The persecution of Christians by Muslims in the Middle East is not news. It is a continuous state of affairs, as much to be expected as unpleasant news is anywhere. It could even be said to be normal.
Among the few journalists who do not ignore it is Raymond Ibrahim. He reports on it frequently.
He recently wrote, at Canada Free Press, about a wave of attacks on Christians in Egypt:
Yet another murderous wave is taking Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority by storm, leading to yet another exodus from their homes.
Last week in al-Arish, Sinai, Islamic State affiliates killed a 65-year-old Christian man by shooting him in the head; they then abducted and tortured his 45-year-old son, before burning him alive and dumping his charred remains near a schoolyard.
The worshipers of “Allah the Merciful” gouged out his eyes, according to witnesses.
Perhaps because of its sensationalist nature — burning a human alive — this story was reported by some Western media. Yet the atrocities hardly begin or end there. Below is a list of Christians murdered in al-Arish in recent days and weeks:
- January 30: A 35-year-old Christian was in his small shop working with his wife and young son when three masked men walked in, opened fire on him, instantly killing the Copt. The murderers then sat around his table, eating chips and drinking soda, while the body lay in a pool of blood before the terrified wife and child.
- February 13: A 57-year-old Christian laborer was shot and killed as he tried to fight off masked men trying to kidnap his young son from off a crowded street in broad daylight. After murdering the father, they seized his young son and took him to an unknown location (where, per precedent, he is likely being tortured, possibly already killed, if a hefty ransom was not already paid).
- February 16: A 45-year-old Christian schoolteacher was moonlighting at his shoe shop with his wife, when masked men walked in the crowded shop and shot him dead.
- February 17: A 40-year-old medical doctor was killed by masked men who, after forcing him to stop his car, opened fire and killed him. He too leaves a widow and two children.
… This recent uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video earlier released by the Islamic State in Sinai. In it, masked militants promise more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross”, a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations”.
As a result of the recent slayings and threats of more to come, at least 300 Christians living in al-Arish have fled their homes, with nothing but their clothes on their backs and their children in their hands. Most have congregated in a Coptic church compound in neighboring Ismailia by the Suez Canal. …
Now here is a short list of measures NOT being taken to help Christian victims of religious persecution by Muslims:
The Pope is speaking out often, loud, and clear against the states that order, promote, sanction, allow, or tolerate the capture, rape, murder, enslavement and displacement of Christians.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is doing the same, and vigorously pressing the British government to demand that the governments of Islamic states put an end to this practice under threat of stopping financial aid. (Only 1% of Egypt’s aid comes from Britain, but the top recipients of British tax-payers’ money include the Islamic states of Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh. Nigeria is the country where Boko Haram – an affiliate of ISIS – has been burning, raping, abducting and mass-slaughtering Christians for years. We have posted often about Boko Haram. In particular, see here.)
The Evangelical Christians of America are pressing the US government to do likewise. (US aid to Egypt = $1.5 billion.)
The United Nations is passing resolutions against it, both in the General Assembly and the Security Council, and taking action to prevent and punish it wherever it is occurring.
Here’s a little more about what the Pope is doing in regard to this matter.
Robert Spencer writes at Jihad Watch:
AP reported … that Pope Francis “embraced the grand imam [Ahmed al-Tayeb] of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, reopening an important channel for Catholic-Muslim dialogue after a five-year lull and at a time of increased Islamic extremist attacks on Christians.” …
Muslims have massacred, exiled, forcibly converted or subjugated hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iraq and Syria. Have these “improved ties” [between the Vatican and the grand imam] saved even one Christian from suffering at the hands of Muslims? No, they haven’t. All they do is make the “dialogue” participants feel good about themselves, while the Middle Eastern Christians continue to suffer. In fact, the “dialogue” has actually harmed Middle Eastern Christians, by inducing Western Christian leaders to enforce silence about the persecution, for fear of offending their so-easily-offended Muslim “dialogue” partners.
Has the Pope welcomed any of the persecuted Christians to the Vatican? Or is that honor reserved only for this man, who will allow for “dialogue” only when his Christian “dialogue” partners maintain a respectful silence about Muslim massacres of Christians?
The Pope has not welcomed Christian refugees. He invited a pair of Syrian Christian refugee siblings to move to Rome, but changed his mind, disinvited them, and welcomed three Muslim families instead.
AS IF in response to our post of yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out against the persecution of Christians in Pakistan and other Muslim lands.
This is from a report of his interview with the BBC:
Islamist attacks against Christians in Muslim countries are creating an atmosphere of fear and creating martyrs of the faithful in exceedingly growing numbers, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in an interview with BBC Radio. …
The Most Rev. Justin Welby said that there had been more than 80 Christian “martyrs” in the last few days alone.
He was speaking about the suicide bombing of All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan. Eighty-five people were killed and more than 200 injured in the bombing, which occurred after a Sunday morning service.
The Archbishop … added that Christians were also being singled out for violence in other Muslim-majority nations.
Christian communities which have existed “in many cases since the days of Saint Paul” are now under threat in countries such as Syria and Egypt, he said. …
He said that in many instances, turmoil in these areas of the world is caused by multiple factors including historical conflicts that have little to do with religion. But these factors cannot explain recent attacks on Christians in places such as Peshawar.
Tentatively, hesitantly, he touches on the possibility that the Christians are being persecuted and “martyred” because they are Christians:
“I think Christians have been attacked in some cases simply because of their faith,” he said. “I think it is true to say — and also in Peshawar — that we have seen more than 80 martyrs in the last few days. … [these Christians] have been attacked because they were testifying to their faith in Jesus Christ by going to church. That is outside any acceptable expression in any circumstances for any reason of religious difference.” …
He said British Muslim leaders were appalled by the attacks, as were Muslim leaders around the world.
Oh? Really? First we’ve heard of it.
So, as usual, the Christian religiously correct position to take when atrocities are being committed is to proclaim that the victims are martyrs, hallelujah! Not a word of moral condemnation of the murderers, even though it’s okay to speak of Muslim leaders being “appalled”. (Go on, Welby – name one, we challenge you!)
There you have it. “Resist not evil.” The core principle of Christian morality. Don’t try to stop the murders, the burnings, the tortures, the abductions … After all, you don’t want to jeopardize the gain in martyrs.
So does Welby offer no suggestions at all as to what might be done?
Sure he does:
“As Christians one of the things is that we pray for justice and particularly the issues around the anger that comes from this kind of killing,” he added. “But we are also called as Jesus did at the cross to pray for those who are doing us harm.”
Welby, who leads almost 80 million Anglicans around the world, said Christians have a duty to pray for their killers.
Don’t be angry, Christians. Take strong measures – get down on your knees and pray.
That’ll teach ’em.
The caption to the picture of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the abominable Rowan Willams, is by James Delingpole. In a clear-sighted article in the Telegraph, he writes:
It seems to me that behind that wild, comedy-wizard beard and those gnomic, overintellectual pronouncements and … platitudes lurks a malign spirit of genuinely evil purpose and influence. And I’m not the only one to have noticed.
Martin Durkin … in a characteristically brilliant essay titled Evil Dressed Up As Good … notes the paradox of the modern Church: that while expressing much concern for … the plight of the poor …, it persistently champions policies guaranteed to make the poor poorer …
The Archbishop of Canterbury is writing a book in which he lambasts the government for shrinking the State. In its current ‘shrunken’ form, the state accounts for around half of the UK economy. This is evidently sinful. It should be bigger, presumably like the economies of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. Anglicanism has become extremely political. The Archbishop’s Council has just reprimanded the government for vetoing changes to the EU treaty last December and warned them not to think of leaving the EU. In his speech at the St. Paul’s service to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee, the Archbishop cursed bankers and said we ought to look after the environment and be less greedy. …
It is not just any old politics the church embraces. It is the big State, high tax, green, protectionist, Keynesian politics of the left and fascist right. But as many people have pointed out, once the sanctimonious veneer is stripped away, these polices have been shown not to be in the interests of ordinary people. Socialism promised to liberate and enrich the masses, but it was discovered long ago that it did the exact opposite. Indeed so many of the bishops’ rants seem to be directed against the interests of the world’s poorest. The E.U. (so beloved of the bishops) is a protectionist club which, it is well known, has caused untold misery to African and Asian farmers, and has also raised the cost of food enormously for everyone in Europe (needless to say, the poorest are hardest hit). The green bandwagon, onto which the bishops have jumped with such fervour, is clearly directed against the world’s poorest people on so many fronts – preventing them from using DDT to keep malaria at bay, preventing them from using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides and GM crops in order to grow more food, preventing them from using the cheapest forms of electrical generation in order to join the modern world, and so on. …
Anyone with eyes to see realises that we’re on the edge of a precipice here. …
Friends, allies: we have our work cut out. Victory is by no means certain. But the consequences of failure are unthinkable.
