Thursday, 25 August 2011

Ex-Chancellor on the Purposes of Economic Activity

The Kirk’s Commission on the Purposes of Economic Activity met yesterday morning with Alistair Darling MP, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Alistair reflected on a number of key issues he faced at the time of the credit crunch and global slowdown, and made some points about the situation facing the country and the world economy today.

The Commission is made up of a range of heavyweights; bankers, theologians, economists, poverty campaigners and people who have had real life experience of what it means to be poor.

It is good that senior politicians like Alistair Darling are willing to engage with us as we work out what the Church might say to a world where inequality and greed seem to be ever-present.

The conversation ranged from the banking crisis, global leadership (and the current lack thereof), the rate at which the Coalition is cutting the deficit, the problems in several European countries, the false assumptions people made about the permanence of consumer-led growth, the ongoing role of banks and financial services in the UK economy, the successes of the Labour Government in reducing child and pensioner poverty, bank bonuses and the culture that rewarding risky activity without consequences for the individuals that are taking the actions has on the industry.

When asked about creating a more equal society, Alistair Darling said that this should not be the focus of Government efforts; rather he pointed out that employment is the best way to tackle poverty, and to create jobs the economy needs to grow.

We also asked him about using something other than GDP to indicate social progress or purpose – there has been quite a lot of discussion about General Well-Being. He didn’t seem convinced about this, asking how can you define ‘well-being’ – at least GDP is quantifiable.

No doubt some of these opinions will cause a stir. The Commission continues to meet and will report in the new year.  You can submit your views to the Commission by answering some of their key questions.

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