Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 28- Fair Business Practices

January 28

11A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work.
Prov. 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.

Calvin: Now if the laws of buying and selling are corrupted, human society is in a manner dissolved…[He strongly condemns ‘respectable’ people who use tricks to take advantage of the simple.] “Not only are those thieves who secretly steal the property of others, but those also who seek for gain from the loss of others, accumulate wealth by unlawful practices, and are more devoted to their private advantage than to equity..He pronounces all unjust means of gain to be so many thefts.” In order that we may not be condemned as thieves by God, we must endeavor as far as possible that everyone should safely keep what he possesses and that our neighbor’s advantage should be promoted no less than our own.” (CR 24.675; 36.42- Leith JCDOCL p. 191,192).

Calvin did not hesitate to denounce fraudulent and oppressive business practices. He saw economic injustice as a serious matter for our Christian lives. He was concerned about just wages too. He said, “If a merchant charges more than a piece of goods is worth, he steals.” (CR 26.348).

When I was in Turkey visiting some of the sites of the Apostle Paul this past November, we ran into a typical bargaining market for tourists. A price was displayed, but everyone was expected to negotiate that price down. A $5 item might sell for $2. But it bothered me that something was so overpriced. I guess the sale at the department store that takes a $50 shirt and marks it down to $10 shows that if you buy it at the wrong time, someone is making a huge profit. Some enjoyed the fun of negotiating or getting a bargain, I guess. However, I’ve always liked the car places that put the bottom non-negotiable price right on the windshield. Other people are better negotiators than I am. My problem is that when something is so overpriced, it is a bit deceptive. Now, this is not forbidden biblically, it is just a matter of taste- and probably a total tangent. But this is a blog- and I can share my annoyances as well as preach against the things that are really bad like the two things below.

Going back to our own country, I received a credit card offer about three years ago for 6% firm. When I called them, they asked sixty questions and then we were ready to seal the deal. I stopped and asked what the rate was again- and the operator said, “9%”. I could not believe it. I would have lost 3% and not even known about it until the first statement! Honesty and integrity in business grows a business, so that people will come back. Deception scares people away.

Again I would say that payday lending (outlawed in North Carolina and Georgia) is a deceptive loan practice. Our S.C. legislature is considering allowing payday lenders to double the amount that can be borrowed, and I may help some through a temporary tight spot, but with an interest rate that averages around 300% (the law allows a 495% apr in S.C.), it ends up making the poor poorer. Last year attempts to ban or regulate the industry passed the House and lost in the Senate by 3 votes. They advertise themselves as easy money, and prey on the uneducated and desperate. But easy money turns into even harder money, that takes cars away (title loans), or encumbers a person too much. There have always been those who make a buck out of supposedly “helping” the poor. Maybe you have heard Tennessee Ernie Ford’s song about the mill worker (or miner) that loaded sixteen tons but “owed his soul to the company store.” In contrast to this is honesty, integrity, and generosity. God blesses those who give of their abundance to help those who have little. Today I’m going to look for ways to give a bit away. Maybe in Calvinistic fashion I’ll send an e-mail to my legislators asking them to vote against H.3301 that would increase payday lender’s muscle.

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