The Archbishop alters terms of debate

by Ann Pettifor, 9th March, 2009. The Archbishop of Canterbury has today dramatically altered the terms of political debate on the financial crisis.

As one of those invited to dine with him and advise on his speech, I am delighted.

He has framed the debate correctly and fairly and squarely aimed responsibility at “governments committed to deregulation and to the encouragement of speculation and high personal borrowing (that)  were elected repeatedly in Britain and the United States for a crucial couple of decades”, he said. “Add to that the fact of warnings of some of the risks of poor (or no) regulation, and we are left with the question of what it was that skewed the judgment of a whole society as well as of financial professionals.”at de-regulators and those that elected.

For more on the speech go to the Guardian.

The Guardian also has an editorial with this insight: “For their part, Christians in this country used to be much more openly engaged in economic questions. There was the Faith in the City report of 1985, which attacked the social effects of Thatcherism so boldly that Norman Tebbit angrily dismissed it as Marxism. And around the turn of this decade there was the Jubilee debt campaign. But this is a trail that has gone cold. It may be that Dr Williams has been cowed by his self-professed lack of economic expertise, or perhaps he has been distracted by the Anglican communion’s internal battles over the position of gays and women. Whatever the reason, it is to be hoped that this weekend is followed by more interventions – and not only from the Church of England. When it comes to economic policy at least, Gordon Brown was wrong: this is a very good time to be a novice. Many of the experts’ assumptions have fallen apart, and the argument over how to put them together again should be open to all.”

Could not have put it better myself.

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3 comments to The Archbishop alters terms of debate

  • Charles Wheeler

    The section of the speech I balk at is the assertion that, in essence, we get the economic policy we deserve by voting for

    neoliberal parties. I would contend that the elctorate didn’t boot out the Tories in ’97 because they wantedc more of the same

    (deregulation/laissez faire/rising inequality/etc.), but were connedc into elieving Blair’s rhetoric about change/greater equality/and end to

    ‘fat cat’ culture/etc.

    The fact that millions have given up voting since – with just 1 in 5 voting New Labour last time out would seem to

    bear out the idea that the popularity of neoliberalism, if not its infleunce, has been in decline for a very long time (even in her heyday Thatcher

    was the leaderc of a minority party – it just hapoens that our electoral system hands fake parliamentary majorities to minority parties).

    Add the that the incessant propaganda of neoliberal-based news media and the billions (estimated at $50bn in the US) spent in lobbying

    politicians who covet sinecures in the finance sector and who will happily decouple economic decision-making from the democratic process as a

    consequence, and it becomes much harder to argue that the electorate have brought this crisis on themselves.

  • Dr L Brownstein

    The Archbishop is quite right to add a cultural dimension to the financial crisis debate, but he is wrong to exonerate bankers and

    focus exclusively on the system. There is an an interdependent reflexivity between a system and the members who operate within it. They can not be

    separated other than for analytical purposes. Analogously, there is a quite close relationship between poverty and crime, but no one argues that,

    as a result, criminals should avoid punishment.

    Where the Archbishop’s argument has force is its focus on how to prevent future Goodwins.

    We can only effectively do this by changing the system. Analogously, in the same way, we can effectively reduce crime by reducing poverty.

    Simply punishing Goodwin et al. will not prevent the emergence of future Goodwins. A change in the operation of the system will help to bring

    about a change in the culture, including the values brought by Thatcherism, which is the only way to initiate and sustain long term changes in

    behavior. This, however, does not entail that they should not either be blamed or punished for their perfidy.

  • ann

    Thank you both Dr. Brownstein and Charles Wheeler…I think that you are right Charles about the ’97 election….but many

    Tories voted for Tony Blair because he appeared to be offering more of the same…and indeed he pointedly, as did Gordon Brown, endorsed both

    Margarte Thatcher herself, and the transformation of the British economy.

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