A Very Merry Christmas to Wall Street

A quite amusing little article has been unearthed in the Opinion Section of the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, we atheists, what with our War on Christmas and all, are responsible for the current financial meltdown. From the article:

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of “Merry Christmas.”

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

The pseudo-reality in which Henninger seems to live seems like a scary place. Without God there to draw in the chalk lines, people just go all willy-nilly, no personal responsibility, no sense of morals, cut the brakes, no restraints in place! If the only thing keeping Henninger from a murderous rampage and defaulting on his loan payments is his belief in God, I’d be worried. When my wife and I bought our house, we made sure we had adequate down payment and would be able to meet the monthly payments. It was that strong faith in God I have that made me able to behave in a responsible fashion. Oh wait, I’m an atheist. In China, there is a strong cultural attitude towards saving money and not spending beyond your means. It must be that strong Christian heritage in China. Wait just a minute.

I’m also quite curious what are these useful virtues that Southern evangelicals are espousing? Was it the divisive attacks against atheists by Elizabeth Dole? Is it the perennial attempts to undermine science education by including creationist nonsense? Is it allowing business interests to overrun the environment?

It strikes me that the deregulation that helped fuel this mess was brought on in part by politicians from both sides of the aisle, who by the way, are declared Christians (one of whom said Jesus was his favorite philosopher). Since the majority of Americans are Christians, it also stands to reason that the many of the people who took out these subprime loans were also Christians. It also stands to reason that many of the bankers and financiers writing the horribly complex investment products containing the bad loans are also Christian. I don’t say though that their Christian beliefs caused them to behave in an irresponsible manner (indeed, there are many home buyers who were not aware that they were getting into bad loans). I don’t recall the Bible saying anything about hedge funds. It was simple human greed. A fairly well known trait that has been around since homo sapiens first evolved and probably even before that.

That’s the reason for government regulation. To help keep the playing field level for competing companies and to keep the chalk lines drawn. Critical thinking is also a necessary component for a well functioning society. At the time many of these bad loans were going through, housing prices were going up. Not a good assumption, but many blithely assumed this trend would continue. Better regulation that kept up with the latest financial instruments would have kept such gambling in check.

Oh yes, it’s still too early for it, in my opinion, but Merry Christmas! We’ll be putting up a Christmas tree again this year, visit family, and generally have a great time celebrating Newton’s birthday.


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