A question now . . . who is worth more? An unemployed rural Samoan who works for a day on his plantation and feeds his family (maybe only just) OR someone like my lawyer who works for a day and feeds his family with the best food money can buy PLUS makes so much extra money that he can easily buy a new TV every day of his life? (272x more money per hour than an employed Samoan worker to be precise)? Your answer please?
If you are thinking that maybe there could be something wrong with the financial imbalance with these extremes of income & wealth, that maybe there might be a little injustice somewhere in here, then you like me are starting to deal with the deeper issues of engaging with a third world.
[Pic: Dusk at our boardroom, Swashbucklers, overlooking Apia harbour with a couple of Kayakers, a gentle cooling breeze in the evening, on an open deck in Paradise. What’s it worth? Sure the tables are only knocked up with a local chippie and there’s a couple of mosquitos around to bug your ankles, but it’s actually the same value as wandering into the airconditioned boardroom on the umpteenth floor of a multimillion dollar skyrise for a business-after-5 event. You get Caviar. I get pan-fried swordfish caught that morning from just out there somewhere. Financial Equivalence.]
The concept of Financial Equivalence (our eighth in a series of principles we work by) is not based on economics or financial planning or money markets. Financial Equivalence is a phrase that I have created to explain how we have been planning to apply the biblical principle that we are all created equal before God into our ventures up here. Sometimes otherwise explained that “God has no favourites” or the “He is no respecter of persons”. Acts 10:34. Galatians 2:6. Deuteronomy 10:17. 1 Peter 1:17.
The social disparity of earning power between rural Samoa and the Western world can be seen easily when you convert labour to money. An hourly rate 272 times greater in one country to another is just obscene! But it works in reverse too. When you change your currency to measuring life experiences (rather than just cash) you can then see the depravity of the high-earning lifestyles afforded to some in the West.
For example, what price would YOU (yes, YOU, not someone else!) put on the constant experience of being offered land to use – no rent, no taxes, no catches, where ever you go here in Paradise. Can you measure the value? What price would you put on a volcano? What would YOU do or what price would you put on it, if you were given 300 acres with a 180 degree hilltop view of the Pacific Ocean in Savaii? What price would YOU put on it, if you were given your own private island – YES, Island?
What about the experience of having food brought to you by people who have nothing, as often as you want, and fish caught by the boys last night on a spear and a torchlight – just for you?
How many times would you have to enjoy sitting down and eating a fresh pineapple or have one of your own “Size 2” pigs cooked in an Umu for you every Sunday, before you say “Enough of this nonsense in Paradise – I just really desperately want to get back to the city traffic, my 9.00-5.00 job and my mortgage!” – notice I didn’t say HAVE to get back?
To be able to go to your own backyard and pick a pineapple or a tomato or taro or a coconut and wander down to the markets to buy a WHOLE TUNA for the equivalent of maybe $10.00 NZD would be a dream to many Palagi. In fact many HAVE given up the comparative high dollars to experience these things.
So the idea of Financial Equivalence is that we are all worth the same in God’s economy and that (all things being equal and in an ideal world) a man’s wages equals a man’s wages – Samoa, USA, New Zealand or Australia.
This works in a practical sense like so:
Calculate what you create or produce or earn in a day. It may be that your company produces ten car tyres a day. That’s a man’s wages for you. I develop websites – I can produce one in a day. The commercial value of that might be the value of my wages. It could be that you are the equivalent of my lawyer and that you earn a gazillion bucks a day. If your wages for a day have a few extra noughts on them, great – take a note of how many. Work out how much you spend on food and housing and transport for the day, and that’s all a good starting point for calculating Financial Equivalence.
Now transport yourself to Samoa. Put yourself into this situation where you are here and you want to live/holiday/work/help or whatever. Maybe you want to invest a little; maybe you just like what we are doing and want to help out; maybe you want a place to come over to chill and hide out for a while with your mates. What are you going to pay for the privilege of being here if we give you your food, transport, housing, entertainment and whatever you need to live?
You have two main options. The usual one is to check the web – find the cheapest everything, beat them all down in price and hope like
hell crazy that it turns out all right. Maybe it will. Many of the operators and vendors will appreciate your business, even if you do beat their miserly earnings down a bit.