We could suggest a few other persons who have at least equal claim with the Achbishop to the Universal Gold-Medal Championship of Evil, but we certainly accept that he’s well qualified to compete.
One by one, the East End parishes and boroughs of London are becoming small de facto Islamic Republics. The latest – not the only or the first as this report suggests – is Tower Hamlets. The police fear to act in them. Sharia law is enforced in them.
From the Telegraph:
Britain’s poorest borough … has elected [Lutfer] Rahman as its first executive mayor, with almost total power over its £1 billion budget. At the count last night, one very senior figure in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party said: “It really is Britain’s Islamic republic now.”
Lutfer Rahman has links with “a Muslim supremacist body, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) – which believes, in its own words, in –
transforming the “very infrastructure of [European] society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed… from ignorance to Islam.”
He won a democratic election, standing as an Independent, but –
We should be clear what this result was, and was not. It was a decisive victory. But it was not much of an endorsement by the borough’s people. Turnout, at 25.6%, was astonishingly low, with most voters (particularly the white majority, and they still are a majority) unaware of, indifferent to or turned off by the process. Lutfur’s 23,000-odd votes are only about 13 per cent of Tower Hamlets’ electorate.
It was not a victory for any sort of democracy.
Was it not? Okay, not a “victory” for the electorate, in the sense that most of the local population probably don’t want a jihadist in power, but if most of them couldn’t be bothered to vote then democracy hands the victory to those who do bother.
It was the execution of a careful and sophisticated plan by a small, well-financed and highly-organised cabal to seize control of a London borough. It deployed not just volunteers from the IFE and other bodies but also people paid to campaign by Lutfur’s business backers. Someone also paid for tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of copies of the most pernicious literature ever seen in a British election, in which [Lutfer Rahman’s Labour Party opponent] Mr [Helal] Abbas was falsely smeared as a wife-beater, a bankrupt, a racist and and an insulter of Islam.
Britain has dhimmified itself. It has capitulated to jihad. Most Britons, of all classes, either passively accept Islamization or actively promote it. Prince Charles loves it. The Archbishop of Canterbury worked to have sharia law “partially” adopted, and succeeded.
Fear of offending Muslims holds the nation in thrall.
That is real Islamophobia. Unfortunately there is all too little of the alleged sort – criticism, derision, outspoken rejection, organized opposition – that Muslims whine about. A cowering Western nation is a triumph for the jihadists, proving the efficacy of their terrorism.
So this is what the nation of Nelson and Wellington has come to? No spirit to resist? No pride, no courage?
The Pope is in Britain making speeches, telling whoppers.
Here are comments on some of the things he’s been saying by an atheist, Tom Chivers, writing in the Telegraph:
He’s barely been here two hours and already he has said this:
“Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny’ (Caritas in Veritate, 29).”
The facts: The Catholic Church colluded with Hitler. It could have issued, but would not, an edict to German Catholics forbidding them to assist in the mass murder of the Jews. Almost all the Protestant churches (the exceptions being one or two small sects) actively supported the Nazis, not reluctantly but enthusiastically. A very few individual Christian clerics made personal protests and paid a personal price for doing so, but the churches stood with the regime.
Yet here is the scholarly Pope Benedict XVI blaming atheists and their “extremism”. He either believes or pretends to believe the persistent rumor that Hitler was an atheist, and that the National Socialist movement in Germany was generally atheist. In fact, Hitler was a Catholic.
So you heard it here first, people; the Nazis wished to eradicate God from society, and were “atheist extremists”. Those presumably would be the Nazis run by one A. Hitler, who in his book Mein Kampf said: “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
Hitler also said in a speech in Munich: “My feelings as a Christian point me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognizsed these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders.” There are dozens more quotes along these lines here.
