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The Ethics of Share Investment: Should a Christian Invest in the Share Market? by Chew Chern

Chew Chern

Chew Chern is a Singaporean who studied in England, where she learnt some economics and lots about God and became a Christian there. She then spent 3 over years as an investment banker and then went on to the much better job of teaching the Bible fulltime. She then spent 4 great years in Moore Theological College in Sydney knowing God better, and is now a women's worker at Singapore Management University and National University of Singapore.


The author has kindly allowed us to publish her paper here. It is available to download as a PDF: The Ethics of Share Investment: Should a Christian Invest in the Share Market?

Abstract

This project takes a personal-ethical look at one of the key institutions of modern capitalism ? the share-ownership system. We first clarify what participation in the share-market is - it is a form of business-ownership and a participation in a separate corporate-personality. We then critique these two participations through the biblical lens on work partnership and economic agency. In the first instance, we see that godly work partnership is relational and those wielding economic authority are to exercise duties of care on those in partnership, proximity and exchange with them. We conclude that the modern corporation's unique characteristics make it extremely hard for a shareholder to exercise these duties of care, because it allows no real control and no real risk.

In the second instance, we see that a godly economic agent needs to recognize the relational telos of work and production. Evaluations of economic agency need to move beyond assessing efficiency to avoid being utilitarian. Godly economic agency should be sustaining community, loving in its processes, recognize production as penultimate, and be ecologically caring. The corporation's economic personhood falls short of such relational demands because of its profit-maximising ethos, and it also leads society in the same idolatrous direction. The shareholder is complicit in this economic ungodliness because he is responsible for the corporation and yet shielded by law from this responsibility/culpability. Hence the shareholder in essence irresponsibly lets loose onto society an un-accountable and anti-social being.

Thus, the share-ownership system is flawed at its heart, exacting deep relational costs while bringing the good of production. However, the Christian response should not be an abandonment. In light of our eschatological and cultural context, the share-market presents a legitimate way to accept exchange relationships to bring about production for the sake of love. Such a retrieval ethic is distinguished from utilitarianism by re-orientating radically the way we do invest - for love and in love, and tightly remembering our God-given stewardship responsibility in the work and production He has entrusted us with.

Contents

  1. Why the Need?
  2. What is Share Investment?
  3. The Godly Business-Owner
  4. The Godly Economic Agent
  5. A Theological Evaluation of Share-Ownership
  6. A Christian Ethical Response in the World

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