Pete Broadbent - Workhouses 1a
Labour Party

Bishop of Willesden accuses George Osborne of bringing back workhouses

 

You can understand the despair in the House of Bishops. Not only did the Conservative Party win an outright majority in the 2015 General Election, but Labour is in meltdown, even possibly on the verge of schism as Jeremy Corbyn threatens to wipe New Labour off the face of the earth and reestablish the Clause IV vision: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.” It is the authentic Christian Socialist vocation.

The problem is that the Labour Party (as currently constituted) no longer believes it: when Tony Blair ditched Clause IV, he alienated millions of traditional socialists who felt their heart had been ripped out and their soul prostituted in the pursuit of power. The fact that Blair went on to win three general elections is neither here nor there: the philosophical purists would rather keep their integrity out of office than bastardise it for the fringe benefits of government under the hegemony of coiffed and polished politicians who prize PR above righteous democratic socialism. And so we saw the revival of the evangelical Socialist Party, with its authentic, un-spun spontaneity and communist conviction. Jeremy Corbyn exudes realness in shedloads. You may abhor his Trotskyite solidarity and anti-Capitalist militancy, but, in an age of glossy political policy and TV-sofa government, he is earthed, orthodox and kosher: he says what he means and means what he says. If you want brass tacks and card-carrying conviction, Corbyn is your anti-Establishment, anti-Westminster-bubble, anti-political-consensus original man.

By contrast, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper seem fabricated for phony airs and shallow graces. Labour Party members (if not the members of all political parties) are rather tired of being patronised or snubbed by coiffed and cultivated elites who only stoop to listen at election time. And even then there’s more hearing than listening. Within the Labour movement, there’s a yearning for and true solidarity with the poor.

It is in that context that we must understand the Twitter plea of the Rt Rev’d Pete Broadbent, “Bishop of Willesden & Acting Bishop of Edmonton. Spurs season ticket holder. Socialist. Republican. Banter and epigram fan. Chair of Spring Harvest & ICC”.

Pete Broadbent - Workhouses 1
It is not ‘fairness’ that the Socialist Bishop of Willesden demands, but real justice for the poor and comfort for the oppressed, vulnerable and alienated. He fully expects the evil Tories to ride roughshod over widows and orphans, but the collusion of the Party of God in George Osborne’s abuse and Iain Duncan Smith’s injustice is objectionable to real Christians and offensive to Christ. “You’ve lost your roots!” he cries, deploring the preeminence of the middle-class vernacular over the lingo of the common man. Labour Party HQ, he avers, is preaching foolishness to the Greeks.

So, the Chancellor is bringing back workhouses, Bishop Pete says. The word evokes grim Victorian visions of soulless drudgery and Oliver Twist begging for more gruel. Many adults and children undoubtedly found the Dickensian existence purgatorial, but there are many testimonies of how workhouses saved lives, educated the ignorant and instilled the values necessary for life. Charles Burgess remembers:

I can’t say that I was unhappy there — I had a clean bed to sleep in (in it at 8 o’clock and up at 6 to the sound of a bugle played by one of the band boys). We had our own military band. I tried to get into the band to play the clarinet. I was learning to run up and down the scale by music score for about two months.. Every six months, a dentist would call to examine our teeth.. Once a year, in the summer, we had Sports Day.. Some of the boys then put on a show with Indian clubs and dumbbell drill, and the evening finished with dancing to the boys’ Military Band..

For every Oliver Twist there is a Charles Burgess. For every Mr Bumble there was a teacher who delighted in instructing children “in reading, writing, arithmetic, and the principles of the Christian Religion, and such other instruction as may fit them for service, and train them to habits of usefulness, industry and virtue”. Workhouses kept the poor off the streets and gave the jobless a reason to get out of bed in a morning. They taught children how to wash and adults how to read and write. There were Quaker workhouses:

This project had as its treasurer John Bellers who later developed plans for a ‘College of Industry’ — a co-operative, self-sufficient, humanitarian community where up to two hundred labourers and a hundred of the impotent poor lived and worked together. There would be an emphasis on education and training, although this would be done more by object-lessons than by theory, and more by practice and experience than by rote learning.

And there was a parish network of Anglican workhouses:

THE Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor in this Parish, being desirous their Poor should have the same Benefit as other Parishes, of a House, where they might be provided with all Necessaries for Life, the Vestry appointed a Committee of Gentlemen, including the Churchwardens and Overseers, to take a proper House for such a Service. Accordingly in 1730, they hired a House, formerly a Tavern in Fish-street in the Parish of St. Nicholas Cole-Abby and at Christmas the same Year, opened it for all their poor Pensioners, where they are very cleanly dieted and lodged, under the Care of a Mistress.

A co-operative, self-sufficient, humanitarian community? Emphasis on education and training? Benefits for the poor? The provision of “all Necessaries for Life? Don’t George Osborne’s workhouses sound rather more like Jeremy Corbyn’s authentic vision of the New Jerusalem?

  • Martin

    Perhaps the Bishop of Willesden should consider the saving of souls his priority, rather than politics, or even football.

    • CliveM

      He’s not a real fan, he supports Spurs :0)

      • Martin

        Clive

        And I doubt, from the evidence, that he’s a real Christian either.

        • CliveM

          He’s just another lefty CofE Bishop and media tart. Ten a penny.

          • David

            And that’s from an old penny !

      • carl jacobs

        I don’t understand. Lots of people support the San Antonio Spurs. What has that to do with soccer?

        • CliveM

          San Antonio Spurs? Don’t know them, are they one of your rounders teams?

          • carl jacobs

            We don’t have Rounders in the States. Although the sport in question (Basketball) is sometimes colloquially called Roundball.

            ‘Spurs’ (without a qualifier) obviously refers to San Antonio.

          • CliveM

            Carl

            I’ve seen enough of your football discussion with HJ to know you know to whoem or what I’m reffering!! Anyway UK site, UK teams :0)

          • carl jacobs

            OK, OK. I admit it. I realize the Bishop was referring to the Hottentot Spurs.

          • CliveM

            Oh well, considering Americans inability to spell, close enough!

          • Clive, strictly speaking they were not “discussions” but attempts by Jack to provide cultural and technical advice to Carl on English Football and the Premier League.

          • CliveM

            Of course, my mistake.

          • carl jacobs

            Jack

            Good to see you have finally realized the necessity of distinguishing English football from Football. You have made progress. And speaking of Football …

            Training camps are starting to open and the Hall of Fame Game is just around the corner. It’s almost time for Pre-Season.

          • Eh?

          • carl jacobs

            You are confusing Football with the MLS. Outside of a few Prius drivers, no one in the US takes the MLS seriously. It’s the sport liberals watch to because they disapprove of real Football. The MLS is more of a political statement than a competition. And FYI the Perpetually Failing Women’s Professional Soccer League is an American troupe by now.

            No, I was referring to Football. Remember? Your son-in-law? You were going to watch this season?

          • Yes, American Football – that bastardised form of Rugby where the time-outs take longer than the actual game. Remind Jack, what team was he going to support?

          • carl jacobs

            The Redskins

          • No, that wasn’t the team, Carl.

          • Ah, the Philadelphia Eagles or the Pittsburgh Steelers. Must consult said son-in-law.

          • carl jacobs

            I would recommend either the Jets, the Browns, or the Redskins.

          • Why would you recommend these teams?

          • carl jacobs

            Because they each seem a good fit for you.

          • In what way, Carl?

          • carl jacobs

            All three have committed loyal fan bases that have in the past endured hard times and remained faithful. They are not fairweather Football fans.

            Meanwhile, Eagles fans have recently been voted “Most Hated Fans.”

          • Ummm …. from a quick search, the Eagle fans do seem rather brutish fans. And the Steelers? What the issue here?

          • carl jacobs

            You might do a quick search on “Ben Roethlessberger sexual assault”

          • Alleged sexual assaults …. one bad apple, Carl. There does seem to be a correlation between predatory sexual behaviour and high profile sportsmen and celebrity’s. In Jack’s view, the club should have ditched him after the second incident.

            Despite this, Jack likes the notion of “Steeler Nation” and the fans were ranked “best” in 2008. He also likes the fact it remains in the hands of the family who first started it.

          • Lord Chatham

            Obviously I have to support the Pittsburgh Steelers. Obviously.

          • Ah, a member of the “Nation of Steelers” … Carl supports the Cowboys. A suitable team for an engineer, one thinks.

          • carl jacobs

            Pretty sure it was.

          • See below …. it was either the Philadelphia Eagles or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

          • carl jacobs

            Neither of those teams are worthy.

          • “… the Perpetually Failing Women’s Professional Soccer League is an American troupe by now.”
            How many times have they won the (faux, female) World Cup?

          • CliveM

            Basketball, blergh……..

  • Orwell Ian

    Our “left field” Bishop need not be concerned. The 21st Century Workhouse will liberate the poor from endless interviews with the DWP and interminable halfhearted job hunting to retain benefits, while relieving their stomach’s from hunger food insecurity. The postmodern workhouse will be multicultural. A model of equality and diversity catering for all lifestyles and persuasions. Such will be their attraction that the oppressed, vulnerable and alienated from faraway lands will risk life and limb for a bed in one of these state-run Utopian establishments. Whats not to like Pete?

    http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/i/work-will-set-you-free.png

  • bluedog

    It’s a baby boomer thing, Your Grace. The last stirrings of political virility by a generation that is about to find itself reduced to a perpetually flaccid state.

  • carl jacobs

    The Good Bishop wants justice for the poor. What he would actually get is Capital flight. And a greatly expanded population of the poor. Socialists don’t know how to create wealth. They only know how to expropriate it and re-distribute it to their favored constituencies. The process would destroy the economy in this age of highly mobile Capital. Those firms that could move would do so. They would be compelled to do so or go out of business. Those firms that couldn’t move would find themselves saddled with a non-competitive labor cost structure. They would go out of business.