There are indeed. But then Chivers goes on:
Let me stress: I am not saying the horrors of Nazism were the fault of Christianity. That would be idiotic. They were the fault of Hitler and his coterie … and, yes, of too many ordinary Germans. But to blame atheism for them is not only idiotic … but demonstrably wrong: Hitler, and most Europeans of the time, were Christian, and doubtless many thought (wrongly; we can all agree that) that they were doing God’s work.
Not the fault of Christianity? There Chivers is wrong. The Holocaust was long prepared for by Christianity. Two thousand years of anathematizing the Jews and persecuting them with impunity throughout Christendom culminated in the Final Solution.
We must also point out that far from it being “exclusion of God and religion”, it was Christianity itself that kept Europe in darkness for a thousand years.
The Pope dares to speak of a “truncated vision of man and of society”? Throughout the Middle Ages, the would-be totalitarian Catholic Church punished free thought, blindfolded dissenting visionaries, and “truncated” uncountable numbers of men, women and children literally with sword, rack, and fire. Its victims were Christians and Jews. But atheism is the dangerous idea, the destructive force?
Pope Benedict XVI is neither ignorant nor stupid. But he has given his life to a fantastic dogma, and gained his eminence through it, and he cannot let that stern corrector and spreader of light Reality burst into the Gothick darkness in which he lives and reigns.
One of his cardinals, Walter Kasper, aroused indignation – to our surprise – with some remarks he made, and was dropped from the tour retinue, or “couldn’t come because he has gout”. What he’d said was that when you arrive in Britain “you think at times that you’ve landed in a Third World country.” (A view that’s not hard to justify, actually.)
He also said that an “aggressive new atheism” was rife in British society.
It’s true that although Britain has an established church of which the monarch is the head, it has long been an irreligious country on the whole. But by no means can it be described as aggressively atheist, unless a few intellectuals like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens speak for the nation, which we don’t think they do.
What everyone – the Pope, the too-candid cardinal, and the newspaper columnists – seem to be forgetting is that Islam is spreading in Britain. The number of Muslims is increasing rapidly by immigration, birth and proselytizing. Successive governments have facilitated Muslim immigration. The heir to the throne is positively partial to Islam. The Archbishop of Canterbury urged that sharia courts be allowed to operate as a parallel legal system, which it now is, to the extreme disadvantage of subjugated Muslim women who might have hoped for some relief under British law.
But don’t expect the Pope, the Queen, the Archbishop, or opinionated cardinals to say anything critical of Islam.
It’s safer to fulminate against atheism.
Jillian Becker September 16, 2010
“If I can’t be profound, at least I can be unintelligible.”
That has been the guiding principle of intellectuals on the left, those doughty champions of the masses – note well the crowds of them in Western universities – for at least a hundred years.
Here’s an example of it being followed, not by an academic but a religious obscurantist:
The rule of law is thus not the enshrining of priority for the universal/abstract dimension of social existence but the establishing of a space accessible to everyone in which it is possible to affirm and defend a commitment to human dignity as such, independent of membership in any specific human community or tradition, so that when specific communities or traditions are in danger of claiming finality for their own boundaries of practice and understanding, they are reminded that they have to come to terms with the actuality of human diversity – and that the only way of doing this is to acknowledge the category of ‘human dignity as such’ – a non-negotiable assumption that each agent (with his or her historical and social affiliations) could be expected to have a voice in the shaping of some common project for the well-being and order of a human group.
Thus spake Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in a recent lecture.
And here, by way of contrast, is a quotation from a genuinely profound thinker, Thomas Sowell. The passage comes from his new book, Intellectuals and Society, and is as clear as a polished pane of glass:
There can be no dependable framework of law where judges are free to impose as law their own individual notions of what is fair, compassionate or in accord with social justice.
We found the whole book a pleasure to read.
With apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer
1 Whan in Februar, withe hise global warmynge
2 Midst unseasonabyl rain and stormynge
3 Gaia in hyr heat encourages
4 Englande folke to goon pilgrimages.
5 Frome everiches farme and shire
6 Frome London Towne and Lancanshire
7 The pilgryms toward Canterbury wended
8 Wyth fyve weke holiday leave extended
9 In hybryd Prius and Subaru
10 Off the Boughton Bypasse, east on M2.
11 Fouer and Twyntie theye came to seke
12 The Arche-Bishop, wyse and meke
13 Labouryte and hippye, Gaye and Greene
14 Anti-warre and libertyne
15 All sondry folke urbayne and progressyve
16 Vexed by Musselmans aggressyve.
17 Hie and thither to the Arche-Bishop’s manse
18 The pilgryms ryde and fynde perchance
19 The hooly Bishop takynge tea
20 Whilste watching himselfe on BBC.
21 Heere was a hooly manne of peace
22 Withe bearyd of snow and wyld brows of fleece
23 Whilhom stoode athwart the Bush crusades
24 Withe peace march papier-mache paraydes.
25 Sayeth the pilgryms to Bishop Rowan,
26 “Father, we do not like howe thynges are goin’.
27 You know we are as Lefte as thee,
28 But of layte have beyn chaunced to see
29 From Edinburgh to London-towne
30 The Musslemans in burnoose gowne
31 Who beat theyr ownselfs with theyr knyves
32 Than goon home and beat theyr wyves
33 And slaye theyr daughtyrs in honour killlynge
34 Howe do we stoppe the bloode fromme spillynge?”
35 The Bishop sipped upon hys tea
36 And sayed, “an open mind must we
37 Keep, for know thee well the Mussel-man
38 Has hys own laws for hys own clan
39 So question not hys Muslim reason
40 And presaerve ye well social cohesion.”
41 Sayth the libertine, “’tis well and goode
42 But sharia goes now where nae it should;
43 I liketh bigge buttes and I cannot lye,
44 You othere faelows can’t denye,
45 But the council closed my wenching pub,
46 To please the Imams, aye thaere’s the rub.”
47 Sayeth the Bishop, strokynge his chin,
48 “To the Mosque-man, sexe is sinne
49 So as to staye in his goode-graces
50 Cover well thy wenches’ faces
51 And abstain ye Chavs from ribaldry
52 Welcome him to our communitie.”
53 “But Father Williams,” sayed the Gaye-manne
54 “Though I am but a layman
55 The Mussleman youthes hath smyte me so
56 Whan on streets I saunter wyth my beau.”
57 Sayed the Bishop in a curt replye
58 “I am as toolrant as anye oothere guy,
59 But if Mussleman law sayes no packynge fudge,
60 Really nowe, who are we to judge?”
61 Then bespake the Po-Mo artist,
62 “My last skulptyure was hailed as smartest
63 Bye sondry criticks at the Tate
64 Whom called it genius, brillyant, greate
65 A Jesus skulpted out of dunge
66 Earned four starres in the Guardian;
67 But now the same schtick withe Mo-ha-med
68 Has earned a bountye on my hed.”
69 Sayed the Bishop, “that’s quyte impressyve
70 To crafte a Jesus so transgressyve
71 But to do so with the Muslim Prophet
72 Doomed thy neck to lose whats off it.
73 Thou should have showen mor chivalrie
74 In committynge such a blasphemie.”
75 And so it went, the pilgryms all
76 Complaynynge of the Muslim thrall;
77 To eaches same the Bishop lectured
78 About the cultur fabrick textured
79 With rainbow threyds from everie nation
80 With rainbow laws for all situations.
81 “But Father Rowan, we bathyr nae one
82 We onlye want to hav our funne!”
83 “But the Musselman is sure to see
84 Thy funne as Western hegemony.
85 ‘Tis not Cristian for Cristians to cause
86 The Moor to live by Cristendom’s laws
87 Whan he has hise sovereyn culture
88 Crist bade us put ours in sepulture.
89 To be divyne we must first be diverse
90 So cheer thee well, thynges could be wors
91 Sharia is Englishe as tea and scones,
92 So everybody muste get stoned.”
93 The pilgryms shuffled for the door
94 To face the rule of the Moor;
95 Poets, Professors, Starbucks workers
96 Donning turbans, veils and burqqas.
97 As they face theyr fynal curtan
98 Of Englande folk, one thynge is certan:
99 Dying by theyr own thousande cuts,
100 The Englande folk are folking nuts.
Britain has been hit by economic crisis from the same causes as the US. The world’s anti-free-marketeers, Communists, Socialists, European haters of the Anglo-Saxon world, and a multitude of left-wing churchmen are gloating, calling the meltdown a ‘crisis of capitalism’.
