Thursday, December 18, 2008

Archbishop challenges building blocks of ecomomic growth

J.Humphries: Is it wise for a cleric to advise the economists? R.Williams: It's suicidally silly I think because I'm not an economist by any stretch of the imagination but I want to ask where these moral questions are in the economic discourse..."
Rowan Williams, current Archbishop of Canterbury, raised serous questions he felt were being unanswered about the cause, impact and solutions to the current financial crisis. In a wide ranging interview, broadcast live on BBC Radio 4's Today program, he questioned, and was questioned on, a wide variety of economic questions and the nature of his answers illustrated a clear moral, rather than economic mindset.
J. Humphries:The problem with your position is that if you are one of the Woolworths workers with no job just before Christmas they are going to disagree with you? R.Williams: I wonder, I think the thing a woolworths worker will want overall is job security and knowledge that their savings are safe... J.Humpries (interrupting)...they want a job.... R.Williams..yes they want a job and, the economy has to be orientated, as I said earlier, to making things to production and making things that allow people to have that security
The Archbishops answers were a fascinating mix of economics and theology. What became clear was his compassion for the individual, yet at the same time his passion for community. His underlying analysis appears to be that the nation has destroyed local communities while trying to build an economy built on false credit. Once our false economy begins to crumble everyone needs to examine the way the economy is being r
R.Williams: My fundamental concern is what makes a society wealthy, in terms of taking everyone's welfare seriously built and what principles this new growth is based upon.
Throughout the interview the Archbishop was at pains to illustrate he was not trying to be an economist. He was more forthright about his views on disestablishment (no different from what he said before), the Iraq War (it was wrong) and the need to put international pressure on to remove Mugabe. Reaction to the interview has been mixed. The morning press briefing at Downing Street issued a cautious response which clearly distanced the government from the Archbishop's statements without outright condemning the man, instead choosing to say the Archbishop 'chooses his own words' while the government gets on with doing what it thinks is right. My personal view is that the Archbishop is right. We cannot get out of debt by getting into more debt. We cannot also continue on a purely service based economy that doesn't include providing for this country the basics. We cannot continue to look to the same old solutions -we need to be looking for new solutions to the current problem. A wide range of NGOs are currently calling for Gordon Brown to 'call time on Global Greed' and to listen to the people, not the Bankers. While the economic establishment has a key role in providing answers, as well as being accountable for previous actions, the fundamental cracks appearing in the economic system mean we have a chance to listen to those currently excluded and build a new inclusive economic system. If we don't we have wasted the opportunity of a lifetime. [Note: If you wish to read an 'outraged from tonbridge wells' reaction to the interview then, as ever, head over to the Methodist Preacher blog for David's latest thoughts]