    You can demand that workers receive the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service but there have to be fruits in the first place. The Socialist cannot compel a firm to stay in business. He cannot order the firm to hire. He cannot make people buy products. Not unless he closes the market like the Soviets did. And we see what happened to them.

    • Phil R

      “The Good Bishop wants justice for the
      poor. What he would actually get is Capital flight. And a greatly expanded population of the poor. Socialists don’t know how to create wealth. They only know how to expropriate it and re-distribute it to their favored constituencies. The process would destroy the economy in this age of highly mobile Capital. Those firms that could move would do so. They would be compelled to do so or go out of business. Those firms that couldn’t move would find themselves saddled with a non-competitive labor cost structure. They would go out of business.”

      I am not sure that this is actually true. One of our most successful industries is Defence. That is shielded from competition and remains in business.

      Your economics just transfers industry from the UK to China it seems.

      BTW I made far more money under Labour than the Conservatives.

      • CliveM

        Defence spending in the UK is open to international competition. Ok not all countries defence contractors will be allowed access but a lot are.

      • carl jacobs

        Defense is a unique industry for obvious reasons. But you are correct. You can create indigenous industry with protection. You will trigger a trade war and devastate the portion of your economy that depends on international trade. You will drastically reduce both consumer choice and product quality. And you will suffer economic decline relative to the rest of the world due to lack of pressure from competition.

        Try it with automobiles. Restrict imports of Japanese and German cars. Make it prohibitively expensive to purchase vehicles not made in the UK. Then pass a whole bunch of labor-friendly legislation to distribute the fruits to workers. If you want know what that would produce, just check out the American auto industry circa 1977. It was a great time to build cars. People made money hand over fist. Of course, the cars were sh*t.

        If only the Americans had kept out those sinister Japanese who insisted on building quality products that people wanted to buy, we could have kept thousands of UAW workers employed making over-priced poor-quality junk.

        A great victory for America was squandered.

        • CliveM

          I remember the first time I visited the US, the flight to Japanese cars had started, but got a “stretched limo” to an airport. Thing wollowed like a whale and the boot, despitet it’s impressive length, had barely enough space to fit a ladies evening bag!! Ignoring just about every car BL was producing at the time, it was the worst designed car I had ever been in.

          Of course it could have been worse, but then I’ve never been in a trabant. As you say if you don’t allow competition you get crap.

          • avi barzel

            My family back in Europe applied for, patently waited and ecstatically received a bright red Moskvitch, a gem of a four cylinder contraption with a reversed gear shift, which needed double clutching expertly timed to appropriate curses, sported a loose toggle switch on its minimalism-inspired sheet metal dashboard and made it up steep inclines only in reverse.

          • CliveM

            The only good thing about being in the UK in the 70’s was the knowledge that Eastern block countries had it worse. Although it was a close run thing in relation to the GDR.

            However even in the eastern block, I suspect BL cars weren’t aspirational!

          • avi barzel

            Yes, back then from behind the curtain we looked longingly at Britain, envying the housing projects in Manchester and their inhabitants we saw in the early Beatles films!

  • Anton

    Some history is worthwhile. In Henry VIII’s time poor relief was done by the monasteries – who owned much land and could certainly afford it. But Henry dissolved the monasteries and appropriated their wealth to fund his royal schemes. Relief of the poor, meaning mainly those incapable of working the land and who had no capital nor support from others (often widows and the infirm), then fell to the parishes. Following a lifetime during which the laws fluctuated in their attitude to the poor, a system was settled in 1601 in which parishes were obliged to provide assistance – obviously out of local resources – for persons in and of the parish who were destitute. (Mobility to where more jobs are offered was not an issue in a pre-industrial society.) The question of which applicants for poor relief should be granted how much relief was left to local authorities, who knew personally the circumstances of those involved. This was, roughly, the Mosaic system. In 1795, however, one parish (Speenhamland) decided on a minimum wage and set local taxes so that the wages of persons who were paid less than a certain amount were topped up from those taxes. This system then spread, with variations. The law of unintended consequences promptly made itself felt, reducing the market wage offered, because employers knew that taxpayers would make up the deficiency. Then, to maintain the top-up, taxes and tithes had to be increased significantly even as wages fell. This was hardest on the poorest ‘labourers’ (meaning those who did not qualify for relief), who were soon living less well than some ‘paupers’ (meaning those who received relief). Moreover the paupers, initially grateful, soon set up gangs which physically threatened the people who set the rates and the criteria for relief. (Such people were unpopular also with labourers.) These criteria took family circumstances into
    account, and the result was that, while labourers became poorer with each child they had, single mothers and other pauper families often became richer with more children. The growing unfairness of this system was a major underlying cause of the rural riots of 1830-31, even if the immediate triggers were poor harvests and the partial mechanisation of farm work. Those riots led to parliamentary reform and the end of ‘outdoor relief’ (paying paupers in the community). ‘Indoor relief’ was expanded – the workhouse system, which had its own inhumanities as chronicled by Charles Dickens.

    The 1834 report of the Chadwick Royal Commission into the problem has a modern ring, for nowadays we are back at the system that grew from 1795 and ended with riots by the poorest workers not in receipt of relief.

    • avi barzel

      Bravo! I do so love histories, especially when they delight with something new or forgotten, like the excellent Speenhamland parish example!

    • avi barzel

      The riots of the 1830s, though, were far more than a rural phenomenon or the result of yet another slump due to nechanixation. It was the unfortunate side-effect of peace. Peace, glorious peace with its returning seamen who with their prize monies long spent might have wistfully longed for the Navy press-gangs of old, and which raised the levels of concentration of economic distress in the now-more populous towns and cities. A cause which was rarely aknowledged directly, even though successive generation of historians from Ashton and Kay down to Hobsbawm and Perkin implicidly aknowledged its effects.

      (This conclusion… one as full of holes as rotting Swiss cheese, perhaps… I draw from my critical marginal notes in a yellowing notebook dating back to a course three decades ago wherein I vented my frustration with the Teaching Assistant’s fixation on the minutiae of social history at the expense of the larger picture.)

      • Anton

        Peace in our relations with Europe perhaps, but Britain still had an Empire in which policing offered a niche for the kind of talents you refer to.

        In the 1960s that too had gone and the result was football hooliganism.

        • avi barzel

          That is true, but the impact was felt throughout England. The decommissioning of scores of Naval ships, the end of legalized piracy…prize-taking… along with the strengthening of the coast guard and the reduction of Channel smuggling ravaged the economies of ship yards, purveyors and port cities.

          I’ll go out on a limb and say that this blessed peace was the trigger for the chain-explosion of post-war depressions, the Reform crisis, slump after slump like series of relentkess tides and levels of misery far worse than anything since. A fascinating, if depressing, slice of British history. A drastic increase of crime and prostitution were recorded not only in the litetature we admire, but in the first systematic social studies where the notion that social ills cause moral disintegration, rather than the opposite, took root. Whatever mitigating effects the colonies and policing may have had, they did nothing to stop chartism and socialism.

          It seems to me that this is not an unusual pattern in international conflicts and that we never seem to learn that, paradoxically, the sudden errupion of peace can be far more dangerous to society than war. Of course, take this opinion as descriptive, rather than presriptive, God-forbid!

          • Anton

            I think that by far the biggest factor in the unrest in England in that era was the consequences of industrialisation. Nothing like it had ever taken place before, anywhere, and there were bound to be teething troubles.

            We still maintained a huge Navy – we actually patrolled the Atlantic ocean stopping other nations from taking slaves out of Africa.

  • Hugh Jeego

    What is “justice for the poor”? Surely poverty depends upon a number of causes. One may be born into poverty or one may achieve poverty through bad education, through bad luck (e.g. losing one’s job and being unable to find another for various reasons, including disability), through callous parents, through idleness and probably several others that I haven’t mentioned. Surely in each of these cases, “justice” requires a different remedy? Should the idle be given the same help as the injured? Does someone with insufficient education require the same remedy for their poverty as someone who would rather game the system than make proper use their talents?
    All too often the concept of “justice for the poor” is conflated with “handouts to those who are not working”.

    • bluedog

      Comrade, the poor are poor because of the violence and oppression of the discredited capitalist system. Tory attempts to promote work for the dole and to provide remedial education in employable skills are typical of the ugly paternalism of the self-appointed ruling class. Only those born to wealth and privilege could be so insensitive as to foist their values on those they deem less fortunate.

      • Hugh Jeego

        The only solution is to instigate an anarcho-syndicalist commune, where we take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. But all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.

        That’s obviously what the Republican Bishop of Willesden is after. I think he’s in the wrong film.

      • avi barzel

        Well said, Comrades Bluedog and Jeego! Well ssid! We must not waver in our steely resolve and let the setbacks to the inevitable march of Maxist Leninism, or the temporary waning of Dear Old Karl’s spectre of communism that once hovered over Europe weaken our revolutionary determination and drag us into the pitfalls of decadent reactionary revanchism.

        Please present yourselves at the nearest district commissary with your Party cards to draw extra rations of beets, Bulgarian tobacco and Georgian tea as a token of the Politbureau’s appreciation for your defense of the glorious proletariat. Please, do not forget to bring your own bags.

  • Hugh Jeego

    I’m fascinated by the concept of a republican Church Of England bishop. This would be the Church Of England whose supreme governor is the reigning monarch, would it? Doesn’t he find the church’s very structure to be rather inimical to his own beliefs in that respect? Or is he happy to live with that little inconvenience because he’s managed to rise to a position of some influence, which he may not be able to do within a church that has a more egalitarian structure.
    Maybe he divorces the governance of the country from the governance of the church (which may or may not be a good thing), and has no objection to a hereditary supreme governor of the church.

  • David

    When exactly did the C of E cease to be the Tory Party at Prayer ? Some time ago I know, but are there any recent social history types volunteering to suggest and explain the when and why, please ? It sort of crept up on the nation, I feel ?

