chancellor-and-bishop-of-birmingham
Church of England

Church of England welcomes Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – just don’t mention the national debt

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev’d David Urquhart, has issued a response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on behalf of the Church of England. It is notable for:

I welcome the emphasis..

The Government is to be commended..

The Chancellor is right to stress..

I congratulate the Government..

A CofE response to a Tory (mini-)budget isn’t usually so effusive, even when qualified with sometimes wholly justifiable niggles and quibbles. In this case, the church advocates the building of more social housing and urges more spending on benefits with a reconsideration of the two-child limit on new claimants for tax credits and Universal Credit. These are perhaps modest proposals, but still ones which perpetuate the deficit and accrue billions more of debt.

And the deficit endures, with the national debt now moving inexorably toward £2trillion. That’s an awful lot of noughts: £2,000,000,000,000, to be precise, with which we are saddling our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all in the name of compassionate social spending on us, right now. Where’s the intergenerational justice in that?

The Bishop says: “To be a nation living within its means is an aspiration worth keeping, even if the revised figures for deficit reduction mean that the goal of its achievement has been moved slightly further away.”

An aspiration worth keeping?

This isn’t some sort of mild depression or a national bout of low self-esteem: it’s an obsessive-compulsive disorder which, if not addressed as a matter of urgency, will lead to statist bulimia and even suicide. The freedom of the government to spend what it does not possess is contingent on certain levels of inescapable risk which are subject to corporate discipline. What future economic shocks, political betrayals, cross-purposes, frauds or humiliations are to come? We cannot possibly know, and nor can the Church of England. Debt repayment is not some laudable, ever-distant aspiration: it is an immanent imperative. Debt poisons, depresses and oppresses people because it lures them into an ever-decreasing Utopia and binds them to backsliding morality and social instability. What Christian school of economics justifies robbing future generations of their income so that we may mitigate our present discomfiture?

But forget the national trillions (as they do): if the Church of England were (say) a mere £2million in debt, what immediate remedial action would it take to balance the books? Does the approach of the Church Commissioners to the Diocese of Rochester provide a clue?

  • The Explorer

    As Mrs Thatcher said, socialism eventually runs out of other people’s money.

    New Labour proved this in spectacular style, and Liam Byrne’s quip about no money left was horribly true. The Coalition inherited an eye-watering level of debt.

    Osborne set himself to reducing the deficit; although I was never clear how quickly he was doing so, or with what, or whether we were having to borrow in order to service the interest. Nobody in the media seemed to talk about it much, any more than they talked about America’s escalating trillions of deficit; although we did hear that Britain had the world’s fifth-largest economy, and so could afford all sorts of largesse for good causes such as refugees.

    I know almost nothing about economics, but I do know a little of the grim realities of life. Hammond has given us something of a reality check. That, I think, is no bad thing.

  • IanCad

    As most people today can’t easily relate to quantities, volumes, distances etc. so it is even more apparent in the world of finance. These huge sums cannot be grasped. I have suggested it before, but I shall again; we need a new nomenclature of amounts.

    One hundred is well understood, as is one thousand; and, we all know one million is an awful lot. That’s where it ends. A billion is more than a million and a trillion is more than a bill. Problem is, they sound alike. There is no word with a distinct onomatopoeic resonance to define or alert us to the huge differences they conceal.
    Chancellors love this, as do all those who sup at the trough of government largesse.
    Permit me to submit a modest proposal that may perhaps put us on our guard when considering such huge sums; Change the billion to, say; Ecclestone, or some other word that would convey a sense of mistrust or suspicion. A trillion would follow a similar theme but with the emphasis on the sheer, obscene amount. Perhaps a Zuckerburger, or Bilderberger? Just a thought.
    As to the OP; are we not seeing the reverse of The Peter Principle in action here? Mr Hammond, rather than being periodically promoted until his level of incompetence is reached, seems to have achieved that last in his first cabinet post as Minister of Defence whereby he saddled us with an obsolete aircraft carrier with no planes to use it. Then Foreign Secretary where one of his first acts was to tell the world that we would never talk with Assad.
    Now he’s in the money as the Chancellor and is saddling future generations with an immoral, unnecessary and wholly irresponsible action that will only add another black mark to his sorry record.

    • The Explorer

      Wasn’t it Brown who saddled us with the aircraft carriers, more to create jobs than for any other discernible reason? The EU decreed they should be made with Swedish steel. As I recall, Hammond stuck with the carriers because to cancel them would have cost more in penalties than to continue with their construction.

      A Bilderberger for a trillion. Tremendous idea!. The US is twenty Bilderbergers in debt.

      • IanCad

        You are right. Brown may have got the ball rolling but it should have been obvious to Hammond that the F-35 is also obsolete and horrendously expensive. It may have cost big money to cancel but nowhere near the amount wasted in seeing the project to completion.

        • Anton

          Pleases justify “obsolete” re the carriers and planes.

          • IanCad

            Space, Kinetic missiles, Limited defence capabilities (finite weaponry) Useless in littoral combat roles against a first world force. Battle of Midway.

            Lack of maneuverability, slow, need pilots, way too expensive. Drones.

