Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘Economics is too important to be left to economists’.

Cranmer was going to talk today about ‘Labour cuts’, or ‘Labour cuts versus Tory investment and reform’, or ‘Labour’s cutthroat cutpurse’. It is curious indeed that ‘Tory cuts’ are invariably callous and cold-hearted, while Labour cuts are only ever efficient, prudent and wise.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury has said something quite interesting (yes, indeed) which rather merits some priority attention.

And his matter is not unrelated to Gordon Brown’s capitulation or his refusal to admit (until yesterday) that cuts would indeed be necessary to restore the nation’s finances.

It is not, of course, that Dr Williams does not say interesting things, but they are often so obscured by complex and subtle sub-clauses that the necessary simple and unsubtle ‘soundbite’ is difficult, if not impossible, to elicit. And so he never makes the front page of the tabloids or lead a BBC news item, for what he says is generally irreducible and inaccessible. And when his thesis is occasionally summed up in a few words, it is such a distortion of his meaning and intention that it is virtually impossible for him ever to be treated fairly by a media which has all the subtlety, finesse and taste of instant mashed potato.

The Archbishop has said he fears financiers feel no ‘repentance’ for the excesses which led to the economic collapse.

Repentance is a most interesting word for anyone to use in the media, for it smacks of puritanical misery, racks of guilt, cruel discipline and flagellation.

And these are so passé.

He is, of course, quite right. But Cranmer warned a year ago that the Government bailout of the failing banks simply yields ‘moral hazard’, as the party insulated from risk behaves differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk.

And the Archbishop simply reminds us that when we do not bear the consequences of our actions, there is a consequent false sense of security which stems from a delusion of confidence that we are immune and untouchable. And so we become indifferent and complacent.

Why bother with condoms when you can get an abortion for free?

Why should one need to repent when one has not been forced to confront one’s sin? If one is absolved by the Government, what need the forgiveness of God? Why should one reform what is ultimately shielded from the need to change?

Dr Williams is a theologian entering the realm of economics in exactly the same way as Pope Benedict did with his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate. And, compared to the weighty tome of His Holiness, the Archbishop of Canterbury has, at last, learnt to communicate in the vernacular.

That is why he has made the BBC. Indeed, he is all over the place.

Thus does he call directly for a cap on bankers’ bonuses. He warns that the gap between rich and poor would lead to an increasingly dysfunctional society. He also said that the crisis was a lesson that ‘economics is too important to be left to economists’.

The Prime Minister ought to understand this, for he is equally persuaded that theology is too important to be left to the theologians. And so he perpetually talks of his ‘moral compass’ or preaches that ‘markets need morals’.

Of course economics should not be the preserve merely of the economists, not least because they are frequently as wrong in their economics as the theologians are in their theology. There is indeed room for ‘awkward amateurs’ in all walks of life.

God knows No.10 has been occupied by one for the past two years (and No.11 for a decade before that).

Dr Williams bemoans the lack of ‘closure’ on the events of last year, the effects of which the world is still enduring, and will for some years to come. He said: "There hasn't been what I would, as a Christian, call repentance. We haven't heard people saying 'well actually, no, we got it wrong and the whole fundamental principle on which we worked was unreal, was empty'."

And he identifies the precise reason for this: "It's a failure to name what was wrong. To name that, what I called last year 'idolatry', that projecting (of) reality and substance onto things that don't have them."

But the failure to name what was wrong requires an admission of error, of culpability, of guilt.

And why should one so debase and humiliate oneself when one has been rescued, redeemed and rewarded for one’s failure?

The bankers are simply following the example set by the politicians, who never seem to name what was wrong with their policies and programmes, and are perceived to be incapable of repentance as they are increasingly shielded from the final judgement of the ballot box.

Perhaps politics is too important to be left to the politicians.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps religion is too important to be left to the Archbishops?

16 September 2009 at 09:49  
Anonymous Andrew Lilico said...

When has economics ever been left to the economists? I'm generally all in favour of the idea that there are genuine political judgement-calls to be made and these things should not be seen as pure technocratic exercises, but the issue of the past couple of years has not been too little politics. It has been too much. Politicians have completely screwed up the functioning of capitalism because they didn't trust it enough - and not because they've observed it failing, either.

The reality is that economists are going to have to devise many new theories and regulatory systems that take account of the fact that politicians won't leave nearly enough of what happens to the economists, but instead panic at the first sign that things are not going as they hoped.

16 September 2009 at 09:58  
Blogger Gnostic said...

I didn't hear Beardy stand up and protest while the country was going down the toilet. Why wait until now to plunge in the knife? And so subjectively too...

16 September 2009 at 10:00  
Anonymous McKenzie said...

I am beginning to wonder if creation is too important to be left to God.

