Sunday, 6 November 2011

God's investment banker still doesnt get it

Nice to hear that the Church of England is beginning to catch up with the protesters at occupylsx. The recent statement by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that there is "widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment",  is what we should expect from the church - support for the poor against their powerful and rich exploiters - now known as the 1%.

Now, the Bishop of London, he of the chauffeur driven car, has appointed an investment banker to look at solutions to the problems identified by the occupylsx protesters, though you could be forgiven for thinking that a banker is perhaps not the best person to seek advice from, given the problems we have been suffering from since 2008. However, in today's Sunday Telegraph, Ken Costa, Chairman of St Paul's Initiative, has written about markets losing their "moral moorings". He is right of course, but what are his solutions? Well, there is a lot of stuff about civic duty. Essentially we need reform, and we need to get rid of "shareholder value", something I couldn't disagree with, and we need to " reconnect the financial and the moral", and "legislation might help with this", but not yet apparently. Then he goes on to make this telling statement:
"Those in power should understand that governments are incapable of creating new jobs and wealth, that is what a vibrant private sector is for, supported by a vibrant financial services sector. "
I find this statement worrying because it is plain wrong. It is factually incorrect. Of course governments can and do create jobs and wealth. The public sector is essential, not only for delivering services, but it also creates jobs in the private sector as well. What we need is more government intervention to create green jobs in the UK, especially for young people, because the private sector has failed to do so, and is incapable of doing so. What the crash and its aftermath have shown us is that the powers of the private sector are very limited indeed, and that we need governments more than ever to directly create wealth and to help the rest of society to create wealth.

What Costa's article illustrates is that he is trapped in the same 'free' market fantasy as are all neoliberals. Perhaps that's not surprising when we learn from his article that he has been a banker for 30 years. That tells us that he has been part of the problem, and is therefore unlikely to be part of the solution. His pious words about "moral moorings", and patronising comments about the "usual suspects" at occupylsx are a dead giveaway - if we want to get out of this mess we need a radical change of direction, not the tinkering with legislation, appeals to goodness,and papering over of the cracks - however worthy that may be.

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