BREAKING NEWS! John Couretas has an excellent analysis over at the Acton Blog with video. Back to our report…
I don’t want to turn this into beat up on the Anglicans day but, as long as we are discussing the presumptuousness of religious professionals, here’s another.
Amid the backdrop of an ongoing economic recession, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams gave the keynote address at the annual conference hosted by the Episcopal Church’s affluent Wall Street outpost. “Building An Ethical Economy: Theology and the Marketplace” was the 40th annual event hosted by Trinity Wall Street’s Trinity Institute.
While Williams warned against materialism’s dangers, his respondent, a former Wall Street Journal editor, warned against theologians who ignore the moral need for wealth creation.
According to Lee, theologians, especially on the left, tend to emphasize the distribution of wealth – how fair it is – economists tend to emphasize the generation of wealth – how we can combine scarce resources in more productive ways.
“I agree with economists,” Lee said. “Generation and distribution [are] both very important, but I think our crucial concern has got to be the generation of wealth.”
The former New York Times and Wall Street Journal editorial page editor argued that economies either must generate more wealth, so that there is more to redistribute, or, at the very least, sustain the same level of wealth.
“If an economy doesn’t generate more or sustain wealth, then it has a shrinking pie for redistributive purposes and possibly even stands in danger of collapse,” Lee explained.
The journalist said despite the fact that “in theory” it is possible for theologians and economists to agree, “in practice, they seem to live on two different planets.”
“Perhaps the biggest gap comes in assumptions, most importantly how theologians use economics like a Chinese menu; they like to pick and choose,” Lee said. “When they look at capitalism, theologians often assume there can be profits without private property, work without incentives, enterprise without income inequality, investment without market rates of return. Or, to get really specific, theologians assume that you can have the invention of medical marvels like pacemakers without the development of unnecessary consumer products like 37 brands of breakfast cereal.”
Lee compared this practice of picking and choosing to the theological practice of some Christians “who assume there can be forgiveness without atonement, Christ’s divinity without his bodily resurrection, or even the beauty of the Psalms without the rigors of Leviticus.”
Lee said this act of choosing what one likes and discarding what one does not did not make sense. Economics, just like Christianity, is an integrated system, Lee declared, saying its operation depends on interlocking parts.
“The habit of picking and choosing means that many theological discussions of economics take place under a cloud of incoherence, or at least to economists, ignorance,” Lee said, suggesting how theologians could better sharpen the discussion.
Read the entire article on the Institute for Religion and Democracy website.