Rowan Williams at the TUC

Posted on

I'm at the TUC this morning

So is Rowan Williams — Archbishop of Canterbury.

He says the Greek for economics is ‘housekeeping — and it is about creating a habitat for how  we live. He calls that a habitat — a sustainable.

Peealing to the market as an independent authority unconnected with housekeeping ahs left a ruinous legacy of disruption, even in developed countries — and trading in toxic debt cannot be the basis for money making.

What would an economy look like if it were focussed on making and sustaining a home? Making a secure environment for all, in which we are free. If we gave up the temptation of unlimited growth so we could hand on a world to our children — real human beings — people who are as important as their material prosperity?

At the individual level we have to question what we mean by growth? GDP is a mechanical measure of wealth — and we have a limited material environment. By stimulating demand it creates rivalry and destroys the basis for long term well being — in a nutshell it is investing in the wrong things.

In reality there are only two sources of wealth — using the world’s resources and the human capital we can provide. The exhaustion of resources — the environment and human lostness from inhuman patterns of working can diminish both.

Short term returns can no longer be the sole deciding factor for decision making — quoting Tim Jackson. Also quotes Zac Goldsmith. He refers with sympathy to Green taxes.

And he talks of the Tobin Tax — we must not think of tax as an unreasonable burden or as a burden but as a tool for creating a long term economy — a habitat for our well being.

Zac, he notes, criticises the tax system — and that tax is not neutral so we must decide where it is to be. Must focus on our ability to decide, Our choices do matter. Our current economic ethos is resources are unlimited — and yet that theory paralyses us when  thinking about real change because we are told much is not possible.

To decide what change we want we must know what a human life well lived looks like.

Family, imagination and mutual sympathy. We start in dependence. We must learn how to speak and trust, must be secure enough to risk learning, where some things are unconditional. The human family is essential for this. The working culture undermines this and is one that leaves everyone more vulnerable and defensive — and more violent, even if inward on the creation of depression.

Anxious and driven adult lives and some employers promotion of family hostile patterns  of working all harm young people. We need to start with the family as the basis for our choices.

Imagination is also important — we take in the world around us. We are aware things could be different. We play in adult life too. It is these extra that make us human. Making a living is not enough to be human. The Labour movement has been committed.

So how far do economic decisions help keep this space to think things might be different?

Ho do we respect others? If you are the centre of well being — how do you care for others? This is the world of economics where calculations of self interest is key — this builds a box room for paranoia.

People genuinely don’t want this. People want to network — to be friends — look at social networking!

We have to promote thoughtful empathy. Without that we cannot flourish.

He thinks this will not be controversial to the TUC — and we need to defend it, very strongly. This requires commitment. His is religious — but that is not his message — we all need to have a commitment to the family — in which we have an unconditionally of commitment from a parent.

Human mutuality complements with the Christian belief of being all dependent on one another's gifts.

He makes clear Christianity is not essential to this — but in the economic and political context we have to spell out our commitments —0 we must say what we really want. Politics by managers and brokers is a recipe for societal bankruptcy.

He suggests we are all shy of putting foreword moral judgement (well, he might be — I’m not) and he says we must resist that with vision. This vision must be the centre of where we are going. Religious people are seeking to open the arena of discussion — to help push back against injustice,.

He looks to the future — and the potential nightmare scenarios that could develop. He clearly believes that possible — be3casue the earthly world seems to take for granted that exploitation is acceptable,.

Without a stable economy he says the rest is idle dreaming — and without stability there is nothing — which means we must question growth.

We need to reclaim the word virtue as a description of desirable human behaviour — as a concern for balanced human welfare.

Without courage the capacity to put your own desires in perspective there is no stable world — no household to keep — no economy.

The labour movement can bring these virtues back to visibility. He urges the TUC to revive the passion for humane social existence — to ensure stability and justice prevails and to resist the barbarising impact of economic life.

Revive that sentiment. Reflect on how to do it. Resist the alternatives.

NB: Written as he spoke — apologies for any remaining typos