The second option is to engage with us, live with us, experience Samoa and we’ll give it all to you. Just give us back what you’ve got to offer to the value of what we give you – IN YOUR OWN VALUATION SYSTEM and YOUR OWN CURRENCY. So if your currency is AUD, and you manufacture tyres, send us across 70x of your tyres and we’ll look after you and yours for a week. Knock us up a website and we’ll put you up for a night, and feed you and transport you and treat you like the King that you want to be.
And if you are a lawyer or other well-paid individual – great – we take cheques, money-orders, Credit Cards or cash – all with the few noughts on the end of it please!
The point here is not what we receive or how the transaction occurs. The point is also not about making RULES. The point here is to encourage people to see and understand the principle of Financial Equivalence, trying to level the playing field and viewing financial things from the principle that before God, we’re all equal. We want to raise this issue with our Palagi people, to think about it – and rather than try to beat down the locals, step up to the mark and do something fair, right, and just downright cool! Paying a truly fair price.
Now let me hasten to add before the capitalists amongst us get their
t*ts in a tangle hair in a knot, that this is not necessarily a vote for Socialism. It is simply a way of applying God’s principles into a practical situation.
So to a question put to us then: If you receive income/goods/benefit many times more than the average around you, what will you do with it?
The first thing is that we NEVER give it straight to the local people with high wages. Paying or giving one section of society a grossly inflated opportunity or reward over another section of society is simply evil. Just as it is grossly unfair for one person to receive 272 times what another receives, so too is it wrong to pay one rural Samoan worker more than another. Wars have been started over this sort of favouritism.
What we have to do is use the excess, basically profit, for the benefit of the whole, to grow, exponentially is theoretically possible, but practically as much as we can so that our systems and vision are replicated thus creating more opportunity for others to benefit. Samoans don’t need or want to have $2,000.00 per week each. They are actually very happy with $200.00 a week just as long as they can put food on the table, pay their taxes and get on with life. The more excess that we have, the more that we can do.
“Ah-ha!” You say. “I knew all along that this was a profit-making scheme!”
Yes it is! It is a Charitable Trust that is gaining benefit for the beneficiaries (just like the Samoan churches over here run BINGO nights for the benefit of [enter your likely recipient here]), and if we wanted to, it could be a lovely chance for Dennis A. Smith and Co. to make a killing in the process.
Of course we WILL make a profit. We WILL develop good sustainable businesses and Lord willing, achieve our goals, but in the process we will be feeding ourselves and reinvesting into the work we are doing NOT scraping great bundles of dosh for our selves. Rest assured we would not still be here if that was our primary intention! If we’re all millionaires at the expense of people who believe in the principles we work to, well, so be it, we must have succumbed to temptation to be greedy. I’m sure that there will be many around ready to remind us all of our own values if it ever starts to happen!
I believe that when people around us become aware of ways to APPLY Financial Equivalence in practical ways that many more people will be able to sleep at night, use their talents and opportunities productively, and basically, make the world a better place. Others can sell this message internationally as they so desire. We just want to raise it as part the principles we work by.
It’s not a goal. It’s not a rule. It’s just a principle.
- Barter – exchange – collaborative commerce – whatever you want to call it, the principle we are working with is that of exchanging and sharing the assets of two parties, for the benefit of both.
- It’s not about money. It’s about people; sharing a vision and building relationships.
- Use what we have in our hands (exercising faith), as instructed to do (obedience).
- We wish to use only the best available to us.
- Our Take Nothing Home policy means that we eliminate excessive personal gain.
- It is more blessed to give than to receive
- We encourage a Cross-Cultural Partnership, blending the best of two cultures
- We aim for Financial Equivalence whereby we attempt to level the playing field financially.
The Fourteen Principles:
- 1. What’s yours is mine
- 2. Vision > relationships > money
- 3. Use what you have
- 4. Use only the Best
- 5. Take Nothing Home
- 6. Giver’s Gain
- 7. Cross Cultural Partnership
- 8. Financial Equivalence
- 9. Everyone loves a winner
- 10. A biblical value-base
- 11. Work Smarter, Not Harder
- 12. We should empower others
- 13. Do The Right Thing
- 14. Walk the land