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9.5 Propositions against Compulsory Growth and for an interest-surmounting Ecclesiastical Currency

Some Explanations
Are the Christian Churches able to show a way out of the global financial and economic crises? Is there a specific Christian contribution to the solution of the problems of the financial and economic system?
An answer to these questions which are often asked in our days has been set down by the initiative 9.5 in the 9.5 propositions

against compulsory growth and for an interest-surmounting ecclesiastical currency.

The world economy is under a constant compulsion for growth. This is verifiable by the ceaseless and desperate efforts of the politicians for economic growth. Even now the disastrous consequences of boundless growth can be observed, in future they will be more obvious yet. Nothing on earth can grow infinitely; infinity is only up to God.

The compulsion for economic growth in the present system is the result of the necessity for interest on credit in long-term financial investments. By positive interest financial assets in the world grow constantly, up to the level of the interest rate and this means : exponentially, because through interest and compound interest growth increases constantly. In general the banks finance the interest on capital from the interest they get for loans. If the willingness for investment and thus the demand for credits does no longer keep up with the interest growth of the assets, the asset growth has to be obtained through the money market. Then the rule is effective : “Speculation is more lucrative than investment.” So regularly the formation of “speculative bubbles” occurs, which collapse regularly as well, because the growth of assets is no longer covered by the real economic growth. Because every cent of interest paid on assets has to be obtained somewhere. Money does not reproduce by itself. Growth of wealth due to interest creates on the one hand wealth, on the other poverty.

The facts speak for themselves : In 2007 in Germany alone 200 thousand millions euros interest have been redistributed – at 90% to 10% very wealthy households. From 1950 to 20000 the private financial properties in Germany grew 32 times, while the real economy increased 7 times only in the same period. Therefore it is not difficult to recognize in the interest system one of those “structures of sin, which the churches and the theology pointed out recently.[1]

There is only one solution to this increasingly dramatic situation, namely a currency by which it is possible to generate market-economy-based long-term interest on credit below the real economic growth rate. Economists who do not agree with the dogma of the neutrality of money, hold this opinion for years. But then the question arises how the function of “guarantee for money circulation”, which is performed by the interest, can be replaced. For this models exist, already practised and proved. Such we find today as interest-surmounting currencies in the field of regional currencies as for example the “Chiemgauer” model. Those are limited on the regional economic exchange, serving the function of a second currency.

Now the idea is to establish an interest-surmounting second currency within the Churches in accordance with the regional currency model and conform with the present economic situation. This would be – in the ecclesiastical sphere too – just a complementary second currency existing besides the official currency. But as a currency which first would be valid among ecclesiastical participants – cloister, parishes, associations etc – it could get going a considerable economic circulation after all. The first participants could be the religious orders, which are economically active and in past times already often have given impulses for important economic reforms. By and by suppliers outside the Church would make out new sales potentials and then assume this currency. In the beginning the effect on the national economy surely would not be too significant. Yet such a second currency would mean an “irritation” for the financial and economic system to which it had to react.[2]

Remains the question why the idea for an interest-surmounting currency in spite of its positive quality is not also put into practice by the national economy itself. The answer is simple : Because it contradicts the economic principle of capital accumulation and profit orientation. In clear : For the owners of assets (and for the owners of modest saving books too) it would mean loss. It would stop the motor of growth which drives the economy. It would be in conflict with the rule that everything has its price and the money too.

And in this place we Christians and the Christian faith comes at play. Because Christians are not bound by the rules of the economic system. They act according to what is “worthy and right”, and that is above all the free and joyful performance of God’s will – such as the theological tradition of all religious denominations has always told us.

God surely does not want His Creation to be destroyed through boundless economic growth. He set a salutary limit to human excessiveness : That is exactly the ban on interest, which is basic for the biblical economy, and as canonical ban on interest has been valid in the Church for a long time. Christians can proudly refer to times, when by interest-free or widely interest-free currencies a great social richness was produced and as well the marvellous religious works of art in which the whole world takes pleasure even in our days.[3]

There can be tied on to the present situation. Accordingly the central idea of our propositions is : For Christians and Churches the base for their economic behaviour shall not be economic calculation but their religious convictions. In a concrete sense for us it is about searching for ways to fulfil God’s commandments nowadays. This is what Christians are faced with. In faith there is certainty that the wisdom of God’s commandment is superior to human wisdom, and that from the biblical and ecclesiastical economic order a better, more humane, fair and peaceful economy emerges.

That brings us back to our propositions. Quite intentionally they have been written in the style of Martin Luther’s 95 propositions. Because Luther too could only achieve his “revolution” of the ecclesiastical financial system at that time by appealing to the religious obedience of the Christians; the council of Trient followed him in this point (DH 1835). The surmounting of the seductive and corrupting power of money is a for all Christian denominations, especially today. We think, we have found a practicable way that clearly is not aimed at the abolition of the market economy, but only wants to rectify a structural defect of our financial system.


[1] The interest system provides the institutional and legal frame in which “greed for profit” and “desire for power” function as accepted and inevitable motivating forces of human behaviour. John Paul II sees in this “sinful attitudes”, which “favour the emergence of structures of sin”. Behind “decisions, which are seemingly only supported by economy and politics”, are hiding – so he writes in his encyclical from 1987 – “veritable forms of idolatry towards money, ideology, class and technology.” But the cognition of “the true nature of evil” is the precondition “ for being able at the level of human behaviour to indicate the way one must go in order to surmount the evil.” Sollicitudo rei sozialis no. 37.

[2] For further information we refer to: Kennedy, Margrit: Geld ohne Zinsen und Inflation. Ein Tauschmittel, das jedem dient, München 1994; Kennedy, Margrit/Lietaer, Bernard A.: Regionalwährungen. Neue Wege zu nachhaltigem Wohlstand, München 2004; Creutz, Helmut: Das Geld-Syndrom. Wege zu einer krisenfreien Wirtschaftsordnung, München 2001; Kastner, Heiko (Mitunterzeichner *): Mythos Marktwirtschaft. Die irrationale Herrschaft des Geldes über Arbeit, Mensch und Natur, Bochum 2002; Ruster, Thomas (Mitunterzeichner): Von Menschen, Mächten und Gewalten. Eine Himmelslehre, Ostfildern 2007, bes. S. 97-116; Moewes, Günther: Geld oder Leben. Umdenken und unsere Zukunft nachhaltig sicher, Wien-München 2004.

[3] We firmly refer to the expositions of the historian Peter Hersche  concerning the „Catholic economic style“ : Muße und Verschwendung. Europäische Gesellschaft und Kultur im Barockzeitalter, 2 Bde., Freiburg-Basel-Wien, 2006, bes. Bd.1, S. 442-527:Until the end oft he 18th century ! in the Catholic countries there was a to a large extent interest-free currency: see also Ruster, Thomas (Mitunterzeichner): Wandlung. Ein Traktat über Eucharistie und Ökonomie, Ostfildern 2006, bes. S. 33-47; 107-119.

*„Mitunterzeichner“ – cooperating signatories are the persons who have established and signed the 9.5 Propositions

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