Views from the Pews: God’s gift to us all is freedom of choice

All Saints' Church on Londesborough Road, Market Weighton.
All Saints' Church on Londesborough Road, Market Weighton.

I think it was someone called Wavy Gravy who said ‘if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there’. I’m too young to have been really involved and, perhaps as a result, I remember the time quite well!

One of the things I remember is the concept of a fair profit. We covered it in RE and the example was a packet of biscuits.

Someone bought ingredients and made biscuits; that person needed to sell the biscuits for enough to cover ingredients and overheads, and make a profit to live on.

The biscuits had to be transported and that added cost, including the wages of the driver. The shopkeeper had overheads, and needed a profit to live on, so the cost of the ingredients was quite a small part of the cost of the biscuits.

That all sounds very sensible but, since the 60s, the concept of fair profit seems to have been replaced by the idea that prices should reflect what people are willing to pay. It seems fair enough, but is it?

At one end of the spectrum we have designer labels, where the cost of goods bears no resemblance to the cost of the materials or the cost of manufacture. Designer trainers, perhaps. The price is high because we’re willing to pay it.

At the other end is something even more disturbing. Our supermarket chains have ‘driven down prices’, and this sounds good. But many prices have now become so low that they cannot cover materials and reasonable rates of pay for the people involved in manufacturing, distribution and retail. Think milk; think school uniforms.

Spiritually, our work is important. One reason is that it’s a contribution to God’s ongoing work in creating and maintaining the universe. Another is that it gives people choice: they earn money, more than enough for survival; when they spend it, they can exercise the freedom of choice which God has given to each of us, as a fundamental part of our humanity.

High profits are not an end in themselves, and low prices are not good if people are denied work or reasonable wages in order for those prices to be low. It’s up to all of us to exercise our God-given freedom of choice, and be willing to pay for other people to be in a position to exercise theirs.