Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The dearest Darling Budget – his first and last

Cranmer knows that man does not live by bread alone, but it certainly helps to assuage the pangs of hunger. But the price of a loaf has ridden monumentally over the past year, all because of soaring grain prices in the global market. Yet there has been little mention of this in the ‘mainstream media’ at all. Charles Moore writing in The Spectator is an exception:

In past ages, a 50 per cent rise in the price of wheat in a year would have produced riots in the streets, even, in some countries, revolution. It shows what a rich society we have become if we no longer regard bread as a staple, and therefore do not protest. Perhaps there will be a gradual shift of perception by which bread will be regarded as a luxury. Instead of serving it ‘free’ to accompany other food, restaurants will make it into a special, swanky course, like dishes cooked with white truffles. People will assume that the bread and wine Jesus offered up at the Last Supper were symbols of kingly luxury rather than the basics of life. And the ‘breadwinner’ of the household will be not the daily earner, but the lottery-winner, the person who struck it rich. Yet I cannot help thinking that the end of the era which environmentalists like Prince Charles disparage as ‘our obsession with cheap food’ will quite soon stir up public anger. Green prohibitions on GM crops will come to seem as oppressive as the Corn Laws.

It is axiomatic that one cannot buck the markets, so what interventions before breakfast, before lunch and before dinner may one expect today from Mr Darling, for intervene and interfere he most certainly shall, not least in the realms of private property (ie money).

According to Proverbs 29:4, ‘By just government a king gives his country stability, but by forced contributions he reduces it to ruin’. When complaints become social and economic, when farmers may not work the land and when workers lay idle, a government is in jeopardy.

There all manner of humanitarian injunctions in Scripture that the wealth of the people should sustain the people as a whole, but it the problem of poverty is to be resolved by the action of the individual or perhaps the individual on behalf of the family (Ex 22:21-24); it was never intended that such a person would not be free to do as he chooses. There was no formal law during this era to compel him to take care of the underprivileged, but a constant appeal to the conscience. And even for those who insist that the injunctions emanate from the royal court, they did not constitute state law.

The annual budget long ceased to have anything to do with ‘social justice’, and has become little more than a conjuring trick. Bertrand Russell once said that the essence of politics is obtaining money from the rich and votes from the workers, under the pretext of protecting them from each other. If he had tried to define party politics, he could not have done better, but the true meaning of politics is to serve the ‘whole’ - the entire community. When politics is understood in this sense, meaning knowledge of and duty towards the community, then its pursuit becomes a duty for everyone, and Christians in particular.

The problem with New Labour – under both Mr Blair and Prime Minister Brown – is that their ‘third way’ politics has been a sham. Mr Blair was positively messianic in his creed, promising at one point that he would save Africa. He did not. And then came Mr Brown, boasting his Scottish Presbyterian roots and invoking Scripture to suffer the little children (all of them). But he has not. They articulated a kind of liberation theology, but they brought neither revolution nor radicalism: the poor were not enriched, and the oppressed have not been liberated. Indeed, poverty has increased over the past decade, and the gap between rich and poor has widened. In truth, all have been impoverished under New Labour, and all have been increasingly oppressed by the gradual erosion of ancient liberties.

There is little sense in the Old Testament of witnessing to the demands of the poor for their rights within their own society; it is rather the expression of the conscience of those who have sufficiency. So Mr Darling might spare us his hour-long sermon on Mammon today – messing around with jots and tittles, cutting a penny here and adding a penny there, robbing Peter to pay Paul - and instead quite simply cut taxes considerably whilst simultaneously exhorting the population to give freely and generously. It is with the perception that the State now performs all acts of charity and has nationalised welfare that philanthropy has diminished.

Cranmer would give his right arm (if he but had one) to be rid of this tired and tedious and over-taxing anti-Christian government, and he looks forward enormously to the Conservative Party building upon its innovative and excellent foundational budgetary plans of taxing Bacardi Breezers.


Blogger John H said...

There is little sense in the Old Testament of witnessing to the demands of the poor for their rights within their own society; it is rather the expression of the conscience of those who have sufficiency.

Pardon? Just to take James 5 (OK, that's the NT, but it reflects a very OT perspective) as an example, yes, it's addressed to the rich, but James writes:

The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

In other words, the problem with the rich is that they have ignored "the demands of the poor for their rights within their own society" - but God hasn't.

As for the golden age of charitable giving and philanthropy that supposedly existed before the welfare state, I don't see too many workhouses round here these days. My father (who grew up in a poor area of Leeds) had no medical records until he was six years old, when the NHS was founded - is that the sort of world we should be returning to?

And anyway, you'll need to be more specific. Which government spending precisely is to be replaced by exhortations to individual charity? By how much is the NHS budget to be cut? What areas of welfare spending are to be cut or abolished? How much is the education budget to be reduced in order to leave room for philanthropic spending on "poor scholars"?

