The financial crisis and capitalism
Ripon Cathedral hosts a series of lectures each year called the St Wilfrid lectures and on Thursday 22 November the title was:
The Financial Crisis – Capitalism- the root of all evil?
The speaker was Dr Peter Vardy who earlier in his working life had been an accountant- before writing a PhD on the concept of eternity and then lectured and became Vice Principal of Heythrop College.
Vardy spoke twice as fast as the average person but with a very clear voice and with Powerpoint slides behind with lots of writing and statistics from which I caught occasional figures. He had also prepared video clips from various films but the acoustics and sound system of the cathedral were not good so he gave up on that. He said the financial crisis is not over and is going to get worse in the UK. e.g. house prices are still overvalued.
We are living beyond our means and don’t want to face up to it. He is concerned that if /when we have a big crash then people will want to assign blame and the far right will get more power.
He explained how the financial crisis arose – because of “leveraging” – for example. House prices went up so people mortgaged their house and borrowed more money to buy more houses – I could write two pages with the notes I made..
He talked a little about greed, and mentioned philosophers who had considered this – greed is usually bad because it can make people unjust, but it can be good in that it motivates people to work harder. Even Clergy can be greedy for higher positions and for things they want in the church.
Vardy does not know the solution.
He recommended two principles:
When the previous premier of China came to visit David Cameron, he was asked what book most influenced him . He answered “Adam Smith’s book” – Not the “Wealth of Nations” but the one which was written before that:-“Theory of moral sentiments”
Smith said that humnas
1) Need to be motivated to altruism
2) Need to see themselves as if acting before an independent arbiter.
(People in the 18th and 19th centuries believed in God, – many do not now)
If more people in the banking industry had had these principles, rather than greed, they would have reacted more quickly to the looming disaster.
He is concerned that Religious Education is not going to be in the English Baccalaureate.
Learning about religion and ethics enables children to think for themselves.
Democracy makes it difficult to make long term plans (This reminded me of CEL’s Annual Members Meeting Workshop on Saturday.) Plato said democracy is a disaster.. the power of the Press and politicians is great.
(The following paragraph the statistics are what I wrote down- I might not have got the numbers exactly right), He pointed out that in the UK two years ago for every £100 we earned we spent £111. Cameron had got it down so that for every £100 we earn we spend £108. – So we are still spending way beyond our means. Last year the USA debt was 14.3 trillion (£or dollars?) This year it is 16 trillion. China now owns 8 trillion of the USA debt. – but I (the editor) have just been on another website that says China only owns 1.16 trillion dollars of USA debt – Much of the debt is to USA and future generations will have to pay it.
Blame achieves little. We are living beyond out means and don’t want to face up to it.
What is really necessary for us to buy? Is a car necessary?
“It is up to the young” he said. “We older ones need to model behaviour that we would like others to follow.”
Live simply. What is reasonable? Is a car a necessity?
We still have to go on trying to do something event though things are against us.
There were questions at the end of his talk. I did not get chance to ask Barbara Echlin’s Question ““I don’t understand how we can have infinite growth on a finite planet….” Indeed no-one else asked any green orientated questions.
I was told that there were other views to many things he said, including that he could have quoted other philosophers and economists views. But I learned a lot.