By Pamela Haines. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 450), 2018. 34 pages. $7/pamphlet.
Fretting about economics and money is not new to Quakers. “In the same way that William Penn and other Quakers applied Quaker principles to the political structure and John Woolman and others applied Quaker principles to the abolition of slavery, today we need to apply Quaker principles to the economy,” wrote Elizabeth Cattell in Friends Journal 34 years ago (“The Economy as a Quaker Concern,” FJ May 1, 1984). Now, Pamela Haines, a member of Central Philadelphia (Pa.) Meeting and the Friends Economic Integrity Project, writes about connections between Quaker faith and today’s economy. Understanding these connections can help give right order to our lives.
Much of the wisdom in this pamphlet may already be familiar: Economics is about how money and resources are distributed in a society. Our culture of economic materialism leads to inequality and war. Money is not the source of wellbeing. The evils of usury and debt. Connections between growth and inequality. And so on.
What is new here are specific links between our economic lives and our Quaker testimonies. How can we make transformative change based on integrity when we live in an economy that fundamentally lacks it? How do we live in this capitalist society? Haines uses the Quaker testimonies as a framework for reflection.
Integrity: What rings true in your life? What are your most basic values? Try the traditional Quaker practice of writing a statement of conscience: What values do you claim in the area of money and economics? Do you share those values with others? Clarification is an important step toward integrity.
Simplicity: How can we tell what’s enough in our lives? Can we seek fulfillment through greater consumption? Living out our Quaker testimony on simplicity is “part of calling the economy back to its divine vocation of providing for human welfare on a finite earth.”
Equality: The economics of capitalism steadily widens inequality and promotes racism. How can we live in a way that promotes greater equality? We can advocate policies to help people out of debt, prevent accumulation of excessive wealth, level the playing field, end preferential taxes, fund equal opportunity programs, raise the minimum wage, promote universal healthcare, and so on.
Community: Our economic system is based on a system of entitlement, racism, and judgments about the value of being rich or poor—all aspects that divide us. Projects that support local economies, such as community gardens, farmers markets, land trusts, credit unions, and co-ops, are hopeful initiatives to encourage community. Right Sharing of World Resources, a Quaker nonprofit, is an obvious program that helps.
Stewardship: We should focus our economy on regeneration, producing, and creating, rather than extraction. We need a healthy ecosystem. We need to think about building a healthy financial ecosystem that increases community wellbeing, not extraction of wealth and profit.
Peace: Don’t just eliminate war, but build bridges with those who may hold different points of view. Link peace with justice. How much of war is fueled by inequality and demands of a growth economy in a world of increasing scarcity? Removing economic injustice would help prevent conflict, even in our own communities.
In sum, the divine vocation of any economy is to organize our communities to meet common needs. To do this, we need a discipline of hope. We need to be brave and know that we are not separate from others. We need to “mind the oneness” in these dark times. We are not immobilized, and we need not be silenced.
Haines reminds us to take small steps from where we are right now, relying on the power of moving forward in faith. Quaker testimonies offer a place to begin.
These steps in Pamela Haines’s pamphlet ring true to me. More of her ideas can be found on her interesting blog: pamelalivinginthisworld.blogspot.com.