    • Anton

      It’s now the Labour Party at prayer. It should be neither, of course.

      • David

        Agreed.
        A national Church should be balanced, to appeal to a broad spectrum, both theologically and politically.
        But I fear all balance has been lost. It is now predominantly, Liberal theologically, and rapidly becoming ever more Liberal, and Labour supporting politically.

  • len

    There needs to be a clear division between the’ deserving poor’ and the’ undeserving poor’ and this is the dilemma that politicians must sort out!.
    Immigrants are flocking to this Country for a variety of reasons for some it is to improve their life prospects by either working to improve their position and aspirations for others it is to live a life of ease cushioned by the benefits system.This is true of the indigenous population also.
    Labour having been soundly thrashed in the recent election seem now to have decided to go backwards into their ‘roots’ as is their way it seems?.

    We need a thriving economy and the Tories seem to be the only party to driving towards this goal?.

  • Dreadnaught

    Doling out Tax Payers contributions to people who perceive that the State owes them a living and a home is the blight of our time. It’s relatively new and the easy option for politicians to hitch their wagons to, either as a right for the needy or the whipping boy for the rich.
    What politics from either side fail to do is provide work for idle hands.
    There would be squeals from the Left saying that ‘forced labour’ (or more appropriately a work ethic) is tantamount to slavery. On the other hand ‘Labour Batallions’ engaged in construction work on National Infrastructure schemes would receive even more shrill claims of unfair competition from the Construction Industry Barons.
    A truly representative Government would have no difficulty in establishing the principle of cash benefits in return for work – that’s what the majority of the population do or have done in their working lives.
    Government training, then deployment to engaging new skills in construction for instance should be benefit to the unemployed and to the benefit of the Country.
    Same goes for prisoners, who have lavish facilities compared to so many crims in hell-hole incarceration elsewhere. Our crims get three squares, TV, access to education opportunity to pump iron to bulk-up muscle and for what – to beat the crap our of some poor bugger when they get out?
    Its not difficult. It just requires a bit of bottle and a properly directed programme of reform of the Money for Nothing culture that is so appealing the indigenous Feckless and the gate-crashing, un-educated illegal migrants and phoney asylum seeking opportunists from the rest of the world.

    • avi barzel

      An interesting social reform method, undoubtedly a variation on the familiar but never-failing Roman circuses and bread solution, was developed by the governing communists in the waning days of their crashing workers’ paradise; ply the populus with subsidized liquor and release a trickle of Western goods and they’ll drink themselves to death in frustration from being unable to find or afford Levis jeans.

      A more creative variation, one we seem to be subjected to under our own betters, appears to be a ploy of allowing us to copulate ourselves to oblivion with sterile sex whilst fruitlessly seeking elusive celebrity or nirvana. Cheaper too than bread and games or vodka and jeans.

  • avi barzel

    Devastating points, Your Grace. It is no secret that historical illiteracy, even among those we consider as learned, has in our times reached fantastic proportions. “Moving on,” “moving forward,” “getting over it” and “progress” are the excuses the ignorami throw about to obscure their vapidity.

    One trusts that you are not overly surprised by this. And so, those who deem historical details as irrelevant, who are unable to critically view the rich tradition of English political and religious ideas on the blight of poverty, and unequipped to navigate through the romantic views of the past on one hand and the overly critical historical revisionism, have naturally fixated on the easy and splashy stuff; the well-documented horrors, perhaps not taking into account the model establishments managed by good, caring and capable administrators. I’m no jingoist, Your Grace, or at least I hope not; but I fear the social criticism of our times differs from that of yesterday’s in its open contempt for one’s own country and its ancestors, the dismissal of breath-taking accomplishments and a lack of sympathy for isurmountable challenges and resultant failures.

    The history of the English workhouse, though, is too checkered by its own varied history through periods of tremendous changes as Britain went through wars and strife both internal and external, and its people moved from country to city and even other continents. It seems to me that it is not possible to present models or draw easy conclusions. Still, a look a the institution of the workhouse as it operated in the last two centuries, right up to its dissolution in the late 1940s, suggests that in the aggregate, the workhouse failed in its mission to alleviate problems it was commissioned to address. The more outstanding impediments to its effectiveness appear (at least as critics from 19th century onward would have it) to be the repeated attempts to make conditions severe enough to discourage its growth and spread, the opposition by craftsmen’s circles and unions which prevented productive and economically viable work, the socially destabilizing separation of families which faced life-long incarceration and the failure of effective checks and balances and responsible oversight.

    I suggest that if we step further back, a dispassionate evaluation will lead to the conclusion that neither good intentions, nor the workhouse or now, the modern welfare system which has expanded to international and global proportions, offer real solutions or ideals. They are at best static-stop gaps, temporary solutions with short shelf-lives which may prevent misery for a few, but which perpetuate it for the many by “locking in” individuals, families, classes and entire nations. Utopia may be beyond us, but the phenomenon which seems to drive betterment, at least in England and its possessions since the decimation of the great plagues, appears to be a drive for betterment which most of the world never seemed to have acquired. It is perhaps this lack of religious and ideological unity and competition between factions which made possible the frequent revolutions in agricultural production, technology and mobility…social and geographic.

    And so, real deliverance from poverty and decline came not from the Fabians, Qakers or Owenites, guidance from Rome, the kindly parish priest, instructions from the national Church, principled factory owner or the much-maligned workhouse, but from the mundane; from sea coal, which saved the forests and brought the age of iron, steel and steam; the potato, which with its superior nutritional and caloric content made population growth and industrialization possible; the well-surfaced roads, canals, the railways which freed town and country people from their isolation and subjection; and last, but certainly not least, the desire for riches, the fuel which drove peddlers, fishmongers, store keepers, merchant adventurers and the Royal Navy’s ships of the line plying the oceans to conquering lands and prying open new markets. This is the history that we are obscuring and ignoring at our own peril; the Left does this with rejection of faith, nation and history and with its reckless flights into secular pseudo-messianism, and the Right with its maudlin romanticism of a past that never really was and can never be recreated and with periodic escapes into personal and passive pieties and eschatological visions. Or something like that.

    • Hugh Jeego

      Indeed, the left doesn’t understand wealth creation, so it only has wealth redistribution to fall back on. The zero-sum economy.

      • avi barzel

        One is tempted to call the approach “brigandry,” but no self-respecting brigand would sit on his haunches and merely mewl and whine for handouts. That just may be nature’s safety net and our eventual salvation, seeing how we don’t seem to have the stuff to battle the buggers with.

        • Anton

          A wise man said that it is better to give than to receive.

          • avi barzel

            And a wiser one would say that in order to give, you must first earn and produce.

          • Anton

            My wise man would not disagree with that, I am sure, but was making a point about the effects of a gift on both donor and recipient.

            The higher are taxes on economic activity, the less economic activity is profitable, and so the less there is to tax…

          • avi barzel

            I see, and my wise man would agree, but with a cautionary note that the ideal equilibrium …if even possible… is elusive. The flip side is that the lower the taxes, the weaker the central authority. This of course affects security, and without security commerce and industry wither and general prosperity is unlikely.

  • Shadrach Fire

    My Maternal Grandfather was born in the workhouse in Sudbury. Quite why his mother was there I don’t know. I had always imagined that she had been a maid in a great house and the heir intended had taken advantage of her. Sounds awfully Victorian.
    I can only imagine that a desperate young girl would have been grateful to be taken in and then helped on her way. She married later and established a good family.

    Whilst my Great Grandmother may have been fortunate, many did not fair so well within the system. It seems to me there needs to be a provision for the homeless that does not tie down the property for someone’s lifetime, but to enable people to get on their feet without a stigma attached.

    • dannybhoy

      There is no shame in that for your maternal Grandfather. We have no control over the circumstances of our birth or our physical attributes.
      It is how we respond to them that makes the difference.
      In the early years of the workhouse system it was possible for a man or woman in distress to enter the workhouse and the leave when they found employment again. In that sense workhouses were a good thing. It was when they got ‘nationalised’ that it all went wrong…

    • avi barzel

      It sounds awfully human, not just Victorian, Shardrach; few of us truly know what secrets lurk in our lineages and it’s these random joggles which improve and continue to unite us in the long term.

  • Darach Conneely

    I’m glad Charles Burgess had a much better experience than Oliver Twist and all the real life orphans and destitutes he represented. But Burgess went to a workhouse in 1919, 80 years after Oliver was written, and 60 years after damning Governments reports into the vile unhealthy conditions and attempts to reform them system. The system @His_Grace wants us to believe was so wonderful was officially abolished by the Government 11 years after Brugess was admitted.

    It is not an accident workhouses had such a terrible reputation, they were were meant to be terrible to deter ‘able bodied poor’. You know the same ‘lazy scroungers’ the Tories are trying to ‘encourage’ back to work by making unemployment and disability unbearable.

    Today the real reason for unemployment is because there is a 4 million shortfall in jobs in the country and no amount of sanctions, cutting benefits, or jumping though DWP hoops to show you are trying to get a job, is going to add a single extra job to the economy. The difference between the tender mercies of the modern Tories and the self righteous do-goddery of the workhouse system is that there were plenty of jobs in the Victorian era. The able bodied could and did take up work, or support themselves by crime. Instead the workhouses became the last desperate refuge for the sick and orphans. How many of the ‘incorrigible’ idlers and tramps the workhouses were designed to deter, suffered undiagnosed mental and physical illness, or from PTSD after the Napoleonic Wars? But hey, The DWP will declare people ‘fit of work’ when they are so ill they die few weeks later.

    The problem with New Labour is that it joined in the same shift to the right as the Tories and Lib Dems. Only now the Tories have shifted so far right they are in Tea Party land. We have been conned that welfare and disability benefit are ‘unfair’ to hard working people, when they were brought in to protect ordinary hard working people from illness and unemployment. If there are too many people on unemployment it is because there are simply too few jobs. And if you are working, with so much unemployment and job insecurity, you need a the safety net the Tories are busy dismantling in case you lose your job and join the unemployed yourself. New Labour wasn’t able to speak out against the dismantling of our social welfare system because they had been attacking welfare too. Three main political parties that are just three different shades of right wing isn’t a decent democratic choice. We need a Labour party that will move back to the centre and protect ordinary people.

