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To those who see no link between Lent and our failing economy, it might be the case to look again.
Economics is about people. It cannot be reduced to numbers, formulae
and analyses. “The subject matter of economics,” observes economic
historian Odd Langholm, “is properly the habits, customs, and ways of
thinking of producers, consumers, buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders,
and all who engage in economic transactions.”
That means our moral habits can have a definite effect on determining if our economy grows — or fails.
Frenetic intemperance can be defined as a restless spirit inside
certain sectors of modern economy that foments a drive inside men to
throw off legitimate restraints and gratify disordered passions. It is
not a specifically economic problem but a moral and psychological vice
that throws everything out of balance. When frenetic intemperance
dominates, it often sends the whole system into convulsions—as we saw
during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. And, unless addressed, it is
virulent enough to crash the entire financial system.
In our daily lives, we see frenetic intemperance in the tendency to
desire everything, right away, regardless of the consequences. Everyone
must have the latest gadget even though they do not need it and really
cannot afford it. The mad lack of restraint leads to an unstable economy
laden with boom and bust, debt and stress. It creates a cold
mechanistic economy where money rules. It gives rise to a materialistic
culture which values quantity and utility over quality and beauty. The
long and short of it is that a frenzied economy comes from frenzied
And that brings us to Lent. Fighting bad moral habits and practicing
restraint is what Lent is all about. More than giving up a box of
chocolates, how about giving up habits that foster frenetic
intemperance, which is the real root cause of our economic decline?
Besides the personal benefits of interior peace, detachment, and greater
spiritual freedom, a good Lent can also help save our economy.
Here are some suggestions on how this might be done.
1. Avoid speculative investments that promise huge
returns on investment in little time. Such offers usually do not deliver
what they promise and always feed frenetic desires that create anxiety
2. Stay away from business relationships that are
cold and mechanical. Treat workers like family. Respect those for whom
3. Avoid trendy business gurus and books that call
for radical changes that will “revolutionize” a company or keep people
in a constant state of change.
4. Eschew work schedules that are inhuman and stressful. Learn to appreciate leisure.
5. Avoid compulsive buying especially during those sales frenzies around the holidays.
6. Shun the abuse of credit cards and especially the
temptation to pay only the minimal monthly amount. Avoid consumer debt
as you would the plague (i.e. borrowing to buy things for your immediate
consumption, e.g. that new laptop, games, cars, fashion clothing, etc.
that you cannot afford, as opposed to investment debt , e.g. your home
7. Learn not to have everything right now. The culture of instant gratification creates a frenzied lifestyle — and economy.
8. Do not take as role models those who have money as
the central axis of their lives. Admire character not a person’s bottom
9. Resist the temptation of seeing only quantity and cheapness. Learn to appreciate the beauty of quality and good taste.
10. Avoid lavish display, especially of fancy
gadgetry that leads to a desire to keep up with the e-Joneses with the
As Lent progresses, we would do well to do something that has an impact
beyond our own spiritual lives. It would be good to practice charity
toward our neighbor by looking at the big picture. Giving up frenetic
intemperance is a good start.