Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Best Interest

Once upon a time, far, far away, there was a small community who decided to put the wealth of some to the service of those who needed it. Those who had cash invested it in the community, and received interest, while those who needed cash could borrow from the pot, for a manageable rate of interest, and thereby keep loan sharks (and piggy banks?) at bay. As the size of the pot increased, relative to the number of loans being requested, the excess cash was used to purchase property that would give rental income, thus helping to keep the borrowers' interest rates down.

Time went on, and times got hard. But the community's pot of money was not invested in crumbling banks - the people were invested in each other. So although the government guaranteed the banks, the community clung together. Those who were in difficulty could still borrow from those who had chosen to invest in the community rather than the iffier stockmarket and banks.
Then one day, Someone realised that there would be a cost to staying invested in the community. The economic hard times would mean that the investment properties would fall in value, and rental income would fall; as recession deepened, some borrowers would be unable to pay their loans, and the interest made on investments would fall. Someone decided to withdraw their substantial sums of cash from the community and invest it in the banks, guaranteed by the government.

Did Someone know something that everyone else didn't know? Or was Someone just smarter than the rest of the community? Somehow, more and more investors realised that they were financially safer with the banks than with the community. One by one, they took themselves and their money off to a new home, leaving behind them a community increasingly bewildered, beleaguered and short of the means to meet the challenges of the times.

Am I alone in seeing the current difficulties with the Presbyterian Mutual Society as parallel to the Presbyterian exodus from inner Belfast? Those who could leave did. And felt justified in so doing. They were acting in the "best interests" of their family, those to whom they had the most pressing relationship. And in so doing, abandoned their former community to a shortage of capacity for investment and community.

And so, the principle of community and mutuality was lost; the poverty and hurt of those left behind contributed to the instability and violence of a society which damaged all of society for generations to come.

The best interest of those who can choose it is not always in the best interest of their children's generation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

brilliant word on a terrible scandal