Economic systems, justice and the planet

Quakers are committed to truth, peace, justice and equality. They certainly do not worship Mammon. And many Quakers are saddened by what they see happening today.

The rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its wellbeing except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.
(Mike Lofgren, a former Republican U.S. Congressional aide).

A public statement by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain agreed in session at London Yearly Meeting 22-25 May 1987:

Quakers in Britain have felt called to issue this statement in order to address a matter of urgent national priority to promote debate and to stimulate action.

We are angered by actions which have knowingly led to the polarisation of our country - into the affluent, who epitomise success according to the values of a materialistic society, and the 'have-leasts', who by the expectations of that same society are oppressed, judged, found wanting and punished.

We value that of God in each person, and affirm the right of everyone to contribute to society and share in life's good things, beyond the basic necessities.

We commit ourselves to learning again the spiritual value of each other. We find ourselves utterly at odds with the priorities in our society which deny the full human potential of millions of people in this country. That denial diminishes us all. There must be no 'them' and 'us'.

We appreciate the stand taken by other churches and we wish to work alongside them.

As a Religious Society and as individuals we commit ourselves to examine again how we use our personal and financial resources. We will press for change to enable wealth and power to be shared more evenly within our nation. We make this statement publicly at a time of national decision [a general election] in the hope that, following the leadings of the Spirit, each one of us in Britain will take appropriate action.

(Quaker Faith and Practice, 23.21)

James Nayler in 1653:

God is against you, you covetous cruel oppressors who grind the faces of the poor and needy, taking your advantage of the necessities of the poor, falsifying the measures and using deceitful weights, speaking that by your commodities which is not true and so deceiving the simple, and hereby getting great estates in the world, laying house to house and land to land till there be no place for the poor; and when they are become poor through your deceits then you despise them and exalt yourselves above them, and forget that you are all made of one mould and one blood and must all appear before one judge, who is no respecter of persons, nor does he despise the poor; and what shall your riches avail you at that day when you must account how you have gotten them and whom you have oppressed?
(from A Discovery of the First Wisdom from Beneath and the Second Wisdom from Above, quoted in "The Friend", 04 Oct 13)

 Economic Mythbusters

An online course from the new economics foundation (nef) working with Quaker Peace & Social Witness
took place on seven Tuesdays, 18:30 to 20:00, starting 14 May 2013

Are you concerned about our unjust and unsustainable economic system?
Perhaps you’re frustrated because economics is ‘too technical’ or because you can’t see how a different system might emerge?
The ‘Economic Mythbusters’ course from the new economics foundation (nef) and Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) could help.
Delivered by prominent journalists and economists, with input from QPSW, the course will help Friends become better equipped to understand and challenge a series of economic ‘myths’ which hinder the adoption of new economic ideas and practical reforms that could help to create a more sustainable, just and equal world.
Individual or group participation possible. There are fifty spaces available, on a 'first come, first served' basis.
See the Mythbusters section of our national Economic Justice pages for further information.

Devon and Cornwall Friends held a public meeting in Friends Meeting House, Exeter on Saturday 13 October 2012 on "Paths to Change: Economic Systems, Justice and the Planet".
Guest speakers were Stewart Wallis of the New Economics Foundation and Symon Hill of Ekklesia. (Maud Grainger was prevented by illness.)
a report on the event by Alan Ray-Jones, plus notes from the five discussion groups on (a) the new economy, (b) credit unions, (c) measuring well-being, (d) creating alliances, and (e) working with politicians. You can also listen to recordings of Stewart's talk (6.8 Mbyte; and missing the first few seconds) and of Symon's talk (8.3 Mbyte, but runs on beyond the end, so turn it off when he finishes!).
See also publicity material: (1) Poster, (2) Programme for the day, (3) List of Speakers and contacts for the day, with links to online speaker biographies, and (4) Joining Instructions and travel for Exeter Friends Meeting House.

Some background

In February 2009 the Equality Trust was formed, in anticipation of the publication of the book 'The Spirit Level' concerning the socially destructive effects of inequality. See also this site's page on the subject.

In October 2009 Devon and Cornwall Friends held a public meeting led by Richard Wilkinson, co-author of 'The Spirit Level', on "why inequality is bad for everybody". See invitation leaflet used and a brief report of the meeting.

In July/August 2011 Quakers in Britain (BYM) discussed sustainability and economic justice. The conclusions included "a strong corporate commitment to become a low-carbon, sustainable community". See "Minute 36" for further details. The meeting also received a splendid presentation on "Economic and Social Justice" by the chair of Quaker Social Action.

In May 2012 Quakers in Britain (BYM) discussed further the issue of economic justice further. Amongst other things they noted that "In our wider consideration today we have reflected on economic justice and sustainability, peace, and political power, and on the human relationships which underpin them and are daily affected by them. Many of us see the current system as inherently unjust and therefore unsustainable." See Minutes 14, 16, 17 and 21 from that meeting.