Sunday, June 12, 2011

Church vs. State



The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote an article that made a big splash in the United Kingdom but has received virtually no coverage here in the United States. I thought it quite relevant. If you’ll remember, I’m a believer in history repeating itself. And we have some very recent history with the United Kingdom -- the friendship between President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. If you’ll remember, Lady Thatcher gave birth to privatization and her buddy Reagan liked it. They were also both big union busters and they promoted “casino capitalism”.

The Archbishop's article is kind of dense and I found it difficult reading. So you might just want to watch the video . Unless you’re up on the U.K. government, I’d watch the video anyway. For instance, I didn’t know the Archbishop was a member of the House of Lords.

Leader: The government needs to know how afraid people are

”I don't think that the government's commitment to localism and devolved power is simply a cynical walking-away from the problem. But I do think that there is confusion about the means that have to be willed in order to achieve the end. If civil society organisations are going to have to pick up responsibilities shed by government, the crucial questions are these.”

For Americans, think of George (the 1st) Bush’s “thousand points of light”. The government is asking the churches and charities to pick up its slack -- the government’s failure to take care of its poor. When you say that plainly, you begin to understand the Archbishop's concern. Not to be crass, but money doesn’t grow on trees, even for the Church of England. Taking care of the poor is an expensive business.

I was happy to see the argument taken to a moral ground too.

”This is not helped by a quiet resurgence of the seductive language of "deserving" and "undeserving" poor, nor by the steady pressure to increase what look like punitive responses to alleged abuses of the system. ”

For those with short memories, think of Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens”. I am always jolted by this “blame the poor” play in politics. You’ve heard it recently in the financial collapse. It was caused by all those poor people taking out loans that they couldn’t afford. Yeah, all those folks raised in the ghetto that outsmarted all those Harvard and Yale-educated guys on Wall Street. Tricky devils. They’re so clever it makes you wonder why they’re still poor. (I’m assuming you didn’t fall for the lie that it’s actually comfortable being poor.)

I’ll have to find out more about the concept of “localism” before I can weigh in on one side or the other but let’s just say if the Conservatives in the U.K. are for it and the Archbishop is questioning it...I’m not looking forward to what Americans might do with it.

”I don't think that the government's commitment to localism and devolved power is simply a cynical walking-away from the problem. But I do think that there is confusion about the means that have to be willed in order to achieve the end. If civil society organisations are going to have to pick up responsibilities shed by government...”

Look east and keep a weather eye on the political horizon.

Don Brown
June 12, 2011

No comments: