The Markets

Following the news this week, it would be impossible to ignore that great illusive term: markets. Yes, for the markets have just crashed, wiping billions off the value of, well, just about everything. In a state of panic, investors started selling off pension funds, forcing the Bank of England to intervene to stabilise the situation. Good for the markets, perhaps, but bad for just about everyone else. If you have a mortgage, a financing deal for a car or a credit card, it will mean punishing interest rates you probably won’t be able to afford.

If you have listened to conversations in the media concerning this disaster, however, you will have been left with the feeling that the markets are a natural force of nature. Something akin to the wind, which occasionally gets whipped up into a typhoon by high pressure in the atmosphere. Of course, they’re not. The market is made up of gargantuan financial institutions, each worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Their primary goal is to make themselves — their directors and their traders — exceedingly wealthy, evidenced by the multi-billion dollar profits they achieve annually.

The markets are not a benevolent force of nature. Indeed, plenty of evidence points to them being exploitative, preying on the weak and ultimately undermining community, for no other aim than to make the wealthy even wealthier. While there may be some ethical investors, engaged in the market for the good of humanity, they are few and far between. The markets are fundamentally corruptive; they are not seeking the best outcome for all. They’re seeking the best outcome for the few, despite them already being stupendously rich, holding more personal wealth than billions of others combined.

Time and again, cyclically, we have seen the markets trash the livelihoods of ordinary people, as they speculate or gamble on investment portfolios for their own gain. We have been here before, over and over. Professionals on the cusp of retirement have seen their pensions wiped out in an afternoon, forcing them back into work, or pushing them to sell off every asset they own just to enjoy a few years of reprieve before death. Families have lost their homes, some of them left homeless, causing marriages to collapse, mental health disintegrating. Young graduates just setting out in careers have been made redundant and face long-term unemployment.

These are what I recollect from the economic slumps of 2001 and 2008, anyway. Why does everyone else seem to forget? Maybe they managed to ride it out, without it seriously perturbing them. Maybe it didn’t directly effect them. Maybe they didn’t lose everything. But those scarred by market volatility remember it all. Why must we always kowtow to the markets, knowing full well that they’re not in the game for the benefit of community or society as a whole? Why do we make ourselves slaves?

Say: if you possessed the treasures of the mercy of my Lord, you would surely hold them back for fear of spending, for man was ever grudging!

Quran 17:100

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