    • Anton

      I’ll pay you the compliment of supposing that your vehemence comes from compassion for the downtrodden rather than hatred of the ruling classes. That is entirely to the good. You say that “Today the real reason for unemployment is because there is a 4 million shortfall in jobs in the country”. Yet there are a good many more than 4m immigrants here! Perhaps the old Left is correct that immigrants represent a threat to workers’ jobs. Employer typically prefer immigrants because they come with fewer workers’ rights in practice.

      So: kick out unskilled immigrants who do not have British passports, demand that Brits take the resulting jobs or lose benefits, and make sure that they get workers’ rights. Ex-dole Brits don’t have the work ethic? That can be learnt!

      There’s a mix of left and right in this suggestion, which I like (although it probably means I’ll get it in the neck from both). The only trouble is… EU open door immigration policy.

      • avi barzel

        Best not to disturb Mr Conneely’s peace with suggested remedies or the fact that in opening the gates to cheap labour under the pretense of love and kindness, the very same exploiting classes he abhors rely on the good-hearted likes of him for their profits.

        • Anton

          I’ll let him speak from himself, Avi. Jack and I agree that there are things wrong with both pure Left and pure Right approaches.

          Personally I look to the (written) Law of Moses and seek to abstract its principles to the present day. That’s tricky because God had worked out a system in which everybody who was prepared to work ate, which is not the case in industrial societies. I’d go with the following principles:

          * free markets in goods

          * regulated markets in property and labour

          * no fiat currency

          * poor relief to be from taxes collected mandatorily but distributed by community leaders who know the personal circumstances of each applicant

          * taxes to be as low as possible consistent with the above

          I admit that I’ve not specified how labour and property markets should be regulated but that’s a flying start.

          • avi barzel

            I take no issue with your remedies, Anton, but I will say that the Law of Moses, or rather the teachings of God which were given to Moses to be passed down to the generations apply as fully to the generations in the Desert as to our own. The laws of nature with which the Almighty imbued His Creation apply to the fellow whose ox was gored as to the chap in the employment line. We are commanded to set up laws and courts, fair judges, justice for the merchant and the land owner, strong armies, sound families, education for our young, care for our old and systems of fair redistribution according to the wits and the freedoms He gave us. Easier said that done, of course.

          • Anton

            I’m confused whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with me in your first sentence. I’m also talking only about gentile nations, and using the written Law given by God to Moses (agreed!) as a uniquely wise precedent.

          • avi barzel

            I’m agreeing with your attempt to extrapolate from the laws, disagreeing that modernity and its challenges are so radically different. I’m talking about the Gentile Nations as well, which are implicitly and explicitly subject to the Torah in many, although not all aspects, of course. How this works, is subject for debate, of course.

          • dannybhoy

            Of course…

          • Anton

            In ancient Israel the means of production – land – was owned privately but in a distributed fashion. How to adapt that?

            Company law? Limited liability?

            Lex talionis for air crashes?

          • avi barzel

            Land was never wholly and in principle, owned by anyone but God. The yuval, the jubilee years, reflect this. Laws of commerce are dealt with in the Talmud and the modern rabbinical court, the bet din, deals with all contingencies as best as it can, including with the application of the principle of the dina malkhuta dinah/the law of the land is the law.

            There was never a lex talionis in Jewish law; and “eye for an eye” meant that there was an equal liability and compensation for bodily damages regardless of one’s status. Lex talionis for air crashes indeed! Haha, such a wicked imagination!

          • Anton

            O, I’ve seriously considered the merits of Lex Talionis for car crashes. There are obvious problems with, for instance, current anti-speeding and drink-drive legislation that bans and fines many drivers who have harmed nobody and who meant no harm; meanwhile relatives of people killed by speeding or drunken drivers find sentences far too light. Injustice on all sides! But imagine if there were no speeding or drink-drive laws yet if you ran someone over while obviously driving recklessly or incapably then their relatives could do the same to you…

            I don’t understand your comment, “There was never a lex talionis in Jewish law; and “eye for an eye” meant that there was an equal liability and compensation for bodily damages regardless of one’s status.” I don’t wish to discuss Talmud here, but Lex Talionis is perfectly explicit in Exodus 21.

            Yes, land is owned by God, but in that sense so is every business.

          • avi barzel

            You don’t need to discuss Talmud, or agree with it, just to aknowledge the fact that it is the Talmud that defines and interprets the the language, intent and practical applications of Torah commandments, such as Exodus 21, in Jewish law as applied by Jews. Lex talionis, with which you choose to interpret Exodus 21, means “law of retaliation.” But it is a Latin term applicable to Roman jurisprudence. In Jewish law…and in the laws of other cultures preceding Judaism, including those based on the code of Hammurabi… “eye for an eye” explicitly meant monetary compensation of equal value as in “an eye is an eye”, whether you are a prince or a pauper. It sets an absolute limit to claims, so that the prince can not demand a different, higher compensation either monetary or other for his eye because he is eye is more valuable than a poor man’s.

            As for the land ownership, sute, you can say in general terms that the whole universe belongs to God. But Torah and Talmud define specific rules,

          • Anton

            This is going to turn into the discussion I have with some Christians about the New Testament… the question of “interpretation” only applies when a verse is hard to understand, which is the exception not the rule, and the passage in Exodus 21 is clear.

          • avi barzel

            Yes, the Exodus passage is clear: An eye for an eye means equal value of all eyes, as opposed to plucking out the eye of someone who caused a victim to lose his eye in retaliation…talionis. You have no basis on which to apply Roman linguistic and legal interpretations to a biblical law composed in Hebrew.

          • Anton

            Indeed, but I haven’t done. I’ve merely applied a Roman term as a verbal shorthand.

          • avi barzel

            No, you grafted a foreign interpretation and an assumed intent to a biblical law, thereby altering its meaning. That’s not shorthand; it’s mistranslation and mis-application. Just as you can’t apply Roman law principles to British common law.

          • Anton

            Where did I do anything more than use a Latin term for a piece of Hebrew?

          • avi barzel

            How? There is no Hebrew equivalent for “law of retribution” in the language. 21:22 allows for victims to determine compensation; 21:23-25 sets out absolute, equal terms for compensation. 21:26 specifirs an exception, to a slave, which in this case the compenstaion amounts to mandatory manumission. Nowhere is there an instruction to apply corporal retribution. Additionally, even if there were, Jewish kaw allows for mitigation through a legitimate legislative process involving judges on the principle that the “Torah is no longer in Heaven” in heaven but was given to mankind to apply within certain parameters.

          • Anton

            Verse 23 is eye for eye, tooth for tooth. I agree that to determine the meaning of Lex Talionis you must look into Roman Law. Once you have done so, its operational meaning is: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Hence I call verse 23 Lex Talionis. If you find the phrase inappropriate then I am happy to call it the principle of infliction of equal injury in discussion with you.

          • avi barzel

            It’s not that I find your phrase inappropriate, it’s that your interpretation of “inflicting equal injury” is simply incorrect; linguistically, in semiotics and historically. Within the context of laws of compensation in the adjoining paragraphs, the Hebrew *give* (eg, tooth for tooth) prescribes a mandatory compensatory value which cannot be changed either by the judge, or by the parties involved. Meaning, except in the case of an injury to a fetus (terms to be determined by injured parties ) and where manumition of an injured slave is prescribed, the value of the organs in question is to be determined in a uniform way by the courts regardless of the wishes of the judges or parties. There is also no record of Jews or even neighboring non-Jews applying the law as you interpret it. But hey, ir’s a free country, go ahead. I ‘ll visit you in jail to continue this discussion over checkers in the visitors’ hall.

          • Anton

            This cannot be so, for the list includes “life for life” and it is a basic principle in Tanakh that money cannot compensate for life, because life/blood are sacred unto God – a principle extending far back in the Genesis account eg 9:6. “Give” therefore means “inflict” and the same meaning can be inferred regarding the lesser injuries named.

          • avi barzel

            Manslaughter through negligence is handled with compensation.

            But we are arguing from different and incompatible positions. Yours is that the Tanakh is to be interpreted literally by anyone as applicable everywhere and, in practical terms, from a Christian perspective. Mine is the mainstream Judaic position that holds that the Torah includes the oral teachings as taught to Moses, passed onto the sages, entered into the Talmud and subsequent summaries and codes of Jewish law and interpreted and applied by Jewish courts and qualified rabbis who take into account precedent, custom, tradition and special circumstances. The mandate to do so has been granted by God to and through Moses. This is similar to how advanced modern legal systems work, which is why we need courts, judges, lawyers and legislatures.

            Your approach presumes that the law is an unambiguous commandment, impervious to interpretations, precedent and such. Yet, at the same time, you totally contradict this principle by hoping to apply it to a different religion with different languages and customs, in another era and in different times. And the only way you can do this is through creative extrapolations and re-interpretations…as with your grafting of an inapropriate, unbiblical precept from Pagan law…lex talionis… and by “extending principles” and “inferring” meanings all on your own. Just so you know.

          • Anton

            I don’t agree that I am interpreting Tanakh from a Christian perspective. I dispute that much of it *needs* interpretation. The whole point of a legal code is that The People can understand it, not just The Scholars. If it is difficult to understand then God wasn’t doing a very good job of setting it out to Moses, and I suggest you complain to Him. A few parts are difficult because they deal with complex situations or situations that do not arise in later Jewish culture, and of course there are grey areas; that is when you do need scholars, and precedent. But grey areas are the exception rather than the rule.