(I have worked out the seemingly coincidental nature of the word verification system - it seems to be generating words based on your last comments)

16 September 2009 at 10:30  
Blogger Gnostic said...

In that is indeed the case, McKenzie, His Grace's words are a load of jalfe...


16 September 2009 at 10:46  
Anonymous wonderfulforhisage said...

I heard Dr Williams on the BBC a couple of weeks ago discussing TS Eliot's poetry and was struck by his truly magnificent voice.

I looked at his photograph at the top of your post and was stuck by his truly appalling beard and haircut.

Goodness knows how many potential converts have changed their minds on first glance.

I think he should be told.

16 September 2009 at 10:51  
Blogger Theo said...

I am left wondering at the relevance to His Grace of a photograph of the founder of atheistic politics (and economics) alongside that of the founder of obscure theology. It is a salutary thought that the former has has informed the present government far more that the latter.

Pray and weep for this and the next generations.

16 September 2009 at 11:09  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

I am surprised that the Leader of our church has stated thus:

''There hasn't been what I would, as a Christian, call repentance. We haven't heard people saying 'well actually, no, we got it wrong and the whole fundamental principle on which we worked was unreal, was empty'.''

The Leader, unusual for such a brilliant and gifted intellectual, commits a presumptuous error: he presumes that non-Christians should repent.

If the church has failed to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and in consequence we have not witnessed conversions and repentance then on what basis should bankers repent?

It is like asking Marxists to repent. Why should they, since in their view the original sin of capitalism occurred when our economy moved from being an agrarian and feudal economy to an industrial one. The sin lies in the wealth creating bourgeoisie not in the Marxist intellectual committed to his praxis.

Why should Stalin, on the basis of Russian communism, volunteer to repent for dispatching 20 million souls to the Gulag Archipelago?

Indeed it would be like asking the disciples of Nietzsche, the Nazis, or the Libertarians on the fringe of the Conservative Party to repent. Their own systems of thought, when followed consistently, do not provide for repentance (for how can they be wrong when following consistently that which is demanded by their system?).

No wonder, as soon as you insert a Judaeo-Christian into the public square trumped up charges are presented against him; witness testimony is often not in accord; normal court procedures and the rules of evidence are suspended (special case, you see); the world must see that justice is being done (show trial); he is convicted; grounds for appeal are dismissed followed by a severe beating; on some occasions an impromptu stoning; perhaps a hanging or burning. Whatever happens, truth must be hung up on the scaffold.

For how else can the World feel secure in its wrongdoing?

16 September 2009 at 11:25  
Blogger Jonathan said...

As Dr Lilico says, the problem is not that Capitalism has been tried and found to fail; rather it has been found hard and so left untried.

The banks worked this out long before the rest of us, and their behaviour was entirely rational.

16 September 2009 at 12:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"bailout of the failing banks simply yields ‘moral hazard’, as the party insulated from risk behaves differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk."

No one is less happy than I about the way this has turned out, with business as usual in the financial communities and a general sense that they somehow have been part of the solution rather than most of the problem.

But the problem with the moral hazard argument is basically the same one confronted when countries impose sanctions on other countries -- to what extent are we willing to make the powerless suffer in order to mete out punishment to the (guilty) powerful? It's easy to forget that economists were unclear just how great a catastrophe we faced last year. It was unclear where the collapse would end. If governments had simply let the banks fail, it might have destroyed the economic lives of God knows how many people who were not (guilty) financiers or (guilty) minions of financiers or (arguably guilty) people who were talked into taking unreasonable risks by the minions of financiers, but people who had no obvious connection to the financial system beyond having to earn a living and buy their daily bread.

16 September 2009 at 13:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can invent all the quasi sociologocal theories amd systems you like, but there is only one inescapable truth: Life has always been a brutal struggle for the survival of the fittest. If you are seeking fairness, equality and justice, then you will need to get yourself a fockin powerful telescope because these things are not to be found anywhere in close proximity to planet earth.

If you give all your money to a bunch of people who don't say what they do with it, then maybe you need to get with the programme. They want your money because money is what gets you things. So the more money you have the more things you get (in very simple terms). So giving away your money is foolish, is it not? Paying these people to look after you money is foolish, is it not? For example, look what they do with it; they use it for their own gain, and now they have used it, they want some more (in very simple terms).

16 September 2009 at 14:11  
Blogger John R said...

Coming from the head of an organisation that's stunningly wealthy and takes full advantage of the capitalist banking system to make sure it stays that way, his address reeks of hypocrisy.

Comments about cammels and needles spring to mind.

16 September 2009 at 14:13  
Anonymous Anguished Soul said...

Where does being a druid fit in with all this?

16 September 2009 at 15:27  
Anonymous WannabeAnglican said...

Dang! Were Marx and His Current Grace separated at birth?

