Why the Archbishop has got it wrong

Allister Heath
I must confess that I’m glad not to be a member of the Church of England, an institution that has been hemorrhaging members ever since anybody can remember. While I have the deepest respect for the remaining band of Anglican churchgoers (though not for the CoE’s leadership), I can’t say I’m surprised by the Church’s latest woes.

It has long since turned its back on its core competence of bread and butter theology and helping its members navigate life, preferring instead to turn itself into a politicised advocacy group. It is more interested in fighting capitalism, calling for ever more government spending and higher taxes and jumping onto every fashionable left-wing bandwagon (the most recent being banker-bashing and Tobin taxes), rather than talking about God (whom its clerics presumably still believe in), the difference between right and wrong in personal decisions, and how responsible individuals can do good themselves through their behaviour, choices and private charity.

Poverty is idolised, material gain demonised and envy rationalised. The collapse of the Berlin wall and the astonishing wealth-creation (for which capitalism and globalisation are entirely responsible) that has enabled scores of people in emerging nations to climb out of abject poverty has completely passed by the CoE’s establishment. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sounds more like an anti-growth environmental radical or a traditional, pre-Blair socialist Labour politician, rather than a man interested in spreading the word of God. There is no longer room in his church for conservatives, free marketeers or capitalists – or even for mainstream folk who work hard and honestly to better the living standards of their families and don’t want to feel bad about it. This is not a dispute about ethics – it is about a weirdly ignorant rejection of the foundations of our modern, prosperous societies.

Everybody knows that the peculiar economic system that we had during the noughties – its strange combination of big government, free markets, rigged markets and ultra-low interest rates – failed and needs reform. My view is that we need to embrace the discipline of real capitalism – and banish the moral hazard and risk-taking that corporatism and bailouts guarantee – and return to sound money with properly priced credit. Others prefer different solutions. But everybody with a heart wants to fight unemployment, improve the prospects of the poor, and make the world a better place. It is just that we disagree on the means to achieve this. So it is sad that Williams, who clearly has never bothered to engage with the arguments, books or research of his intellectual opponents, still speaks as if he had a monopoly on morality and wisdom. It pains me to say this – but he and the protesters deserve each other.

THERE are three lessons from yesterday’s nonsense. Greece will probably default and quit the euro; sacking military chiefs and calling a high-risk referendum smacks of desperation. Second, watch Italian government bond yields: if they rocket above 7 per cent, we will be in real trouble. Third, the current bailout plans are useless. Expect another summit – and eventually, when all else fails, the European Central Bank to start printing money and political tensions to keep on rising and rising. If this sounds bad, that’s because it really is.

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