            I also regret, courteously, that you have ignored my explanation that I use “Lex Talionis” merely as a verbal shorthand for “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” as appears in Exodus 21; and that you regard it as paganism merely because it is from a language used by pagans at the time it was coined. In that case you might as well write off the Septuagint as a helpful document to diaspora Jews!

          • avi barzel

            Wait a minute! I didn’t ignore your explanation of lex talionis; I understand its meaning and disagree that it applies in this case. It is not just a “verbal shorthand,” it’s a specific Latin word meaning a specific family of laws and is a theological claim that the Torah means “retributive law” which you want me to accept a priori. My rejection of your term isn’t a discourtesy, it’s a disagreement over what the Torah means to say!

            Ditto for your dispute that Torah laws need interpretation. Leaving aside what my tradition requires, the Torah is written in a specific language, with specific idioms and expressions and for specific peoples at a specific time. You may believe that the translation that you read is sufficient, but I know that in this case it’s not, because it has never been applied in the way you think it should. Also, all laws must be interpreted, including ours, which is why I went into detail is to how simple law texts can not be used in a straightforward way by anyone. This is true even for common law in the English, because English words and meanings change sometimes year from year, some becoming archaic and incomprehensible, others shifting meaning and then on to of this, there is a mountain of precedent.

            Yours is a Christian interpretation because, first of all, it is not Jewish. Neither is it a scholarly secular interpretation, because you are not presenting arguments from history and linguistics. Your only argument is that it makes plain sense to you. But I refute this and call it Christian, because only in Christianity was the theory presented that these are retributive laws. This was done with the intent to show that the “old” Testament was harsh and even cruel and was replaced by a “new” one, with more gentle, loving laws. But the whole claim collapses in face of the fact that the passage doesn’t imply a lex talionis scenario as far as Hebrew language, textual context, Jewish law, traditions, opinions and historical Jewish and even pre-Jewish jurisprudence go.

            So, if anyone has to be miffed here, it’s me. By insisting that I courteously accept your curious “shorthand”…by way of a specific Roman legal term in Latin, no less!… you are insisting that I accept your interpretation and re-definition of a Jewish law, of Jewish history and all the serious theological implications that go with all of that. Now, I’m sure that that’s not what really want to do, right?

          • CliveM

            Avi

            When the Church interpreted the laws in this way, it wasn’t to present Judaism as harsh, but to justify the harshness of the laws and punishments of the land at the time. Frankly the medieval church was more likely to see them as a bit liberal!!

          • avi barzel

            I can accept that, Clive. The issue, though, is the claim that the Torah demands the use of lex talionis and that, by implication, Jewish jurisprudence at one time applied it and demands it.

          • CliveM

            Avi

            Typically (with exceptions to do with the Messiah) I accept the Jewish understanding of the (what Christians call) OT part of the Bible. You are the guys it was given to after all!! Antons ‘literalism’ is actually a relatively recent way of reading the bible (post reformation!) within Christianity. I think this is why ( it’s my impression), Judaism has less problem with evolution then some branches of Christianity.

            I made the point I did, because of the history between Judaism and Christianity. I didn’t want it to be seen as even worse then it actually was!!

          • Anton

            I was doing my best *not* to miff you! I shall continue to do my best, too…

            You wrote: I refute this and call it Christian, because only in Christianity was the theory presented that these are retributive laws. This was done with the intent to show that the “old” Testament was harsh and even cruel and was replaced by a “new” one, with more gentle, loving laws.

            That’s not an accurate summary of Christianity. In the Tanakh, God was in the business of running a nation. In the New Testament (NT) we see (go with me here for a moment) God running a church. Now, a nation is something you opt out of if you can’t bear it (by living abroad); whereas the church, as portrayed in the NT, is something you opt *into*. It comprises a set of people from each nation, called out of their nations spiritually yet still living in them physically. It is a volunteer organisation. As such it requires (and is given) a completely different constitution than a nation – in particular a different constitution than its birth nation, Israel. One obvious difference is that there are no (earthly) penalties for walking out of the church door, whereas if an Israelite broke Mosaic Law then he faced definite earthly penalties. This difference between a national legal code which is binding on all citizens whether they like it or not, and the constitution of a volunteer organisation, is the real origin of the difference you speak of. Wherever any Christian has exploited that difference to foment anti-semitism – and I acknowledge with shame that it has happened – then shame on him.

            As for Mosaic Law as ‘harsh’, it was written by God through Moses and I regard it as gross impertinence for anybody – Christian or otherwise – to criticise a gift of God. I also believe that Mosaic Law is behind why, when the Jews were at last permitted to leave Europe’s ghettos two or three centuries ago, they contributed to Western civilisation beyond all proportion to their number. (There’s a great book on this by Steve Pease as you probably know.) The Jews had retained a high literacy rate; and comments on Mosaic Law, both as formal study and in comparison with gentile socio-legal systems under which they lived, were staples of their conversation. This was the equivalent of a university education, for Europe’s first university at Bologna was founded specifically to extract the wisdom from Emperor Justinian’s 6th century Digest of Roman Law (a copy of which had been rediscovered after the Dark Ages). Moreover the Jews were getting a better education because they were studying a better legal code – one written by God rather than by man.

            The law was such a great gift because law permeates
            every part of life. Every other socio-legal system has grown together with the life of the nation it governs, but Mosaic Law was given complete at the start of Israeli national life, when as slaves the Israelites had had few traditions, and this, the wisest system ever devised for communal life in a fallen world, kick-started their existence in the Promised Land. The superiority of the Pentateuch is why I abstract its principles and advocate them in industrialised society. A whole lot better than mediaeval ‘Christian’ law!

            Which brings me to politicised Christianity. Wretchedly the church got into the law business, after a Roman emperor declared himself Christian in the 4th century and saw it as a promising religion of State. That, I believe, is a monstrous mutation, albeit one that lasted many centuries up to the Enlightenment. (This viewpoint underlies most of my exchanges with Catholics here.) Today the church is returning to its roots as a despised minority, and the Jews are back in the land that God gave them for as long as the earth endures. I rejoice at these things.

            You wrote: You may believe that the translation that you read is sufficient, but I know that in this case it’s not, because it has never been applied in the way you think it should.

            Certainly my Hebrew is poor, but when studying Tanakh I look up a range of translations, a word-for word interlinear, and a dictionary which gives the multiple shades of meaning of each word. To deny that meaning can be transmitted across language barriers is to adopt the same position as Muslims in regard to the Quran, and I don’t agree.

            You also wrote: it has never been applied in the way you think it should

            Sure. The prophets did a lot of complaining about neglect of the Law.

            Finally, you wrote: all laws must be interpreted, including ours, which is why I went into detail is to how simple law texts can not be used in a straightforward way by anyone. This is true even for common law in the English, because English words and meanings change sometimes year from year, some becoming archaic and incomprehensible.

            I did say that a few laws were hard to understand because the culture had shifted, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Likewise with difficult cases that come before the courts, and I greatly respect the discussion that must then take place – but again this is the exception rather than the rule.

            You say that all laws must be interpreted, but I disagree. What part of “Do not commit murder” and “Do not commit adultery” from the 10 Commandments are hard to understand? Do you believe – I mean this as a serious question – that ANY text needs “interpreting” (and if so, why)?

          • avi barzel

            I’m not really miffed. I got strep throat , fever and migraines and I’m couch-bound, sleeping more than our lazy cat since Monday and this in the middle of the hottest, sunniest and calmest weather this year while a spider has built a web on the seat of my beckoning kayak. I’m just crabby.

            I’ll begin with your assessment of the Church as a “volunteer organization.” That may be the case now, but it didn’t start as such from the time Constantine took up the sword and the Cross and so thoroughly converted Europe that we barely have even a vague memory about how the Romanised and Animists Europeans lived and worshipped. Up until recently, depending where you were, walking out that church door meant a lot of trouble and as you know, there were times when such an act proved lethal to many. European Jewry owes its survival to the unresolved tension between Christians who wanted them to live as living proof of the Gospels and those who wanted them wiped as a religion or people for the crime of rejecting Jesus. And by the grace of God, of course, and thanks to the education and learning you mention (and Church Law which barred them from land ownership, agriculture and the trades) which made them useful if not indispensible as physicians, accountants, managers and money lenders. We know what happenned whenever those services were no longer required, either because monesteries and their clerks began to compete, or Christian burghers, town tradesmen and bankers acquired “Jewish” talents on their own.

            The Church is contracting to a “despised minority” because it has lost the political and physical ability to compel, and because since the time of Constantine it was compulsion which made a Christian a Christian, compulsion which kept away competing beliefs and options. Unlike the Temple in Jerusalem, which was at the centre of all economic life in a marginal land in need of centralized planning and authority, the Church never could assume control of resources in a Europe rich with rivers, forests and deep, dark soils and later, of patchworks of kingdoms, commercial concerns, industries and nation states. Christianity, in the West at least, is facing some serious challenges. And no, I don’t say this with schadenfreude, because for all my criticism, I recognize its role in my own culture and history, my connection with its people as a European, and its potential to mitigate the cultural and ethical collapse which threatens us all.

            Anyhow, with respect to translations, I don’t mean to be Muslim or obscurantist about them. I only want to stress the importance of the semiotics as words move through broad swaths of time, languages and cultures. Among Jews alone, each word in scripture has been discussed, in Hebrew and Aramaic, Greek and Farsi, Latin, Ladino and Yiddish, German and English and so on. The Talmud, the views of the Tannaim and the Rishonim, the Ramban and Rambam, Ibn Daud, the Shulkhan Arukh, Sephardim and Ashkenazi, the mystics and rationalists… These are not just scattered and foreign fragments, denominations, doctrines or sects, these are components of our people
            and all reveal and “release” different facets of the Teachings the Almighty wrote and spoke to Moses and the generations.

            So, when I use the word “interpretations” when speaking of our scriptures, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Thetefore my mild annoyance at your certainty with meanings which we’ll argue over til the end of time.