16 September 2009 at 15:38  
Blogger Red Kite said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 September 2009 at 16:01  
Anonymous Alfred Wells said...

Your Grace,

Some satire to lighten the mood:

16 September 2009 at 16:20  
Blogger tapsearcher said...

Ray Tapajna Chronicles forecasted our economic storms years ago based on experts like Sir James Goldsmith who wrote The Trap ( he led political movements in both England and France.) and Manuel Castells who wrote about the "Bewildered New World" - see

Ray also explores the latent response of religion and philosophy to the global economic arena at and reviews Pope Benedict's economic encyclical at reacting to the "Bewildered New World"

16 September 2009 at 16:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above link by 'Alfred Wells' maybe off topic, but it is one of the funniest things I have read in a while. It prompted me to click on his image, wondering who is Alfred Wells, and this is what came up:

"When not pre-occupied with work, Alfred spends his spare time dressing up as a woman."

It just got funnier!

16 September 2009 at 16:57  
Anonymous len said...

It is interesting and not at all surprising that Gods financial system is the exact opposite of the 'worlds financial system'

Gods system,Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over... [Luke 6:38]

The Worlds system, (spoken by Gordon Gekko) The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind.

16 September 2009 at 17:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think that you are indeed lacking for a better word. Greed is not appropriate for what I think you might be trying to say.

It's remarkable how one misplaced word can give meaning to sayings like 'stop talking through your arse'.

16 September 2009 at 18:17  
Anonymous len said...

I think greed fits very well.

16 September 2009 at 18:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Greed is the expression of the vanity and materialism of the false ego. The cancer upon our Earth today is the domination of the false ego and our divorce from the natural world. Collectively, among every human being, vanity leads to segregation and competition; competition leads to fear and greed, greed leads to deceit and immorality, and immorality is the breeding ground for illness; waging war on our Earth. Every act of hatredness and destruction on our world begins with self hate and self destructiveness, and it all begins with a break down in communication; communication through the arse gland rather than through the intended intelligence locked in the cells of the conscious mind.

16 September 2009 at 19:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be a break down in communication here because you have a capital 'T' after the comma in your first sentence of the last paragraph. So I am not sure whether you are quoting someone else or if this is indeed your own notion.

16 September 2009 at 19:25  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Some comments here are less than erudite, I see; and in foreign English, too. I sense euro-flak. Perhaps they're gearing up a campaign of subversion as the Irish vote approaches...

Len - yes; I think "greed" is apposite. It goes well with the GorMand partnership, too!

You also give a nice sense of the 'up-so-down' perception so beloved of Satan and his works. Thank you.

Someone mentioned Druids... I always thought they were the guardians of their history and culture. I've often wondered how that works with the ABC - after all, the Welsh presumably adapted that tradition even as they retained their Christianity and developed their literacy: before Augustine, Theodore, and Hadrian arrived.

16 September 2009 at 20:49  
OpenID manicbeancounter said...

In calling sinner's behind the crisis to repent, should we not be looking at the involvement other parties?
The central banks , who lowered interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst and again after 9/11. But were then not courageous to raise the interest rates when there was clearly an asset price bubble from 2002 onwards.
The regulators, who got so immersed in rubber stamping the detailed forms that financial institutions fill in, that they failed to see the systemic risk that was staring them in the face.
The politicians who pretended that they had 'ended boom & bust', whilst cheering on the excesses and fuelling it through massive spending increases.
The Pharisees were very concerned about the detail of the religion - of dutifully observing the laws of the Judaism and enforcing it on others. But they lost sight of what religion was all about – Loving God with all your heart and loving one's neighbour as oneself.
Like the Pharisees, we have lost sight of the bigger picture. We have politicians so keen on showing their superiority that they forget they are there to serve us. If one rugby match descends into a brawl, then you blame the players. If the whole league suddenly has major injuries in all matches, then you should apportion blame to the governing body and the referees.

17 September 2009 at 00:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Religion is too important to be left to Dr Williams!

17 September 2009 at 01:03  
Anonymous not a machine said...

The Arch Bishops newsnight interview is worth a look . He came out a work in progress that the abilty to be defrauded or deluded has a very origional sin aspect.
At first I thought he didnt stand a chance , but having reflected upon it , he might be onto somthing.

In one sense the eden story is about the innocent being seduced by offer of knowledge so as to know as much as god does. It is a choice where the consequences are not explained, by a fallen nature that cannot become innocent again.

It is debt that cannot be repaid except by toil .

The fallen are perhaps jealous/envious of the apparent credit of the innocent , yet putting the innocent into debt does not cure there own debt .

It says when Adam and eve were expelled, the gate to eden was guarded by a flashing sword , which would seem to suggest that anyone who wills to enter will be destroyed in the end , and man made Eden is clearly different and is sentence of work for mankind that cannot attain what god created .

