Monday, December 29, 2008

Bishops Bash Brown's Binge

Five Bishops have attacked the Government's economic record. They cite the addiction to debt, the divergence between rich and poor, and Brown's exhortation that we should spend more to save the economy.

Their criticism is interesting and worth developing. Unfortunately the corporate media are flying off on a tangent, discussing the matter as an intervention of the Church into politics, rather than economics.

The criticism of the bishops is more than a party political attack, since the Tories would have taken exactly the same line as Labour during the last decade: let the financial markets rip ahead on the basis of loadsamoney being made. If the Tories had been in power, and the Labour opposition had called for the markets to be reined in and required to set aside a proportion of their profits to be ready for the inevitable downturn, the Tories would have poured withering scorn on the opposition as having no grasp of financial markets, and that any restraint would have put the City at a competitive disadvantage.

The first word to be said about any Church of England attack on financial markets should come from Jesus: "Before you set about taking a speck out of your neighbour's eye, take the bloody great plank out of your own eye". Last time I looked at the Church Commission's books, they were all over the place ethically, specifically investing in Caterpillar plc. which produces the bulldozers that killed Rachel Corrie. Are the bishops confident that the Church Commission now has a good ethical standing? They have an ethical investment group, but how effective is it? We should be told.

Now for the substantive criticisms.

Addiction to Debt. This is a serious criticism, one that goes to the heart of the whole monetary system. Almost all new money is created through debt. This is why there is so much debt in the system. Take a look here to see how only a handful of nations escape the burden of debt.

Debt is an unequal power relationship between lender and borrower. It is not far away from a kind of enslavement. In that the poor have to go away and earn money to pay off the interest, it is a driver for economic growth, and an important mechanism that drives the divergence between rich and poor.

No matter how loudly the financial corporations assisted by their allies, the Marxists, scream, money does not have to be exclusively created by interest bearing loans issued by private corporations for purposes. The State can issue money for the benefit of society and environment or society as grants or loans with low or zero interest. This can be done safely, so long as there is not a careless over-issue causing inflation. Rules can be set to stop this happening, specifically, allowing the State to withdraw money from the system if inflation looms.

Divergence. The Bishops are right to criticise NuLabour's failure to prevent divergence between the wealth of rich and poor. However, this flows from the debt-money system, (see above) so the bishops are really criticising the entire financial system.

Spend more to get back to business as usual. This is a partly reasonable criticism. Clearly, it is stupid to aim to get back to business as usual, since it implies further bubbles and busts. On the other hand, we do need to get people back to work, since unemployment is a social scourge and leads to poverty, illness and crime. We need to get people back to good, constructive work that benefits society and environment, not Golgafrinchan Arkship B type work. We need a Green economy to arise out of the ashes of the present mess. The way to do this is through the Green Wage Subsidy.

The Church will throw its dart, and then withdraw from the arena, claiming no expertise in economics. That leaves the arena clear of anyone with any idea of how to mend the situation, apart from a few monetary reformers.

The Green Party, which should be occupying the high ground of this debate, is paralysed by a vocal group of monetary conservatives, although a reasonable motion is going to our Spring Conference, which will carry an MR amendment. We shall see if this gets through. It will be difficult, because, like the Bishops, people find it easy to point to the symptoms of what is wrong with the system, but fleer away from digging into the solutions to the problem.

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