The Prime Minister spoke today in St. Pauls Catherdral of the need for common values to underpin the world economy. I thought at first that Gordon Brown was coming round to my approach – of having a principles-based approach. However, I was disappointed. The following is the relevant text, from the Number10 website
And today he and I want to discuss with you not the details of specific or technical financial programmes or policies, but instead enduring values – indeed the enduring virtues – that we have inherited from the past which must infuse our ideals and hopes for the future.
And I want to suggest to you today that this most modern of crises, the first financial crisis of the global age, has confirmed the enduring importance of the most timeless of truths – that our financial system must be founded on the very same values that are at the heart of our family lives, neighbourhoods and communities.
Instead of a globalisation that threatens to become values-free and rules-free, we need a world of shared global rules founded on shared global values. I know it’s hard to talk about the future when you’re having a tough time in the present. You don’t redesign a boat in the midst of a storm.
I am disappointed. The disappointment is due to this being ambiguous (to appeal to a large audience), whilst at the same time going against the very things that we need for future stability and prosperity. The ambiguity comes in exactly what are the family values? The laissez-faire attitudes of same-sex parents or the authoritarian attitudes of the militant Islam?
I wrote a posting on John Redwood’s blog that is relevant to approach we should be taking, especially when speaking a house of God.
1. In Matthew 22, after Jesus says that the Greatest commandment is love of God and the second is love of neighbour as oneself, he then says “In these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. For the financial system, what is most important is the general objectives of regulation, with the detail following from that.
2. In Jesus’s conflict with authority was because he put love of neighbour before upholding the laws and cultures of the time (such as healing. In other words, where the detailed rules conflict with the major objectives, it is the regulations that must be amended. When it is a choice between maintaining a boom with low interest rates, or suffering a mild recession to avoid a bubble, then it is the mild recession that must be endured.
3. Jesus had strong words for the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matthew 23), the religious leaders of the time, who dogmatically upheld the complex laws and customs. Like the modern day financial regulators, they made sure that everyone ticked all the boxes, but lost sight of the purpose of the exercise. The spin doctors ensured that in was only others perceptions that were important and not substance.
4. In the Old Testament, the importance is stressed of avoiding risk and stewardship of ones property. The authorities lost sight of this – whether Government’s going on a spending spree or Central Banks in keeping interest rates too low.
That is what is needed is a principles-based approach to the world economic order. To have clear, and unambiguous, general rules globally, to allow markets to develop in unexpected ways, whilst being able to change the general direction when required. It is a value-based approach based on love of one’s neighbour and good stewardship of our resources. Our reliance in detailed rules has failed, as the general direction (particularly in Britain) has been determined by political expediency and spin.