12 March 2008 at 09:54  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr John H,

Of course there is chastisement of the wealthy for oppressing the poor - His Grace never said there was not - but the Christian outworking of such a reality need not necessarily demand that the state should provide all the remedies.

What is wrong with churches running adoption agencies, for example? The voluntary/religious sector needs to be reinvigorated precisely because it will do some things better than the state has ever been able to. If education, why not in other areas?

12 March 2008 at 10:54  
Blogger Tomrat said...

John H,

So your solution to the problem of the rich disenfranchising their labourers is for the state to play God? You have misquoted scripture here John; James 5 deals specifically with the Rich withholding legitimate payment for work being done by the poor for them - Jesus Christ illustrated on several occasions what happens to these people - you are comparing this wrongly to compassion/grace to the poor; effectively they have done nothing to earn charity but it is Christians who should reflect God's grace by giving it freely.

His Grace is pointing out the sad fact that for all their pomp, bluster and grandstanding NuLabour have eroded civil liberties and charitable giving (and the fact that though we are richer we give less than our Victorian counterparts did in terms of % of our wages) as a result of the perception that "The State" now gives generously to these charities so we dont have to. All this they have done with little benefit except to their cronnies who seek power over men (groups like Common Purpose for example).

Charity nowadays is a misnomer; many of our largest charities are firmly politicised and as such are in the party in power's pocket - I am of course not referring to NuLabour, but to the EU, who is peddling its own funds into these charitable businesses to consolidate power on several fronts: "well if UNICEF support european integration I should..."

I have created a petition on the e-petitions website regarding this latter point - the petition calls for the complete abolition of funding to NGO's and charities:
It expires 22nd March - if all who read this signed the petition we could do more good for these charities than Labour does via our taxation, from which it is estimated 33% ends up being put to actual use rather than being lost through beuracracy; how much could you do with that extra 66% for charity?

12 March 2008 at 11:42  
Blogger John H said...

Your Grace: I don't have any problem with churches running adoption agencies and so on (quite the opposite), or indeed the reinvigoration of the charitable sector. However, I don't believe that taking a sledgehammer to state provision is the answer, however much "exhortation" may go alongside that. Nor do I believe the evidence of the past supports the assertion that private philanthropy could fully replace state provision.

Also, very many of the major charities now derive a large part of their income from the state. Whatever you think of that as an approach, simply saying "Let's slash taxes, radically cut back spending and hope people give to charity instead" will cause massive damage to the existing charitable sector.

Finally, I think you may have missed the point I was making about James 5. I was not suggesting that you had denied the Bible contained chastisement of the wealth for oppressing the poor. Rather, your original post suggested that the Bible's concern was with the consciences of the rich rather than the voices of the poor. But in James 5 (at least - haven't had chance to check out the prophets, e.g. Amos), precisely what the rich are chastised for is ignoring the voices and demands of the poor, not simply the lack of a "conscience" in some abstract sense.

That still leaves plenty of room for debate as to the role of the state in how the voices of the poor, marginalised and oppressed (the full "poor, widows, aliens, orphans" deal) are heard and their proper demands met, but what we can't do is pretend that the Bible is concerned merely with promoting a conversation among the rich while the poor wait silently outside waiting for people's "consciences" to start functioning.

12 March 2008 at 11:49  
Blogger John H said...

Tomrat: thanks for your comment, which crossed with my second.

I disagree that I have misquoted Scripture here. What ++Cranmer said was "There is little sense in the Old Testament of witnessing to the demands of the poor for their rights within their own society". But in what way are "the cries of the harvesters" not "demands ... for their rights within their own society"?

As I've already said, that leaves a lot of scope for disagreement among Christians as to the extent to which those who have money or power should exercise that for the benefit of the poor through the state or independently of the state.

So your solution to the problem of the rich disenfranchising their labourers is for the state to play God?

Yes, that's precisely what I've been saying. Thanks for summarising it so well. </heavy sarcasm>

12 March 2008 at 11:55  
Anonymous oiznop said...

Cameron had an excellent speech. It was a DULL DULL DULL budget from a man almost as dull as his predecessor.

The only thing I remember is legislation to force supermarkets to charge for plastic carrier bags. So here we are, with pensioners in poverty, children starving, huge debts and the main focus is 'green' gimmicks.

12 March 2008 at 13:37  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
your last three paragraphs seem quite devastating , indeed enough to bring the wrath of nu labour apollogist.

the third way and the gap between rich and poor , a gap a might add that is filled with debt.

the way charities become goverment and government become charities.

i shall quote from Ezekiel 28

The word of the lord came to me Son of man say to the ruler of tyre "this is what the Sovereign Lord says"

In the pride of your heart you say "I am god , I sit on the throne of god in the heart of the seas" But as you are a man and not god though you think you are as wise as god.
Are you wiser than daniel, is no secret hidden from you?
By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries.
By your great skill in trading you have increased your walth and because of your wealth your heart has grown pround .