            Look at it this way; God could have carved the Torah into our brains or our hearts, as you folks say, but He didn’t. He wrote and dictated it in the language of the day and for the minds of the times, and then He spoke of it to Moses who was to begin its transmission and interpretation through the generations. The Torah is neither a fossil with fixed features, nor a treasure chest with the “real” meanings hidden within. It’s a living dialogue in which the these wonderful and troublesome brains He gave us have a serious role. And I think that if we stray too far from the message or forget our jobs, He has His ways of letting us know.

          • Anton

            Well Avi, you’ve pretty much agreed to disagree over “interpretation” and I’ll go with that.

            You wrote: “I’ll begin with your assessment of the Church as a “volunteer organization.” That may be the case now, but it didn’t start as such from the time Constantine took up the sword and the Cross and so thoroughly converted Europe that…”

            At the moment that the church started to coerce people it ceased to be the authentic church. I’m sure you are aware (even if you disagree) that Christians speak of the transition from what we call the Old Testament to the New as a transition from Law to Grace. As soon as the church gets into politics it is back into the law business and contradicting its foundation as a volunteer organisation. It is fine for individual Christians to be in politics (in lands where that is possible), but not for the church as an institution to be. I don’t blame Constantine – he knew no better – but Bishop Sylvester of Rome failed to tell the truth about Christianity to his newest convert, and closed on the deal: not only an end to persecution, but the opportunity to spread the faith via the resources of the State. And worldly riches, of course. For nearly three centuries Satan had attacked the church from the outside, by persecution, and all that had happened is that it had grown. Now he attacked it from the inside using temptation, and it worked nearly as well as in the Garden of Eden.

            There were many genuine Christians inside Europe’s institutional churches, of course – those who treated people well and did nothing to further institutional maltreatment of others including Jews. But if you wonder where the church as a corporate body had gone, notice that the New Testament states that the church will always be a minority despised by the world ie the culture. In mediaeval Europe the culture comprised the institutional churches, but from which there were small groups of dissenting committed Christians who insisted on meeting informally to pray in their own words and study the Bible in their own languages: the Lollards in England and the Waldenses around the Alps, for instance. They took seriously the New Testament insistence that *all* Christians were priests, and they had the decentralised structure described therein. They were the authentic church as a corporate body in those days, and they shared mortal persecution with the Jews. Catholics do not share my view, of course, but if you look at the New Testament (and the first three centuries of church history) then you can verify what I say for yourself.

            You wrote: “The Church is contracting to a “despised minority” because it has lost the political and physical ability to compel” Yes, and as I said I rejoice. I hope I’ve explained why in a little more detail.

          • ” In ancient Israel the means of production – land – was owned privately but in a distributed fashion. How to adapt that?”

            There you go – Distributism.

          • avi barzel

            If you cut the Almighty into the deal. But no, not really. The system did not place limits on ownership in terms of quantity, nor did it seek to redistribute wealth and land beyond what the Tribes were given, but strove to impede perpetual land ownership in Eretz Israel through the generations.

          • Cooperatives would place ownership in the hands of the workers as well as those investing in the business. This would maximise wealth distribution and also engage the labourer in the fruits of his work.

          • avi barzel

            You have obviously never lived in a co-op condominium, then and spent sleepless nights plotting ways to extricate yourself.

          • Now you’re just being awkward and looking for difficulties. Let’s face it, the forces of capitalism are hardly great for the common man or for liberty. We go about immigration and cheap labour; who benefits from this? We moan about tax credits and the living wage; who is being subsidised? Housing benefit; who gets the rent every month? Rising energy costs; are gas and oil companies living in poverty?.Rising costs of life saving medicines; who benefits? Meantime, the state grows ever larger to feed the machine.

            As Pope Francis said (and Jack is not a huge fan):

            “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills… A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.”

            Something has gotta give.

          • avi barzel

            No, no, just wracked with a Summer flu and returning fevers. My apologies, I best withdraw until a later time lest my weakness causes me to concede points I never would otherwise! Can’t have that…

          • God Bless and Jack hopes you recover.

          • avi barzel

            Thank you! A nap and some relief meds and back into the fray.

            My condo coop was a quip, but come to think of it, it describes co-op projects in microcosm. You have the breakdown of cooperation as busy, lazy or passive people are pushed aside by the usual suspects; the ambitious climbers, the show-off, Alpha-types, fraudsters and plain annoying pests. You have the blight of under-estimation of costs, crop-ups of hereto hidden problems, wrangling over solutions and ever-rising bills. Kind of a familiar scenario, no?

            Now, you seem to think that “forces of capitalism” are at the base of such and other oroblems. But what you are in fact describing are the forces of economics which sweep away any rickety dike grand planners try to put up. And then, you incongrously assert that the state grows larger due to this capitalism, a natural state of free human economic interaction, when it is precisely the reaction to it and the attempt to control it which creates the “machine” !

            Well, if you’re not a huge fan of Pope Francis, there is no reason to give him a break now. What you cited hardly resembles Catholic doctrine as I think I understand it, and appears to be a rehash of same old Latin American socialism with a revolutionary itch and barely concealed conspiracy phantasmagoria rewritten by Occupy activists. Where and what is this “virtual” and “invisible tyranny”? How and by whom does he think it can be resisted? And the “widespread corruption” and “self serving tax evasion”! How good of him to notice a millenia-old issue. Perhaps solutions can be found…like, let’s see, how about international governance and taxation by teaming up with activists, cash-strapped and failing governments and hand-picked corporations to sow panic over some rather normative fluctions of our climate to demand inspections and compliance with new and drastic “emergency measures” ! For example.

          • Anton

            International tyranny is due to a financial system that prints *unbacked* money and then lends it, getting entire nations into debt and then screwing them for terms.

          • avi barzel

            Perhaps, but monetary policies of governments are not the fault of “capitalism.” (Curious, that Jack uses a loaded, inexact Marxist term, instead of “free enterprise.”) Moreover, printed money is not necessarily “unbacked.” When applied properly, the GDP, projected revenues and a variety of national assets back the money as firmly as bullion in a vault. Without this, modern economies would be severely restrained. You are describing abuse of the principles and the system, similar to a situation where a government or a bank falsely claims to have the backing bullion.

          • Anton

            I know that not all printed money is unbacked. But 90% of it is and that is contrary to the Mosaic laws about fair weights and measures.

          • avi barzel

            As applied in the Land of Israel, under a Jewish commonwealth under halakhic laws, I’m sure. Which is why Jews can use banks like everyone else, but Muslims who apply it to themselves need sharia-compliant institutions. Jack, though, is talking about a form of Catholic social doctrine stated at the turn of the 20th century, but then he selectively quotes the current Pope, who is unfortunately not even sure what he is saying and takes advice from secular radical leftists.

          • Anton

            Yes, but it is worth pointing out that we live much wealthier than 50 years ago; and 50 years ago people lived much wealthier than 150 years ago; and so on – all due to industrialised capitalism. Yet I take all your points too. Should the poor compare themselves across classes or across time?

          • dannybhoy

            The guys who came out of Egypt with the most loot and the cleanest consciences ended up with the biggest chunks of milk and honey…

          • avi barzel

            Communist!

          • Anton

            Yes, but how? If a man wants to start a business with his own capital and hires employees, must he be forced to share profits as well as pay them according to contract?

            Thinking on it, I’d say No – but there wouldn’t be many businesses like that, for most people start businesses on borrowed money, and perhaps the law should stipulate profit-sharing in such cases. Interesting…

          • avi barzel

            It’s not distributism, not as defined by its authors and not in practice. It’s assignment of land by God under specified conditions. And if you are going to go by this, keep in mind that it applies only to the Land of Israel.

          • Some good principles in there, Anton.
            ‘Distributism’ would regulate monopolies and cartels to preserve free markets and competition and encourage widespread ownership through cooperatives. It would place an emphasis on a small state too through charitable giving and independent organisations including Churches.

          • Anton

            I know where you get Distributism from and I’m not going to condemn it just because it’s from Catholic thinkers but I believe its principles don’t run deep enough for coherence and that this would lead to trouble in practice; I suspect it is rooted too much in the thought of about 120 years ago. I’m going to stick with my project of trying to abstract relevant principles from the written law of Moses – the only constitution for a nation that God has ever written – and then apply them to an industrial society. No human wisdom begins to match divine wisdom. I am uninterested in critiques of this strategy but I welcome all critiques of details that I might propose within it.

            Incidentally I believe that huge monopolies are the result of limited liability and the borrowing of more money than exists as wealth by the already wealthy, using their wealth as collateral, in a fractional reserve banking system.

          • Jack will be surprised if you find a huge gap between the thinking and principles of Distributism and the Mosaic economic system.

          • avi barzel

            Careful there, Jack, I think you’re suggesting Calvin’s Geneva and its social welfare! Haha!

          • Jack doesn’t know too much about that but suspects it isn’t quite the same thinking. Didn’t Calvin place power in the hands of clerics and establish a theocracy?
            Distributism is an economic approach based upon widespread property ownership, where the means of production are spread as widely as possible and not centralized under the state, a few individuals or a few corporations. It advocates a society with widespread property ownership and engagement through co-operative movements to achieve a just social order. State socialism is where capitalism eventually leads as capitalism’s concentrated global financial power eventually captures the state anr makes it its servant.
            Distributism aims to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole and to spiritual, intellectual and family life. Same outcome as Marx wanted – different approach.

          • avi barzel

            Yes, Geneva was a theocracy. And yet distributism places a limit on private property, as Chesterton and his “three acres and a cow” would have it and the rerum novarum wants to place limits to capitalism. How, if not through theocracy, if not other “cracy” is the big question. And this is its central weakness; the outcome that Marx wanted is possible only through one approach: Tyranny.

          • The limits to capitalism Jack has outlined i.e. preventing the means of production being concentrated in a few hands or in the state. Capitalism, left to itself, becomes an almighty tyranny too. You can have bureaucrats regulating this and crushing small businesses in the process, or adopt a different approach.

