Hoarding and the Multiplier Effect

A few months ago I came across an article about the growing number of people who have been discovered with the mental illness of hoarding. As they get older, they accumulate stuff that eventually becomes a hazard. It’s not much different than the cause of our current economic state: in times of insecurity, institutions hoard. Then money stands still and people lose work. Money doesn’t do what it is supposed to do: move.

A market economy discourages hoarding and encourages exchange. Free exchange is better than the alternative: force. But as the market gets more complicated, hoarding wealth harms more people. People stop becoming generous when money doesn’t move.

But generosity multiplies. In simple capitalism, the economist Keynes, along with most modern economists, describe the importance of the “multiplier” effect. It is an accounting of how the market catalyzes trade, which ideally encourages jobs. When we employ people, we give them purchasing power, which employs more people, which encourages even more purchasing power. You get, then you spend.

In times of desperation, entrepreneurs get scared and hoard. In those cases, those who have cash lack confidence. Confidence is a dangerous position. It is an appropriate corollary with faith. It is the catalyst of making decisions. Good ones. Bad ones. It’s great when everyone’s making money. It’s bad when it drives us off a cliff. I know I’ll survive. It’s just a cliff, and I’ve been doing hundreds of squats a day.

Church economics takes this general map a step further. We give what we can, and even more so, risking ourselves. Last February we held a party to raise money for an organization that represented the homeless. It was noted that we probably needed the money ourselves. “How can we spend when we’re the ones struggling?”

But with that generosity, a few things were catalyzed. Our refrigerator broke that month; the organization replaced it. The United Way then came in and offered us cash to help with our Kitchen. Even now a funder has come to offer work on it. All following from our willingness to give to others. Because most people are surprised when a church gives cash to other people.

Without expecting a return back.

What we created was a “stimulus package.” It was the multiplier effect. And when we live lives of generosity, we’re catalyzing communities.

Granted, there are limits. The highest form of charity encourages sustainability, not dependence. And there are lots of steps along the way. The first step, alas, is coercion. Or “guilt” as they say in the religiosity business. The last step is out of love, so that the other person can get back on their feet.

For what its worth, there are about 5 tag sales happening in the area on the same day. I imagine that people will buy from several of the sales, and next year, they will donate them to be sold again. I can’t help but think that we got donations of things that were bought from this rummage sale several years ago. The money gets passed around, enough for us to pay a few bills and continue the daily work. But the catalyzing force was the generosity of people willing to bring goods to the church.

The work of the church then transforms other people’s castaways to what other people desire. As people stop hoarding, money is multiplied.

Like love.

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