(the rest too may be prohetic for nu labour)

this is nothing more than a state funded ego trip for ecnomics and politics students whose lack of wordly wisdom is now an inescapable national embarrassment. none of them has had a real job , emotional juvenilles who only have ability to be as wise as there advisor of which there are now 400 in this goverment.

Whilst his grace may be accused of venom , i say "the snake stikes who it feels has offended its right to life"

12 March 2008 at 14:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have three buttocks

Is this relevant?

12 March 2008 at 23:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am not easily impressed by clearly over educated word-smiths as yourself.

However your grace, does impress me very often.

As a lifetime Libertarian I would like to state for the record, that there is nothing that impresses me or any other of my fellow Libertarians about this government.

If fact the Libertarian movement has gone into a state of extreme almost terminal depression. This, when it seemed only a short time ago, that we have finally won the argument.

Almost complete failure seems to have now been snatched from the jaws of victory and so very quickly.

There is nothing about libertarianism that recommends corruption on all levels of the executive. When government conspire without reference to the law with multi-national banking corporations to bugger up freedom possibly forever. Things are not just not libertarian they are down right fascist with no where to run.

Ayn Rand was not a libertarian, she was a prophet of doom, and a fascist at heart. She and her writings should have been a warning of things that without question would come to pass, in the not so distant future.

Not a thing to blindly follow without clear logical informed thinking. So not to fully understand what can easily happen when the collectivists actually become or have always been the corporate capitalists in the first place.

Which is anything but Libertarian.

It is indeed in your face FASCISM in all but name.


Congratulations on remembering the big forgotten question, which is the price of a loaf of bread. Believe me ordinary people poor and not so poor, still eat plenty of the stuff. In my local small Tescos the price of the cheapest loaf now exceeds £1.50 for our Lords sake.

Atlas shrugged

13 March 2008 at 02:32  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

why is it that libertarians have no answer for deviousness ??

if that is the case what is libertarianism niave ??

what is the cause of bad ??

how does liberty help poverty ??

13 March 2008 at 03:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A budget speech that was so grey it was as dull as dishwater. It could well have been given by John Major LOL!

13 March 2008 at 10:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The success of 'alcopops' such as the spirit-based mixer drinks in a bottle arose from fear of date-rape drugs. These can be dropped into a half of cider, a vodka and orange or a bacardi and coke. But not into a bottle of smirnoff ice or bacardi breezer.

That's all.

Getting hammered is more about cheap wine and cider, then a few pints followed by slammers or shots

13 March 2008 at 11:23  
Anonymous Pete N. said...

Great piece.

13 March 2008 at 13:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hear o Israel

You completely miss the point.

Libertarians believe in personal liberty. But they also believe passionately in the protection of the liberty and freedoms of others.

Therefore the answer for deviousness. Usually ranges from very long jail sentences, to Botany Bay type solutions, to the death penalty.

That of course if that deviousness illegally affects personal property rights, and the sanctity of human life.

The problem is that although we live in a libertarian based country. We also live in a profoundly corrupted, not to say evil, devil worshiping one as well.

But I do not believe you can blame libertarians or the Libertarian movement one tiny little bit for that.

We have always been against all forms collectivism, whichever big banking family is controlling it.

When I read my bible, I understand what I want and can understand. So have my own free relationship with the cosmos and the gods that created it. I believe doing it MY WAY is basically the entire point of human existence. It is certainly the most satisfying method, with all the seemingly endless amount of collectivist evil around in the world these days. You may believe differently, but that of course is your choice.

Atlas shrugged

14 March 2008 at 02:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry you also asked about poverty.

I very much hope this helps you with your obvious but highly understandable ignorance.

Poverty is very very very often, either a man made created illusion or it is a man made created reality.

Individuals have the free gods given human ability to look after themselves and their community in spades and then some. They have proved this to be the case countless amounts of times in history.


Free individuals would, have achieved the virtual eradication of poverty in the whole world by now. If the collectivists powers stopped causing hopeless poverty in the first place.

What then makes matters infinitely worse. They then go about earnestly making the rest as poor and enslaved as possible, trying and deliberately failing to relieve the poverty they themselves deliberately caused.

Atlas shrugged

14 March 2008 at 03:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

churches records running adoption agencies are pretty dodgy. there are important issues alongside plastic bags and alcopops.i work as a latter day beadle for a government agency. poor law thinking has largely been replaced by a rights based agenda. a church or worse private administered philanthrophy system is a prospect that makes me shudder. all those fat monsignors, pompous retired businessmen, and shrewish women in tweeds deciding who gets helped. give me the welfare state anyday.

14 March 2008 at 07:21  

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