          • avi barzel

            And how will this work? This engineered “spreading” of ownership. Bureaucrats guarding bureaucrats? A dictatorship of the proletariat? Does it not make more sense to clean up the system we have in the West by limiting government to essential services and defending property and clean justice systems?

          • Darach Conneely

            I think you may have bought in a lot of ideas from modern laissez faire economics. I don’t see any reference to free market in goods, There were regulations about property and labour but they were more to do with cancelling debts and the return of property every 7 year and 50 year cycles (the Jubilee). There were also the earliest (?) regulations for workers rights, not to defraud or cheat labourers, and they were to have regular holidays and a day off every week. I don’t think there is any reference to ‘no fiat currency’ the Israelites simply used the currency systems around at the time, barter, shekels, denarii. Nothing about tax being as low as possible, though they were warned having a king would lead to higher tax. Not sure the details of how welfare was distributed, Gleaning and produce from Sabbath years fields was gathered by the poor themselves, Tithes may have been distributed by the local levites, though I don’t know if that was because they knew the personal circumstances of the poor. Since this welfare went to immigrants and the poor who may not have been local, especially in cities, I don’t think this was the point, more a practical question of how it was to be run. I agree they would probably have used their discretion with people in particularly difficult circumstances. People working in job centres should be able to do the same. There is no suggestion that the Levites were to distinguish between deserving and undeserving poor, the cause of so much misery and degradation in the Victorian era and now reintroduced by the Tories. Altogether a very socialist sounding economic system.

            But if you really want to go back to a biblical economic model the first thing you will have to stop is people like Wonga and Banks charging interest. Usury was definitely a no no.

          • Anton

            Thank you for these comments; I am all in favour of translating Mosaic principles into modern terminology and then advocating them in politics today.

            On the understanding that the following comments are meant to be constructive dialogue about the Law of Moses and not Left vs Right playground stuff, please note the following:

            * The absence of any regulations in Mosaic Law on how goods should be bought and sold implies a free market in them.

            * “No fiat currency” comes from the laws on fair weights and measures. A corrupt ruler first stamps his head on gold and silver coins to save his people doing weighings and assayings every time they want to by something, ie he guarantees the coinage. Then he starts mixing base metals in and paying his employees in these while insisting that they be equivalent legal tender. Then he replaces them by paper money on a 1:1 basis. Then he issues unbacked paper money to pay his employees. Thence the modern banking system. I firmly believe that this is the root cause of the “business cycle” of unsustainable boom and distress-causing bust. Oddly I get no better reception from the Left than the Right when I point this out; I guess everybody enjoys printing money.

            * Jews were forbidden to charge interest only to other Jews in Mosaic Law but they were permitted to charge interest to gentiles. In mediaeval times Catholics were likewise forbidden to charge interest to others; that is why Jews were moneylenders at interest to mediaeval Catholic Europe.

            Regarding welfare, you wrote: they would probably have used their discretion with people in particularly difficult circumstances. People working in job centres should be able to do the same. There is no suggestion that the Levites were to distinguish between deserving and undeserving poor. This confuses me because isn’t the point of discretion to distinguish between those who have got into trouble through no fault of their own (ie, the deserving poor) and those who have got into trouble through their own fault by eg sloth, drunkenness, gambling, ie the undeserving poor?

            Thank you for your interesting comments.

          • Darach Conneely

            I really like your emphasis on dialogue. I agree totally, though in practice discussion so easily become rather heated 😀 You may be interested in my blog on the Old Testament’s social welfare system.
            https://simianinthetemple.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/moses-and-israels-social-welfare-system/
            Not that we go back to gleaning, but that social justice means our society showing the same level compassion and care for immigrants, the poor, the unemployed the sick and disabled.

            I think you may have to dig deeper for Mosaic principles, much of what we see in the Torah was simply legislating Ancient Near East culture and practices the Israelites already shared. The Torah would have shared much of the ANE concerns and practices over market honesty, E.g the code of Hammurabi. The Mosaic principles would have worked on a level of what was added or removed from ANE culture because of OT concepts of holiness or social justice. After all, the bible spans and works in a whole series of of cultures and economic system from Ur to the Roman Empire. I think the real question is how we apply biblical principles of honesty, social justice and care for the poor within our modern economic system, rather than trying to revert to an ancient near east economy in a world of internet stock markets.

            “The absence of any regulations in Mosaic Law on how goods should be bought and sold implies a free market in them.”

            I’m afraid it’s the old ‘absence of evidence’ problem. Import duties would have been ubiquitous back then, every nation taking a cut of goods transported into or though their territory, with tax booths in ports, on major roads and at city gates. It is the lack of prohibition against a standard practice that carries the weight here. Certainly, the kings of Israel had no problem collecting revenue from merchants and traders 1 Kings 10:15.

            “No fiat currency”

            Gold is just as arbitrary as paper notes or cowrie shells, it has little intrinsic worth apart from being pretty and when the Spanish flooded Europe with gold and silver from the Americas, it didn’t simply make the Spanish wealthy, it devalued the gold and silver already circulating in Europe leading to deflation and a 600% rise in prices over 150 years.

            The ban on usury wasn’t just a religious law, it was a national law for the nation of Israel. If you want to base a political and economic system on the Torah, The law against usury is pretty hard to ignore. I think it is pretty unworkable in modern economics, though Muslim nation have tricks to get around the problem, just like Christendom did using Jewish banking. Rather than try to sidestep the issue, it is more important to legislate against crushing interest rates and being in a lot more Jubilee style debt cancellation for those being crushed by debt and interest repayments.

            There is a major difference between giving the poor more when they are hit by difficult circumstances, disasters, children sick, having to travel to visit their sick parents in a distant city; and giving less to the ones you judge and condemn. Do you give a family less because the father can’t control his alcoholism? How do you know the ‘sloth’ you condemn people for isn’t a genuine illness like Chronic Fatigue / ME? That’s not for us to judge except in compassion and reaching out to try to help.

          • Anton

            Darach,

            Thank you for your blog reference. Do you give your email address there? I have a 6-page essay on Mosaic principles in contrast to other legal systems – mainly modern secular but also Sharia, Roman, Hammurabic and mediaeval Catholic. This would be great to discuss because when modern politics comes up here at Cranmer you are fairly Left and I am fairly Right, but I grow increasingly tired of this polarisation which is only 1/10th as old as the church.

            I don’t disagree that interest should, if not be banned, be very firmly regulated. I was simply pointing out that the usury ban on Israelites was not universal but specifically on lending to other Israelites.

            Re your last paragraph, Paul said that a man who refuses to work should go hungry (2 Thess 3:10). So Paul thinks you can tell.

            I don’t agree that gold is as arbitrary as paper money. The original exchange medium in markets would have been grain or some other storable food staple; since this is in daily demand by everybody as sustenance, even people who don’t need to eat grain produced by others know that they will be able to pass it on. Persons who come to market with other goods could exchange them for grain in their first barter of the day, then use spare grain as currency to buy whatever else they needed. Among the goods that came to market were precious metals. These were purchased by the wealthy for ornamentation, and their scarcity provided prestige value. The properties that suited these metals to ornamentation also made them a better medium of exchange. They therefore came to act as a proxy for grain, backed by the barns of the wealthy.

            After that, receipts for precious metals that people had stored in the local goldsmith’s vault became accepted in markets as paper money, based on the trustworthiness of the goldsmith and by the goldsmith merging the gold deposited by each individual. To merge gold with confidence the goldsmith must weigh and verify the gold he received from each person. That saved people the need for (on-the-)spot verification of precious metals at the marketplace.

            Another way of dispensing with the need for spot verification is to put the stamp of somebody trusted on a piece of precious metal. That is the origin of coins, although it leads to the practice of coin clipping. A ruler might himself take up these ways of guaranteeing money in his realm, giving him the opportunity to mix cheap (‘base’) metal into coins, or to make smaller coins while still stamping ‘one unit’ on them, or print notes without the backing of precious metal. This is then made legal tender by decree (‘fiat’ currency) and the ruler can inject it into circulation by paying his troops and other employees with it. The ruler prohibits as counterfeiters anybody else from doing what he is doing, apart from banks he has licensed. That is merely a perk of power. But fiat coins don’t have the same purchasing power outside the ruler’s kingdom, for they contain less gold or silver. He has ripped off his people. Fiat currency represents the dishonest manipulation of the people’s exchange medium.

          • Darach Conneely

            Don’t see how you can get past the fact there is vastly more gold than is needed for bling, or the v limited use in electronics. It’s value is simply because everyone else values it because of its cost. It helps that it is pretty durable but has v little intrinsic worth of its own. As you have shown from the history of gold and silver coins, even with gold as a supposed standard, we have long been on a market system based on the trustworthiness of kings and nations and their unwillingness to be seen as untrustworthy.

            Was Paul suggesting anything beyond talking to people why they weren’t working and cutting the ones who stopped because Jesus was coming back off the dinner roll? The bible recognised people can suffer infirmities/weakness which are often without any other outward symptom. There is no suggestion that the church not take these claims at face value.

            I can take a look at what you wrote, may take some time getting back to you (energy levels CFS/ME). Suggest you write a comment in my blog with your email address. I can send you my email that way without either of them being public.

        • Darach Conneely

          Cheap labour? I’m all for a real minimum wage and that includes immigrants.

          • avi barzel

            Yes, cheap, in the form of underground labour for undeclared cash and “independent” or “contracted” work where a chap will finish a project, charge below or even at the minimum wage for his time, not declare the income and often remit it to families back home. Then, he”ll receive a “tax return” for being in a low tax bracket or even collect assistance for being “unable to find work.” Restaurants, the hospitality industry, residential construction, landscaping and gardening, child-minding, cleaning, painting…all these industries depend on this underground workforce which takes from clients and the state in the firm of social services and exports currency.

