Back to the Garden

The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme was just on the BBC News saying – and I had to rewind and listen to this to make sure I heard it correctly – that, in light of the current financial crisis we have to re-evaluate our “over-commitment to the whole notion of a property-owning democracy”.

What on earth could he mean?

According to the Associated Press, the Bishop also said:

“The Government isn’t telling people who are already deep in debt to stop overextending themselves, but instead is urging us to spend more. That is morally suspect and morally feeble. It is unfair and irresponsible of the Government to put pressure on the public to spend in order to revive the economy.”

I’m not sure if the good Bishop has a background in economics, but it seems to me that “reviving the economy” is in all our interests and is thus a national priority, not a “would be nice” or something our government want to achieve for cynical or selfish reasons. Where does the Bishop think ‘money’ comes from – money for the health services, for urban renewal, for investment in communities? It doesn’t come out of thin air. It also seems to me to be a basic economic cause-effect issue that if everyone stops spending in a hysterical way – the way kettles go on after EastEnders – it will be an economic disaster precipitating untold misery that Bishop Lowe’s economic semi-literacy might find more comprehensible. Stop spending, economy slows down, more businesses become unprofitable and go under, more people lose their jobs, more communities collapse under poverty, fewer people contribute to the State’s welfare programme, and more draw on it. Disaster.

It is obvious that people already deep in debt should not keep spending. That is a bit of common sense that we shouldn’t need a bishop to point out, but nevertheless I have heard nothing from the government urging these people to keep spending recklessly. His glib conflation of people with personal financial difficulties with “the public” at large is just a straw man. (Paying off debt, incidentally, is also cash flow, and is in effect a form of spending.)

This is the problem with a crisis of any sort. All manner of snake-oil salesmen, carpetbaggers and utopian dreamers come to town with ridiculous spiritual and ideological ‘solutions’ and admonishments – and of course a good deal of pointing fingers at witches.

But back to the Bishop’s strange utterances on the BBC this morning: “over-commitment to the whole notion of a property-owning democracy” – what’s that about?

What’s Lowe’s plan then, apart from scrapping private property and dumping democracy?

Perhaps we need to return to the path of the fairy folk who used to inhabit this world, in ancient times. What were they called again? The ‘Soviets’, or something. They dispensed with property and with democracy, and it was so much like heaven on earth, they didn’t even need bishops.