
image: Rain of Power (Falling Economy) (cc) .B.P.M.
I've said before that when it comes to my personal political leanings, I tend to lean socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Regarding the economy, I like the push towards personal financial responsibility and the allowance for risk-taking -- I think the capitalist economic model mirrors the natural world. Those who are willing to take risks are the ones who should reap the greatest consequence (positive or negative), for whatever reason the motivation of that risk. Call it natural selection, call it an environment of opportunity, call it whatever. It's the world we live in.
The problem with the pure capitalist model, as it relates to the financial institutions that are crumbling all over the planet, is that the risks taken by those institutions end up having consequences on people who weren't directly involved; people who were gambling had an impact on people who weren't rolling the dice. If the market collapses, people who put no stake in the hot-potato game of pass-the-bad-debt won't be able to buy bread. People who didn't hope to build up their retirement by buying a home with the hopes of flipping it may lose their jobs. People who didn't speculate that the value of everything would continue to increase may become homeless. And because the consequence of a collapsed market is too great to bear, the government is stepping in and providing some control over the situation by providing a bailout/stimulus package.
Now, I'm not an economist, so I'm not really interested in spending a lot of energy trying to figure out if the Democrat bailout package is going to have any lasting positive impact. I have no idea if it'll work. And because I don't know, I'm not going to spend any more time talking about that. I do think, however, that people should spend more time considering the nature of risk in their own personal lives.
I tend to think of risk in terms of deliberate dependence on uncontrollable circumstances. Choosing to play the lotto with hopes of winning big is a game of risk, though the amount risked is very small. Buying a home with the prospect of selling it is a risk, and in this case, the risk may be very large. Both of these are deliberate - both the $1 risk of the lotto ticket and the $300,000 risk on the home are done with a conscious understanding of the potential payout and the potential loss. However, given the uncontrollable nature of our world, perhaps we should view everything as risk.
For those of us who are employed, we earn our living by exchanging our services for payment, and we build our lifestyle around the level of buying power we think we have. We purchase or rent a home, we agree to cell phone contracts, we pay our utility bills, we manage our eating habits... and all of it is based on what we expect to see on our paycheck. But that paycheck is no guarantee - it is beyond our control, so every payday should be viewed as a good roll on the dice; lifestyle expenses incurred are risk built upon risk. And this notion of risk really pervades everything. Our very lives shouldn't be taken for granted, nor the lives of anyone, really. Plans that depend on the lives of other people are a risk; their lives are beyond our control.
Perhaps this is why believers are able to find solace in God. The notion of an immutable, steadfast, reliable God is comforting, given the unreliable landscape of reality. Those who claim to have a personal relationship with God believe that He will carry them through any hardship. Though a believer might claim that God's nature is unknowable, it is believed to be quite certain and ever present. The value of the dollar may crumble, the institutions of our employment may disappear, and even our own lives only last for a moment. But we trust that God is forever, and that He is interested in us. He loves us. And in that relationship, there is no gamble.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.