          • Darach Conneely

            Underground labour is already illegal, as is the cash-in-hand black economy which has been going on among the locals long before anti immigration was ‘No Blacks No dogs no Irish’.

          • avi barzel

            Red herrings.

            Illegal or not, underground labour by massive numbers of migrants and refugee claimants represents a significant drag on wages and social services, health and justice budgets. Enforcement of the laws is minimal, the penalties for fraud are laughable and the pitiful administration of both, by growing cadres of overpaid bureaucrats, adds yet another significant chunk to the net loss I’m talking about.

            Again, the bottom line is that the stats from the much smaller selected group of educated, acculturated and productive legal immigrants are not representative. This eas the point I was making. Yes, when administered properly, immigration is an economic benefit; but when it devolves to a policy of swinging the doors open to masses of uneducated, culturally incompatible and even hostile illegal migrants and alleged refugees, it’s a disaster. Better cross your fingers that the French don’t open the gates to their side of the Chunnel or Kent will never be the same.

          • Darach Conneely

            You have yet to establish any link between the issue of illegal immigrants and the question of limits to the number of legal immigrants. Loads of tricks are used by employers to drive wages down. The answer is a decent minimum wage and prosecuting people who don’t pay it. Legal immigrants aren’t a drain on the economy, the opposite, they make a significant contribution. Illegals aren’t a drain either. They produce wealth in the economy at very low cost are unlikely to try to claim benefits, what with being here illegally and are very unlikely to try to use the NHS.

      • Darach Conneely

        Do you think that if you just reduce the size of the population we would have full employment? Or would the same basic economy have the same employment rate, and a smaller population simply mean a smaller number of jobs? Remove 4 million immigrants and you have 4 million fewer people spending money contributing to the economy. Worse still, when you get rid of immigrants you are getting rid of our best job creators. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2573732/Migrants-set-one-seven-companies-UK-people-born-abroad-twice-likely-start-business.html

        • Anton

          With that attitude I think that you have painted yourself into a corner, economically speaking.

        • avi barzel

          Who said they are net contributors? Low wage earners in modern economies translate to net losses because of the way our progressive taxation system and social spending works. There is a good argument for mainting this set up for citizens, but not for expanding it by importing net losses.

          • Darach Conneely

            https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1114/051114-economic-impact-EU-immigration
            http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/fiscal-impact-immigration-uk
            As well as creating more jobs, young healthy immigrants pay more in tax than they take in benefits. Being significantly younger than the average Brit, it means the UK has one of the best age profiles in Europe as Europe faces a looming pensions crisis from an ageing population and diminishing workforce. Which means immigrants are ending up paying the pensions of old people who voted UKIP

          • avi barzel

            You are switching topics from Anton’s initial point.He is talking about the unqualified migrants and illegals, whereas you are bringing in screened, selected and invited immigrants. And even then, the stats you quote are bullshit, because they obscure the massive, aggregate net loss. They don’t include the unemployed, the students for life, the ones and legal aid, the incarcerated, the children and siblings in school or family chain-reunifications which bring in the sick, the radicals, the screwed up and the elderly, not to mention extra wives as “sisters” who stay at home and collect benefits.

            I find it amusing that the left, which cautions about over-population on one hand, fights for looser immigration policies because of underpopulation.

          • Darach Conneely

            Anton wanted to get rid of four million plus employed immigrants and give their jobs to locals. I showed that wouldn’t work it would impoverish the economy and removing even more jobs and job creators.
            Don’t think immigration has any effect on world population levels.

    • avi barzel

      You never fail to disappoint, Mr Conneely. Consistency appears to be your chief virtue. With your tinted goggles firmly affixed on the beak of the proverbial owl of Minerva, a rich panorama of history unfolds and what do you spot? A jumble of problems, a wall-to-wall collection of miseries and errors all brought on by the Right. Then, a breath-taking leap forward to the here and now and an offer of a rather watery pottage of a solution in the form of a vague plan to “protect ordinary people” …which, lo and behold, only your Labour party can accomplish!

      • dannybhoy

        Whatever his relationship to the Almighty, he is firmly grounded in working class prejudice and resentment.
        Did I ever tell you the true story of a group of young Christians (the Holy Joe sort) who visited Russia and in Odessa used ‘the public facilities..’
        These were young people from all walks of life bound together by their Christian faith. They made their way back to our coach and were telling us about the horrible condition of the toilets.
        A tour group of British Communists had also pulled up and entered the loos.When they came out, guess who they blamed for the state of the toilets??
        You got it. Those young Christians.

        • avi barzel

          Hahahahah!

        • Anton

          Surely that’s a load of crap.

          • dannybhoy

            That’s what those Communists said..

    • Well Jack thinks you make some good points. However, the answer isn’t to be found in socialism, trade union power and stirring up class envy that the Labour Party appears to be reverting back to.

      • Darach Conneely

        The only class envy I have seen lately is Conservatives and right wing press setting ‘hard working families’ against ‘scroungers’ ‘benefit cheats’ and immigrant ‘benefit tourists’. We live in the 6 richest nation on earth, if the rich are getting richer while the poorest go hungry and are getting hungrier, that isn’t about class envy, it is about social justice. Unless you think Oliver was being greedy asking for another bowl of gruel.

  • dannybhoy

    Am I my brother’s keeper?
    Well, yes in a societal/communal sense I am.
    Because what he does will affect me and mine, and what I do will affect him.
    If I as representing society believe the emphasis should be on looking after the poor, will I then end up condemning those who through creativity and hard work create wealth?
    If caring for the poor is all that matters am I then encouraging my fellow man to expect to be looked after?
    If I encourage all men to work and contribute to the community, am I exploiting the individual or enriching the community?
    I believe there is a real place for updated, fair but firm workhouse type institutions wherein individuals and families can be taught the values of education and skills so that they can contribute to the wellbeing of the community.
    There are many other successful nations for whom this is an absolute ‘no-brainer’

    • avi barzel

      It matters not, danny, what institution we concoct or devise, but whether we have the wherewithal, discipline and resources to maintain it. I put to you that we do not, because the frustrating paradox is that an impoverished society, one that has allowed itself to slide so far, can never manage systems that require quality input for their maintenance. In other words, no matter how viable a revamped workhouse may appear, the same lazy buggers labouring under the same greedy bureaucracies and the dame dysfunctional laws and regulations will take over and bugger-up the best plan. Pardon the insipid tautology, but the solution to society-wide sloth and poverty is society-wide industry and wealth.

      • dannybhoy

        Avi
        Some people respond to a carrot.
        Others to a stick.
        There is no escaping this fact.
        What we have to do is decide what kind of society do we want.
        If we want a prosperous society with justice and opportunity and freedom, then our goal must be how can we best achieve this.
        If we want to minister to the needs of the poor. the helpless and hopeless,
        We gonna be in debt for a long, long time…..

        • avi barzel

          And I still maintain that we get a society we want by first improving its ability to generate wealth. Wealth, which we have somehow come to deem suspect if not evil, needs to seep, swish, gush and gurgle through all layers of society before we can have any hope of being able to improve the said society.

          • dannybhoy

            We’re not disagreeing Avi.
            The difference lies in you being (originally) Czechoslovakian and well educated, and me being English and sensible,,,,

          • avi barzel

            Wait, I think I’ll take sensible over anything else!

          • dannybhoy

            This is for you O Avi ben Barzel..

            I thought it might grab your attention and seeing as you are making me for ($500 Canadian no more) Hasidikevlar coat..you might consider building me one..

            http://www.viralnova.com/bought-fire-truck/

          • avi barzel

            My goodness, Danny, what a beaut! With a heated floor, a split sink for the meat and dairy dishes and a gorgeous dirt-bike strapped to its arse!

          • dannybhoy

            Isn’t it fantastic?
            I so wish I had the skills to do something like that. I would have covered the top with solar panels and added extra storage batteries, but I am so impressed with the guy’s achievement.

          • avi barzel

            Skills, shmills…so it won’t be as perfect. Great gobs of caulking will cover the gaps and the how-to we can pick up on YouTube; it’s the time, always the time, that we lack. O, to granted another lifetime of say, two or three centuries!

          • dannybhoy

            Caulking?
            Gobs of?
            Three centuries??
            My confidence in your engineering abilities is already waning…
            Oy Vey..

          • avi barzel

            No, no, my engineering design and theoretical instincts are superb, it’s the profusion of thumbs on my hands that are a problem.

          • dannybhoy

            Hmmmmm.
            Excuse me if I look around a little..

          • avi barzel

            No loyalty, then. O, fickle, fortune.

          • dannybhoy

            Realism beats loyalty any day.

          • avi barzel

            And the return of my fever and headaches..yes, bed-bound with the flu in the middle of a humid Ontario heatwave even the airconditioner is having trouble with appears to be beating me.

            With apologies and a by your leave to you and all….

          • dannybhoy

            Get well soon Avi.
            For your wife’s sake.
            And our truck project….

          • avi barzel

            Thank you! My wife will ultimately determine when I’m well. This happens when her patience with my snivelling runs out and she needs me to get off my arse and do chores.

          • dannybhoy

            You’re welcome.

    • Dominic Stockford

      And if they put them in place, and leave them to fill at their own rate rather than force people into them (which would be wrong), it will be interesting to see how fast they fill up. My guess is ‘very fast’.

      • dannybhoy

        The goal has to be to try and maintain an employable/employed ethos, rather than an unemployed/unemployable one, dependent on the State aka the British taxpayer.
        I have no doubt that if you keep catering for the healthy able unemployed you will create more of them. Especially if you then label them as ‘living in relative poverty,’ and campaign for more generous benefits…

  • Dominic Stockford

    Dumping clause 4 lost one set of morals, dumping Section 28 lost another. What a man Blair was.

  • Mike Stallard

    Jesus, as I remember, rebuked the disciples when they clamoured for a good position and promotion in his (earthly) kingdom. Where have all the clergy gone who lived and chose to visit in the slum parishes?