This blog is the first in a three-part series on money, fairness and climate debates in this election, written by Matt Ceaser, one of our Movement Builders supporting the network of JustMoney Champions.

In the 1992 US presidential election, Bill Clinton’s campaign coined the famous phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid!”. It argued that the simple explanation for any election is that voters would choose according to how they felt the economy was doing – usually understood through the health of their wallets. 

This election will be no different, with the cost of living, tax, spending, inflation and investment all key themes. YouGov’s weekly voter priorities tracker shows that the economy has consistently been the top issue for British voters, only being temporarily overtaken during the Brexit years and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clinton’s slogan may be simple (indeed overly simplistic!) but understanding economics can sometimes feel far from simple. Technical terms and complex mechanics can make the debate feel abstracted from everyday life. But the impact on the cost of living, the environment, wellbeing and so much more of our lives means we can’t afford to just leave economics to experts and vested interests. Understanding that we are the economy, making the connections to our everyday experiences of living, is essential to advocating for a purpose-driven and justice-oriented economy. 

What is money for?

The Bible repeatedly warns against making money an idol. We are reminded that all we have is a gift from God, only ours temporarily, and so we should treat it accordingly.   

The key is not to value money or wealth for its own sake, but to ask what money is for. It is a resource, a medium of exchange, by which we can build up or break down. The command in Genesis 2:15 to not only care for the garden but to work it implies that we are to make use of the gifts God gives; not to sit on the resources we have but to shape our patch of the world in a way that reflects the goodness of that gift and the one who gave it. 

In order to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), we must appreciate the ways their welfare is tied up in ours. We should seek the welfare of the community which God has placed us in (Jeremiah 29:7). We are bound together with that community by the contributions we make through paying tax, and the benefits we enjoy from pooling our resources to fund public services and infrastructure – common goods. 

‘No taxation without representation’ was a driving argument behind the spread of democracy. Voting is the way we get to choose the overriding philosophy of how public money is managed.  

The upcoming election

In the upcoming election, there are big questions about how an incoming government would manage the country’s finances. It is estimated that by the end of the next parliament, the government would need to raise an extra £142bn/year just to maintain public services at their already struggling levels. If they stick to current plans, unprotected departments such as justice, the Home Office, and local government will face a 13% cut.

Politicians, like individuals, need to decide what money is for and choose their priorities accordingly. The emphases of the Conservatives on tax cuts, Labour on economic stability, the Greens on large-scale investment and so on all stem from philosophical beliefs about how best we manage our resources in common.  

So, the question is: what do you think a good and just economy means? Your priority might be: 

  • to care for the poor and excluded in society 
  • to avoid loading future generations with debt 
  • allowing people to keep more of their money 
  • to be a careful steward of public money 
  • to create wealth and grow overall GDP 
  • to invest in public services  
  • to redistribute wealth 

Each of these may be justified from different philosophical perspectives. Our task as Christian voters is to weigh up biblically what each of the parties is offering, and consider whether their plans will be constructive of the common good. 

Questions you could ask your candidates: 

  • What is the purpose of a good economy? 
  • How will your party account for the spending cuts pencilled in for unprotected departments? 
  • Share a personal story about a public service that is important to you – maybe the NHS, social care, mental health services or local government. Ask candidates to explain how their economic programme, if successful, will address this issue. 

General election briefing

For more on the theme of public and private money in this election, download our 2024 General Election Briefing.

You can watch our event to launch the briefing below.

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