Suing the poor – vulture funds and is God a capitalist?

This article – Vultures leave the developing world hungry (a response to ‘How top London law firms help vulture funds devour their prey‘) made me sit bolt upright when reading my Saturday Guardian this morning. My non-economist understanding seems to be that these ‘vulture’ funds buy debt of Heavily Indebted Poor countries (HIPC’s), countries like Zambia, Congo and Tanzania which are receiving debt relief. These companies or funds then sue the governments of those countries for more than what they paid for the debt. It seems crazy, morally repungent and many other phrases that this should be allowed to happen. Talk about stealing from the poor to make money! Is this the logical conclusion of a capitalist system that is all about profit – the poor always get oppressed? The growing global rich-poor divide seems to be damning evidence. Given Gordon Brown’s commitments to the fight against global poverty I for one will be dropping him a line about this horrific state of affairs of companies making money at the expense of those who have little enough choices and hope as it is.

It reminds me of several conversations about faith and economics and remembering a comment from someone from the States who said “well, i think god would be a capitalist”. I remember the shock and horror that arose – did he just say that? Especially after an articulate explanation from a theology professor on economics and the bible. We cannot and should not equate Christian faith with one economic system but it is undeniable that a capitalist system with its exploitation of the poor is certainly less aligned with the teaching of the bible than a Christian socialist model that wants a more even distribution of wealth. Of course there are lots of caveats there. Believing that the capitalist model of free markets etc is the best way to lift people out of poverty is different that simply believing in capitalism. It worries me that the church seems to have imbibed so much of capitalism and ignored so much of the Bible, of the God who is concerned about poverty, who asks his people to look out for the poor, to live generously, who designed an economic system that would have avoided long term poverty. The example of the early church who shared everything, who gave sacrificially (as God has asked – to give/lend until the person is no longer in need, not just give a bit to ease our conscience) is one to remember. Certainly what stood out to me in Peru this summer was the thankfulness and generosity of people who were less concerned with what they had and more with how others were. Maybe on some of this the church in Europe and the States has become too ‘of the world’ as opposed to ‘in it’., we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the southern church.
soapbox – confusing himself with economics but the red light on his injustice-ometer is flashing brightly

**UPDATE** Tearfund’s Superbadger takes on the vultures here.

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4 thoughts on “Suing the poor – vulture funds and is God a capitalist?”

  1. you need to expand on this. God not a capitalist? really? how far are you going with this? was Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of nations’ heretical even though it was forefront in the enlightenment and progress of man. would god prefer people to be equally poor… or unequally not-so-poor? is the weath creation of people like Bill Gates anti-god even though he is now giving his weath away to the poor – if not for capitalism that weath wouldnt exist to give… etc (just giving you some post fodder mr soap – as you’ve done for me)

  2. Brilliant post, soapbox!

    This is absolutely appalling – I don’t pretend to understand how it works, but it’s blatant evil.

    I think I’ll write to Gordie too.

    We cannot and should not equate Christian faith with one economic system

    So true… a little bit of thought and discernment always goes a long way.

  3. qmonkey thanks – you would be much duller if you were only a monkey

    Flip at moments like these I realise how much I don’t know. Wishing for a Brodies notes .

    Do you think capitalism as we know it today is what Smith envisaged?
    If you look at the God revealed in the bible he definitely doesn’t hold that pure self-interest is the way to go – there is always to be a consideration for others – as seen in obscure laws about gleaning as one example. (Vox can educate us on this more fully). God frequently rails against those claiming to follow him because they are treating people unjustly – they are oppressing the poor. I don’t think we can label God as capitalist or socialist. I don’t think its about not creating wealth, the ability to trade out of poverty is certainly important for many in developing countries. I really respect Bill for what he is doing through the Gates foundation (although i write on firefox…). I think the problem comes when motives become selfish. It seems difficult to generate extreme wealth without leaving others poor in today’s world. I think what God calls for and calls those who follow him to is a fairer and more equal distribution. Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 8.

    A few more muddled thoughts to throw in the mixer.

  4. thanks soap, its an intersting debate even outside of a ‘god’ context. I swing both ways (said the vicar to the nun etc etc) i read No Logo and think.. this makes sense… then i read Sachs’ ‘how to end poverty…’ and ‘the world is flat’ and think… ah THIS is what makes sense. to quote Kaiser Cheifs (for the first and last time) i like what i like and know what i know, but im also easily swayed.

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