Sunday, 9 October 2011

Prepare for Service

Reading Payne's (1982) commentary on 1 Samuel 1: 19-28, raised some interesting issues about what a parent's role should be. He says “a parent's ultimate duty to his or her children is to fit them for service to others and then to release them” (p 12). Hannah had certainly released Samuel although we would have to wonder whether she had prepared him for service.

Preparing for service isn't about preparing our children to build riches or to accumulate for self. It is to go out and serve others. In this sense, Samuel is an example as he is given into God's service.

My argument is that our economy should be about balancing service with need, not with the ability to pay. The 'market' supposedly balances supply with demand. An over supply and prices go down and production reduces. An under supply and prices rise along with production. Supposedly the driver is the demand for the product. The theory that thus us self balancing through 'market' forces. The difficulty is that not all real needs are satisfied by market forces.

Those not in a position to provide a service or product become unable to satisfy their needs. No one will service those needs unless paid to do so. Governments tax the transactions in an attempt to address these issues. The government is then forced to balance its expenditure with its revenue. That is, it has to apply 'market' rules even to its services. The consequence is that it cuts back on services even though the need remains.

As the UK government indicated a rise in student fees, students protested over the increases. Even though these protests seem to have died away, the falling apart of the concept of 'market' is falling apart. The theory would suggest the fees should rise if there is an under-supply but in this case the rising fees are more to do with changes in funding formulae. Potentially, there is an under-supply, although some would argue that there is an over-supply of graduates. 'Market' forces would suggest that graduate salaries should fall with a corresponding decline in those seeking university education. The reality doesn't seem to match the theory. When the demand for graduates is high, the enrolments fall because more people are able to get work without formal qualifications. As unemployment increases, the demand for qualifications increases and so do enrolments. If the price of education is linked to demand then the costs go down during good economic times and up during hard economic times. However, since the potential students ability to pay will also influence the demand, there are opposing pressures on enrolments at all times. The 'market' does not appear to be a solution for education. This also assumes that education is all about certification for employment. Another fallacy from my perspective and one that really hinders learning but that is a different issue.

Putting increasing fee burdens on students means that they come out of the educational process with increased debt. I contend that this debt enslaves them to the system. They are no longer free to serve. Rather they must commit to employment and the market. They are enslaved to the economic forces which they have little ability to control.

Serving is not part of the 'market' equation. Training for service or to satisfy needs isn't in the equation. Yet it could be argued that demand is driven by need. Are our artificial markets (currency markets, fashion accessories, electronic good, etc.) driven by need or artificially stimulated desire. Currency markets are purely artificial and I see no real product. Fashion items have their demand driven by marketing campaigns designed to build a desire for or 'want' for those items. Similar applies for many consumer items. They are built to be replaced or upgraded before the previous item is no longer usable. An artificial need is created and product is produced for waste.

Real need and service is lost in our 'market' economies. Waste and redundancy dominate. Sustainability is lost since waste is required to maintain the artificial market. There are real challenges here if we are to address the destructive forces of the systems that we have put in place.


Payne, D. F. (1982). Samuel. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

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