Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Christian Perspective 

From the Guardian:

The Church of England's two most senior clerics have launched a scathing attack on the financial industry, calling the bankers and speculators behind the credit crisis "bank robbers" and "asset strippers".

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, demanded tighter regulation of the industry and said it was out of touch with reality.

Williams added that Karl Marx had been right in his assessment of the nature of capitalism.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said the market took its rules of trade "from Alice in Wonderland".

In an article published in the Spectator magazine, Williams wrote: "It is no use pretending that the financial world can maintain indefinitely the degree of exemption from scrutiny and regulation that it has got used to.

"This crisis exposes the basic level of unreality in the situation — the truth that almost unimaginable wealth has been generated by equally unimaginable levels of fiction, paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit for traders.

"Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that, if about little else."

In a speech to last night's annual dinner of the Worshipful Company of International Bankers, Sentamu criticised the practice of short-selling, temporarily banned by the Financial Services Authority following the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB.

"To a bystander like me, those who made £190m deliberately underselling the shares of HBOS in spite of a very strong capital base, and drove it into the arms of Lloyds TSB, are clearly bank robbers and asset strippers," he said.

"We find ourselves in a market system which seems to have taken its rules of trade from Alice in Wonderland.

"Our country has built its financial strength historically on the manufacturing of goods, where money was the medium of exchange.

"In the last week, we have seen its systems come close to ruin because now money is no longer being the medium of exchange for goods, but rather is the very item that is being traded."

UPDATE: Here is the actual article by the Archbishop, a useful primer on the basics of the current (but longstanding) situation.


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