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Friday, December 19, 2008

Battle for the moral high ground?

The Times has branded the 'war of words' between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister as a 'battle for the moral high ground'. In reality though both are right because they are largely talking about separate things.

The Archbishop has quite rightly pointed to the drive for never ending and unsustainable credit as one of the sources of the economic troubles we find ourselves in. He describes the credit crunch as 'a welcome “reality check” for a society that had become driven by unsustainable greed.' Dr Williams believes that the country has been “going in the wrong direction” for decades by relying on financial speculation to generate wealth rather than “making things”. In that regard his analysis is very similar to that of Vince Cable and, I believe spot-on.

I think though that the Archbishop is mistaken in carrying forward the analogy to the state. Gordon Brown is quite right to say that we cannot "walk by on the other side when people are facing problems". Even though I disagree with the details of the government's rescue package I believe that it is right that the state should borrow to invest in our future. As long as that investment is sustainable, it can play a valuable role in easing some of our problems and slowing down the impact of the recession.

What has to come with that though is a new attitude (and regulations) towards consumer debt and our financial institutions. We must not allow the sort of abuses that led us to this situation to occur again if we can help it. That is why the Government has to demonstrate that its approach to this recession is twin-track; alleviative and preventative.

In that regard the Archbishop's intervention has been useful in reminding us that we have to learn the lessons of the past and act on them as well as trying to deal with the consequences of our own mistakes.
Got to say, I was more impressed that the Archbishop's favorite film is 'Muppet's Christmas Carol' - it's enough to make me consider joining the church!
...I wouldn't go that far.
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