Can You Find Security amid Economic Gloom?
HUMAN society today is experiencing increasing anxieties; and this despite amazing technological achievements. Among the chief reasons for this are economic woes. These have multiplied rapidly, plaguing people with uneasiness, tension and gloom.
The tone and content of recent statements made by economists, consumer group spokesmen, and political, business and labor leaders are alarming. Some even fear a complete economic collapse in Western countries.
But why has the economic picture become so troublesome? What can you do to find security amid economic gloom?
The Toll of Inflation
Basic to economic gloom in Western nations is inflation, which refers to a general increase in prices when the buying power of people exceeds the supply of available goods. For a while this may lead to an economic boom, creating more jobs. But eventually serious problems develop. Why so?
Many factors are involved. But one important reason is that much of the buying power of people rests in borrowed money. There comes a day when people realize that they are deeply in debt. High interest rates and devalued currency may make further borrowing out of the question. They cut back on buying. A lessened demand for many commodities causes industry to reduce production, which may lead to massive unemployment.
This is the situation that many countries find themselves in today. With regard to economic conditions, news sources in the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain and South America use expressions like “‘catastrophe’ of inflation,” and “gloom all around.”
Especially hard hit in the United States recently was the automobile industry. A prolonged sales slump triggered huge layoffs, idling hundreds of thousands of auto workers. The United States unemployment figure then stood at some 7,500,000 persons, fully 8.2 percent of the total work force. “Frightening” and “without parallel” is the way some described the sudden and rapid downturn.
Inflation, like a malignant growth, eats its way into the whole fabric of society. It threatens international trade, monetary exchange, the stability of wage and price levels, savings, investments, individual, business and national solvency, social security and a host of government programs for the needy, such as lower-cost school lunches and food stamps for the poor.
How has all of this affected John Q. Public? U.S. News & World Report remarked: “Inflation . . . now is devouring family savings, putting familiar pleasures out of reach, spreading insecurity.” A survey taken in late 1974 “found consumers in a gloomier mood than at any time since . . . 1946.”
Why have solutions proposed by the experts failed to dispel inflation? It is because inflation is merely a symptom of a more basic cause of economic woes. What is that?
What Prompts Inflation?
In an article entitled “Inflation and Deflation,” written for World Book Encyclopedia, professor of economics Kenneth E. Boulding explains that, when people have money to spend, “they turn to shops and stores, looking for things to buy that they have always wanted.” If industry is not producing enough of these desired items (as during a time of war), “the prices of goods are bound to rise as people bid against each other for the small supply that is available.” Thus it is that inflation springs from the desire of people to accumulate material things excessively. And many of these things are luxury items that have little or no practical value.
All too often this desire for material things is so overwhelming that people go deeply into debt. A ‘live now, get now, pay later’ attitude inclines them to buy on credit and to live beyond their means. An article on credit counseling that appeared in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported that the national indebtedness of families and single persons in the United States reached “an all-time record of $820 billion.” The article added that Los Angeles area residents are “rushing to take on new credit, some going deeper and deeper into the hole.”
Of course, it is not likely that the majority of people will curb their desire for material possessions. But you do not have to imitate their selfish course. Getting a balanced view of material things can help you to find security amid increasing economic gloom.
A Balanced View of Material Things
Persons throughout the world, whether claiming to be Christians or not, recognize that Jesus Christ possessed outstanding wisdom and insight. Jesus warned concerning an inordinate desire for material things: “Guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15.
This does not mean that possessions are bad in themselves, or that there is something amiss with living comfortably. The thing to avoid is “covetousness,” which means being “inordinately desirous” of material things.
It will help toward balance for one to reflect on how shallow placing one’s trust in material possessions can be. Have not many individuals “put a little aside” in a savings account for years, only to find that soaring prices and inflated, devalued money have decimated what little they had? If you happen to live on a fixed income, you know all too well the disappointments of putting trust in the value of money.
But what if you have a good job and your wages keep going up to meet the rise in prices? Here, too, there is need for balance. Have you considered, for example, how quickly things can change? The Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin explained: “All over people are beginning to worry about their jobs. And they should. Both because job security is in no way ironclad and because a little thought now could pay dividends later. It’s bad enough to be axed from your job these days. It’s still worse to be caught by complete surprise.”
This is indeed a critical problem. Reduced sales volume and serious shortages are forcing thousands of businesses to shut their doors each year. An executive of an international management consulting firm noted: “In times like these, too many people keep their heads in the sand, feeling it just can’t happen to me, and this is particularly true of people who have been with the same organization for years and years.” When one of Chrysler’s Detroit plants was threatened with permanent shutdown, an employee exclaimed: “I’m kind of scared about this. I’ve got six kids and just bought a new car. If I lose my job, what am I going to do?”
Real estate, too, seems to offer little in the way of security. Property owners suffer from heavy taxation, high maintenance costs, vandalism and inability of tenants to pay their rents.
Seeking security in material possessions amounts to leaning on a broken reed that offers no support. But there is a way to real security. What is that?
The Way to Real Security
The apostle Paul, at 1 Timothy 6:7, 8, makes a practical observation: “For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Would not contentment with what you already have ease economic anxiety for you? Probably you possess a number of things that you never use. Would it really hurt to curtail further unnecessary buying?
A person’s opinion of himself may be another factor that contributes to economic problems. Is it not true that much unemployment results from unwillingness on the part of many to do menial work or to work for less pay than they received on a previous job? If a job is needed, how foolish that attitude is! Might it not make more sense to lower one’s standard of living slightly than to remain stubbornly and unnecessarily unemployed? The apostle Paul, a man who learned from personal experience “both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want,” gave this sound counsel: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.”—Rom. 12:3; Phil. 4:12.
Another statement of Jesus that can aid toward security in an economic pinch is found at Matthew 6:25, 32, 33: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. . . . For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” Hundreds of thousands of persons, both in ancient and in modern times, can testify to God’s ability and willingness to provide the necessities of life for those doing his will.
Seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness can contribute toward security even in an indirect way. How so? Because a person who applies Bible principles in his life becomes more diligent at his work. Instead of loafing on the job, stealing time from his employer, he obeys the counsel at Ephesians 4:28: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work.” Employers will often be reluctant do dismiss or lay off such a worker.
The Bible provides further basis for security in that it foretold the present “critical times hard to deal with,” including severe economic woes, as a sign of “the last days” of the present system of things. (2 Tim. 3:1; Matt. 24:7, 8; Rev. 6:5, 6) Soon, as the inspired Scriptures promise, a new system will obtain earth wide in which economic woes will be gone forever.—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4.
Would you like to enjoy the security of that new system free of economic gloom? Jehovah’s witnesses will be glad to help you to meet God’s requirements for this by conducting a free home Bible study with you.
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The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 1974
Economic Blight Spreads Over Europe;
Jobless Millions Cause Grave Concern
New York Times, February 13, 1975
Inflation’s Grip Tightens on Poor
The Detroit News, December 5, 1974
Conditions in U.S., Japan cited
Global recession feared in ʹ75
The Jerusalem Post, December 12, 1974
No cure in sight for ailing world economy