Madeleine Westrop comments:
I know you are Atheist Conservatives: so, if you have any interest in your diametric (or dialectic?) opposite, consider for a moment the Church of England. It is advocating Karl Marx.
I don’t mean that the whole ecclesiastical edifice is daubed in Hegelian anti-God revolutionary anti-Capitalist slogans. Most of the Anglicans I know are constitutionally unable to talk about politics, religion, money or even ideas at an English dinner party. (I suppose if Marx had bred dogs or polyanthus…) Our dear old Anglican aunts go to the pretty parish church every Sunday and are true blue Conservatives from their charming hats to their patent shoes.
But look further up. Turn your gaze from the modest and crumbly foundations to the airy spires above. The astonishing thing is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior figure in the Established Church, turns to Marx when the world is troubled.
An article in the Spectator this week was written by The Most Reverend and Right Honorable, his Grace Dr Rowan Williams, Primate of All England, Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords, overseer of the Anglican Communion (the third largest denomination in the world), Ordinary to the Chaplains in the Army, Navy and Royal Airforce, Visitor, Patron and Governor to hundreds of charitable trusts, President of the House of Bishops and the General Synod, Chairman of the Archbishop’s Council, Church Commissioner responsible for administration of the wealth and property of the Church (about £6 billion and hundreds of acres of land), resident and official host to many at Lambeth Palace, resident of the Old Palace at Canterbury, bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, blesser of oils, annointer of the Monarch at each coronation. I have counted how many have been enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury and I think Dr Williams is about the 109th, since the first, St Augustine in 597 AD.
Dr Williams has decided to write about the economic crisis afflicting the world wholesale money markets, the banks and the stock-markets and ruination of all our pensions and savings to boot. He says that unimaginable wealth has been generated by fiction and paper with no concrete outcome beyond profit for the traders. He says the challenge is now to connect money to material reality. And then it comes: “Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves.” He reminds us that “ascribing reality to what you have in fact made yourself” is idolatry.
I agree there has been an “unreality” exposed because those debt obligations turned out to be worthless. But this was not the work of a Monster Capitalist system. Exposure is just what happens when you find out you have been stupid enough to deal in rotten wheat or quack medicine. And there has been “unreality” in thinking such prodigal borrowing and spending was sustainable. Again, this is not Monster Capitalism at work, but simply old fashioned bad business practice.
Was Dr Williams thinking of the sorcerer in Marx’s Communist Manifesto? In 1848 Marx and Engels wrote:
Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.
This is nuts. Dr Williams can’t just say the problem is that we have created a Capitalist Monster and idolised it. For a start, here in England the problems have not occurred where old-fashioned capitalist values have prevailed. The Northern Rock Bank lent out 110% mortgages to people who couldn’t make repayments and the bank went bust. The taxpayer now has to pay a Bishop’s ransom for this failure. But Northern Rock was not a single-minded profit-mad selfish Capitalist Monster. If it had been a bit more selfish it might have been more prudent. It gives 5% of its profits to ‘tackle disadvantage’ in the North East of England through a charitable foundation. It was a Labour Party pet and it was lending improvidently while the Labour Government was also borrowing like crazy to fund its socialist “transformations” (spending). Northern Rock shared basic Labour Party socialist values. The bank employed Deborah Mattinson, Gordon Brown’s focus group guru, to advise it about social responsibility. The Northern Rock charity gave money to the left wing think-tank the IPPR, which the Labour Government has used to outsource its own policy making. In fact 17 departments have outsourced to the IPPR over the last 10 years. And the inclusion and acceptance of the market system in a movement for social justice was part of the plan set out in Tony Blair’s New Labour movement.
Dr Williams also accepts private enterprise to some extent. He writes,
“Of course business is not philanthropy, securing profit is a legitimate (if not a morally supreme) motivation for people…It’s true as well that, in some circumstances, loosening up a financial regime to allow for entrepreneurs and innovators to create wealth is necessary …But it is a sort of fundamentalism to say that this alone will secure stable and just outcomes everywhere.”
