Monday, March 7, 2005

IS INVESTING AMORAL?

URBAN HOUSING "INVESTMENT." I work with homeless and near-homeless neighbors who live in and out of--and are devastated by--investor-owned substandard rental housing. I am sure most of those who invest in urban real estate opportunities have no bad intentions and little awareness or understanding of the human life implications of their investments. They are simply looking at the money. Making money, having a margin and return on investment, is as far as it goes with them.

TWICE REMOVED. Most such real estate investors are twice removed from their investment. I've discovered that many have never seen the properties they hold. They do not look at real estate investment as human habitation or care to know the impacts of their kind of investing on community, cycles of poverty, crime, etc. No, they are just making a modest killing, that's all.

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WATERFALL. So, compassionate and recovery ministries work primarily at the bottom of the waterfall, the cycle continues, and an unjust process is perpetuated. No one takes responsibility. I suppose we just blame it on those in poverty?

STOCK MARKET SIMILARITIES? Seeing this occur on a local scale in a housing market, and seeing its impacts on urban neighbors and urban community, I am wondering if the same or similar scenario occurs on a global scale via stock market trading? To what extent do investors know or care to know the impacts of their investments? To what extent are they made aware of environmental and social impacts by the corporation or funds group they are investing in? Are questions of social ethics raised and, if so, to what extent are the answers pursued and disclosed? Or are the vast majority of investors just looking at the bottom line? Is money-making amoral? Is the market amoral? Should no such questions be asked? Just take the money and be grateful to God for the savvy God has given one for the ability to make it?

COMPLICITY AND QUESTIONS. It seems to me that the market is a moral entity and that every investor--even those blindly far removed--is complicit in the socially and environmentally devastating impacts of the choices and actions of the corporation. Every investment is a "Yes" vote for prevailing practices. The theological and ethical questions this raises for me are many.

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