One aspect of Rowan Williams thinking makes complete sense , the seduction of the innocent , the greed of the fallen.

How we can return to Eden is perplexing , repentence would seem like a step as there is some truth at both the indivual and the government level .

A bad leader or politics based on greed or even other aspects of the fall can destroy more of the Eden, which helps explain why people in some countries die and suffer due to poor agriculture and war .

Very interesting , hope he works it out , perhaps there are debts that are not money , jesus never ran up any moral debts nor financial ones , judas on the other hand got Thirty pieces of silver and still could not repay what he had done .

there is perhaps somthing in the destructive nature of debts in the sense that we attempt to take time or power for our own and that must have a godly price .

17 September 2009 at 01:58  
Blogger Giles Smedley said...

An excellent blogpost, your Grace.

17 September 2009 at 04:58  
Blogger Les said...

The title is self explanatory.I am fed up with that nicey-nicey, politically correct, pseudo-Christianity which almost always supports leftwing attitudes - which in most cases are actually anti-Gospel. UPDATED DAILY. This is not a forum.

Check it out!

17 September 2009 at 07:42  
Anonymous Adrian P said...

I think we are in this position nto because Capitalism doesn't work, but because Parliament broke the Law.
It allowed Banks to create money out of thin air called credit.
This is fraud.
It borrows rather than coins our money,forcing as yet unborn children to pay back these loans that we could have coined ourselves free of charge.

17 September 2009 at 08:46  
Anonymous churchmouse said...

not a machine - I'm unsure I've properly understood your post on debt; but it seems to omit a most important point.....

Christianity says that Christ repaid the debt of Original Sin. He did it in terms that idiot humanity can understand - he paid with his earthly life. He's even called the Redeemer: the one who buys back.

This doesn't mean that we have a clean slate to sin with impunity during the 'life'span: rather that, after Christening, if we do our best to understand and follow God's will, and if we repent sincerely of our misdemeanours (especially by not repeating them over and over) - He may finally judge us worthy to return to His Presence.

As for the seduction of the innocent... Well isn't seduction just sugar-coated rape? So if the victim acts according to Christian doctrine as above; and if, in addition, the experience teaches the victim about the nature of evil in relation to God's Will; and if the victim then uses that knowledge to help defend himself and others against evil: then on whom does the guilt devolve?

To bring this back on-strand --- I say, in view of the above: Politics is definitely too important to be left to Anti-Christ's politicians.

17 September 2009 at 13:23  
Anonymous sydneysider said...

I agree with non mouse that I find
the foreign anonymous' obsession
with len's arse disconcerting and
unhelpful to the discussion

17 September 2009 at 18:08  
Anonymous not a machine said...

churchmouse Christ is the redeemer/saviour , not disputing that . Perhaps in the current context he is , to use a modern term "our exit strategy". Rowan Williams is at times so deep and contemplative it is not always easy to grasp what he is trying to say .
When he spoke I couldnt help but think he was trying to explain how we get into debt and how there is somthing about the Eden story that explains this.

There are positions that we shouldnt be worried by financial debt , as overall the capitalist system has some of the best means to distribute/spread wealth , and banks are a necessary part of that .

What startles me is the moment when eve is propositioned "do you not want be like god" , eve has no knowledge , she is just working on what god told her not to do .
The serpent never did tell her she would suffer , and it just strikes me that no bank has even considered the suffering its own casino wealth propositions would cause .

Eve could not tell good from bad , could not even argue with serpent , perhaps when goverments spin , bankers aquiesce , it creates a similar scenario to the offer of the fruit of the tree of knowledge , for once we do have debt , we are thrown out of Eden.

The thought that the banks are busily trying to remake the same structures , bonuses and offers does not show repentence , if these masters lose christian morality they take loads of people with them .

18 September 2009 at 02:33  
Anonymous John Knox said...

It's not so much the bonusses. The Archbishop seems to do sweet blow nothing except getting publicity for himself and making the life of a few topmanagers less lucrative. Attacking these is rather cheap windowdressing, while the system is left intact.

What is desperately needed, is an overhaul of or perhaps and end to the institutionalized gambling that is euphemistically called stockmarket.

To protect nations against international political opportunism we need the gold or an other fixed standard back.

We have allowed economy to BECOME psychology and made ourselves vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, it's the same problem as we face in other areas of life: Man has become the standard. Fifty percent plus one overturns right.

I wish his Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had tackeled the underlying issues, instead of making cheap populist talk about bonusses. These were just a symptom of a distorted system that was produced by greed. Now we leave the system intact; Force bankers and the lot to continue to work with it, just for less (direct) pay; and expect them to repent?!

18 September 2009 at 03:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks more like Catweasel

18 September 2009 at 15:37  

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