Rowan Williams attacks “ruinous legacy” of the market

Rowan Williams unleashed an attack this morning on the "ruinous legacy" of "the market as an independent authority." He was speaking at a TUC conference.

Rowan Williams unleashed an attack this morning on the “ruinous legacy” of “the market as an independent authority.” He described the process of”simply meeting what we think are our material needs” as “just a more complicated version of ants in the anthill.” Speaking at the Trades Union Congress’s one-day conference ‘Beyond Crisis’, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke sombrely and eloquently about the limits of the market.

Returning throughout to the derivation of the word ‘economy’ as the Greek word for ‘housekeeping,’ Mr Williams said:

“Appealing to the market as an independent authority, unconnected with human decisions about ‘housekeeping’, has meant in many contexts over the last few decades a ruinous legacy for heavily indebted countries, large-scale and costly social disruption even in developed economies; and, most recently, the extraordinary phenomena of a financial trading world in which the marketing of toxic debt became the driver of money-making – until the bluffs were all called at the same time.”

He went on to urge delegates “to question what we mean by ‘growth'” and suggested that:

“The ability to produce more and more consumer goods (not to mention financial products) is in itself an entirely mechanical measure of wealth. It sets up the vicious cycle in which it is necessary all the time to create new demand for goods and thus new demands on a limited material environment for energy sources and raw materials.”

On taxation, Williams said, “we should be thinking about taxation neither as an unreasonable burden on enterprise nor as a simple mechanism of redistribution but as a potentially sophisticated tool for long-term ‘economy’ – housekeeping. Taxation builds a habitat – already, quite properly, through state welfare provision, but potentially in other less familiar ways.”Answering a question about how to “sell” taxation to the public, Williams urged “tax is about corporate insurance … and is the essence of the democratic process”

Williams concluded by appealing to the British labour movements “honourable record in its commitment to humane values”:

“I would urge you, then, to pick up what is still alive in that legacy, to revive the passion for humane social existence; to reflect on what human character is needed for stability and justice to prevail; and to resist the barbarising and dehumanising of economic life which jeopardises natural and human capital alike.”

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