Which brings me to the second reason that the Shelleyesque Capitalist Monster, or the ungovernable sorcerer’s powers, are both inappropriate ideas. Securing profit is a morally supreme motivation. And while it is true that profit may not alone secure stable outcomes, the waste of wealth always produces unstable outcomes. True wealth (as contrasted with inflated speculative bubbles of paper wealth) is a sine qua non of stability, along with peace, the rule of law and liberty.
The problem is that Dr Williams has chosen a scoundrel unemployed insolvent misanthropist who sponged off his dying father and friends and couldn’t afford to bury his own child, for his lessons in morals and economics. He chose Marx. Instead he should have chosen a prudent, kindly, careful man who worked hard and made a meticulous study of how the wealth of nations can be increased and warned us against the very problems that have arisen in our economies: Adam Smith. (It seems hardly worth mentioning in this Atheistic context, but it strikes me that an Archbishop might also have taken advice from Smith who believed, at least, in ‘a beneficent Providence’ over the anti-Religious Marx.)
Moreover, Marxism doesn’t really help to explain our predicament. The Communist Manifesto says that economic crises occur because of over-production:
“It is enough to mention the commercial crises that, by their periodical return, put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly…. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed. And why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.”
But but but! Our present ills arise because we have unrealistically overestimated our wealth. Dr Williams pointed this out himself. We are not in trouble because of over-production! It is truer to say that we have spent more than is justified by what we have produced. National debt in the United Kingdom is high: the Government says it is about £650 billion but if you add in the hidden debt obligations – Northern Rock, public sector pensions, Public-Private partnership commitments, decommissioning of power stations – the figure is at least doubled. In other words, to claim the official figure for debt, about 37% of our gross domestic product, is to make a wild underestimate. And where Government led, we followed. Personal debt amounts to about £1.4 trillion. Adam Smith would not have approved:
Whatever we may imagine the real wealth and revenue of a country to consist in, whether in the value of the annual produce of its land and labour, as plain reason seems to dictate; or in the quantity of the precious metals… in either view of the matter, every prodigal appears to be a public enemy and every frugal man a public benefactor.
It is true that the economic crisis has been made worse by the obscurity of the real state of things. But how like a priest to say that the problem is, in the end, idolatry of an unknowable, ineffable dark thing. We should shine light on the problem rather than condemn it to the shadows. Obscurity and superstition is our enemy here.
Take the South Sea Bubble problem of three hundred years ago. The south Sea Company bought a monopoly of trade with South America. The company underwrote the National Debt for interest Payments from the Treasury. This all seemed rosy. Share prices soared and other companies were founded in a frenzy of speculation. People had no idea what they were buying or risking: for example, one to fire square canon balls, and one just for an unknown undertaking of ‘great advantage’. Ladies’ maids and porters bought carriages on supposed mountains of wealth. When the value of the stocks crashed, investors were made destitute overnight and suicides and arrests followed. Isaac Newton lost money and said “I can calculate the movement of stars but not the madness of men.”
Smith discusses, years later, the South Sea company itself in The Wealth of Nations:
The directors of such [joint stock] companies, however, being managers rather of other people’s money than their own; it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private company frequently watch over their own. Like the stewards of a rich man, they are apt to consider attention to small matters as not for their master’s honour, and very easily give themselves a dispensation from having it. Negligence and profusion must always prevail… in the management of the affairs of such a company.
How apt this basic analysis seems today. Risk takers must be responsible and face moral hazard. And responsibility, like charity, is best applied close to home. England has had some marvellous institutions, the building societies, owned by their depositors whose only purpose was to provide finance for buying houses. They were prudent and profitable, on the whole and allowed multitudes to buy their own house by slow and careful saving. However, in the last twenty years or so they have ‘de-mutualized’ and become publicly owned banks, dealing in the wholesale markets and lending to the inflated ‘buy to let’ investment market. Since they have stopped being owned by their depositors, many have had disastrous losses and only this week, the biggest ‘buy to let’ lender, the Bradford and Bingley bank (building society that was) has been nationalised.
There is no Monster. In fact there is no capitalist system. There are frugal habits that build wealth and wasteful or irresponsible habits that destroy it. It is terribly dangerous to condemn the market for failings in ourselves and our Governments. When you go to bed tonight, you might look under the bed: pessimists might check on a hoard of gold coins rather than trust banks; Marxist revolutionaries might simply turn in; but let us hope only the Prelates are looking for Monsters.