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Justin Welby: Salvation through legislation
You might think an Archbishop of Canterbury who knows a thing or two about balance sheets would be an improvement on his predecessor whose cluelessness regarding the financial crisis was always painfully apparent. Then again, you might be wrong. Knowledge may be power, but knowledge on its own does not necessarily liberate you from the clutches of power.
Justin Welby, since 21st March 2013 head of the Anglican Church and therefore spiritual leader of many millions of people worldwide and of the established church in England (whatever that may mean practically nowadays), having once been ‘treasurer of the oil exploration group Enterprise Oil PLC in London’, according to Wikipedia, is now also a member of the ‘cross party parliamentary banking commission’.
In an interview with George Parker of the Financial Times, aired on BBC Radio 4 on 27th April, he stated that he is worried about a ‘culture of entitlement’ that has ‘affected many areas of the City [of London]’. The financial sector seems ‘disconnected from what people see as reasonable in the rest of the world.’ So far so good, you might think. But what remedy does the clergyman suggest?
Welby wants to ‘raise professional standards’ by way of a ‘formal training’ for bankers, including an ‘exam’, to be policed by an ‘agency’ closely ‘linked with the regulator’.
By this statement, Welby reveals himself as follower of the ideology of ‘salvation through legislation’. This term is used by Gary North here to describe the basics of the social science departments at all the most influential universities in America. This is surely no less the case in the UK. (Welby received a B.A. degree in history and law from Trinity College, Cambridge.)
This ideology is part of what North, in his book ‘Moses and Pharaoh’, calls ‘power religion’, one of the most prominent biblical representative of this being the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. (In his book, North contrasts ‘power religion’ with what he identifies as the two other possible basic religions: ‘dominion’ [represented in Exodus by Moses] and ‘escapist’ [represented by the Hebrew slaves who after their first taste of God-given freedom in the desert would rather return to the fleshpots of Egypt].)
In the interview, the Archbishop seemed to sense that something in his statement did not quite fit with what he is supposed to represent. Because when the interviewer asked him if legislation will ever be enough without a ‘higher standard of morality’, Welby hastened to add that ‘regulation itself is not enough’. But how that change should be brought about? Crickets, as the Americans say. No answer was attempted. No such question was asked, either (yes, I know: what a surprise).
Not a word therefore, of course, on the present practice of allowing the constant dilution of the value of legal tender. Nor on the fact that precisely this practice is at the root of all the moral hazard in the financial world and of most of the world’s current evils – endless and expanding wars, endless and expanding long-term unemployment etc. – financed with the many billions of pounds, dollars, euros and so on, issued by the banking system in the form of paper and digits. Is the current Archbishop clever enough to know this, but also cowardly enough to look the other way?
Welby, not being an actual wielder of the power he religiously seems to support, only an adherent, is at least refreshingly frank about one thing. On being asked whether a recapitalisation of banks would necessarily involve taxpayers’ money, he essentially admitted: ‘yes’, though he phrased it in a more roundabout way: The ‘ethical approach’ involves ‘transparency’ and recognition of the ‘reality of where we are’, he said.
At least with regard to the crucially important monetary policy, the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be in practice not so much a spiritual leader of a Christian community but more a loyal servant of the current Pharaoh.