          • David

            Rather too many nouns, and too few of the other parts of speech, for me to understand that stream of consciousness…

          • IanCad

            David,
            It was, of necessity, a very hasty reply to Anton – and I hope not too discourteous – a couple of comments up. Perhaps that should clarify.

          • David

            That’s fine Ian. It was partly a leg-pull, but also I recognised that it was not up to your usual high standard of clear and grammatical English.

          • IanCad

            Thanks for that David.
            Upon reflection I see I wrote in the style of a telegram; that ancestral form of today’s texting, so roundly disdained.
            There is nothing new under the sun.

          • Anton

            In case you hadn’t noticed, carrier warfare has moved on a bit since the Battle of Midway. The carrier is now at the centre of a multi-ship graded defence system, as we showed in the Falklands. See also my reply to Explorer.

          • IanCad

            Sure Anton, things have moved on but even back in WW2 the carrier was proven not to be a stand alone system. Even more so today. We have to be alert to new weapons, tactics and technologies developed by previous outliers in the world of combat.
            It is a military truism that we refight the last war as a means to achieve victory in the next. Not much fresh thinking that way.

          • The Explorer

            I believe the Chinese have developed a missile to take out carriers. The bigger the carrier, the easier the target. The carrier was brilliant in its day, but is set to go the way of the battleship.

          • Anton

            That missile depends on speed. Faster counter-measures are entirely possible, too, but who said that China is the only country that we might need to defend against?

          • The Explorer

            The American solution is to move from a few huge $15 billion-a-time carriers to lots of small, light flat tops. While they do that, we are moving from small carriers to large ones. What a large carrier has going for it is that it provides a lot of work in constructing it: I’m amazed the EU has allowed us to do it in Britain. I believe the UK’s next-generation armoured cars are being made in Spain.

            China, agreed, is not the only potential enemy, but it is the one that has specifically set out to design anti-carrier long-range missiles. I remember the first Coalition defence review. One point was the difficulty (pre-ISIS as it was) of predicting future enemies. The other key point was electronic warfare: how to counter an enemy who might take down a plane with a computer.

          • David Harkness

            The Chinese have an ex soviet carrier – not much use, but has served as a test bed for their own carrier fleet which they have started to build. The us aegis class ships have weapon systems that can counter ( I understand) ballistic missiles, and the Chinese missile is a ballistic missile. The next development of the rn’s type45 missile system will also be able to counter ballistic missiles. The size of the target ship is irrelevant.

          • The Explorer

            The size affects the cost: that’s the point. The nuclear-powered carriers are $15 billion apiece. Eggs in one basket principle.

          • David Harkness

            Yes that is true, my comment re size was more along the lines that, a smaller vessel is no safer from attack or damage than a larger one. That said, larger vessels with larger crews are more survivable.

          • Size, or even maneuverability are not much of a problem. Carriers rely on effective protective fleets, pickets, with layers of counter-measures and offensive capabilities. The Chinese are a threat in their region, but not to US forces, yet, even in the comparative sorry state they are at this time.

          • The Explorer

            ‘Easier’ was a misleading comment on my part. Three small carriers arguably make more sense than one giant carrier costing $15 billion. I should have said that the days of the giant carrier may be over.

          • That may be the trend, with drones and unmanned vessels, such as the new sub-hunter.

    • David

      Most amusing terms, but the principles of your points are worthwhile.

    • chefofsinners

      The real size of the national debt is this: £30 billion a year in interest payments. Which would be enough to make the NHS work.

  • David

    Not having read the small print of the Chancellor’s changes yet, my only reaction is simply to express my innate aversion to incurring debt and then, even worse, delaying its repayment by saddling generations yet born with burdens of our making. Where’s the wisdom and equity in that ? Unfortunately with national debts there is not the luxury of a jubilee year to anticipate.
    Regarding the suspiciously fulsome praise from the C of E, it strikes me that the as the national Church is very practiced at avoiding decisions, often through obfuscation, regarding the truly big, fundamental issues facing it, how could it hold the chancellor’s feet to the fire regarding the burgeoning national debt ?

  • The Explorer

    Future generations inherit our debt. A strategy of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Nicely biblical: no wonder it appeals to the C of E. Then again – this IS the C of E, after all – perhaps not. Perhaps what appeals is the thought of deferred decisions.

    • David

      I suspect that your last sentence hits the mark !

  • Anton

    There are three ways out of debt for a government:

    1. Make enough money to pay it off, and hope that your citizens make enough money from economic growth to be taxed enough without electorally impossible tax increases and/or austerity programs.

    2. Default (which prevents a government borrowing on the international markets for an extended period, as trust in it is lost).

    3. Let inflation corrode it – although Western governments now have inflation-linked pension commitments, so this might no longer work very well. Inflation is corrosive to the biblical virtues of thrift and saving, of course.

    No.1 isn’t going to work in the present situation; even zero interest rates haven’t stimulated matters. Interesting times…

  • carl jacobs

    Why does anyone care about the CoE’s comments on the national budget?

    • dannybhoy

      Right. Frankly it’s only of any concern to the CofE because caring for the poor is easier to unite around than the Gospel…

      • Royinsouthwest

        There is a difference between caring for the poor and talking about caring for the poor.

        • The Explorer

          The second is easier.

        • dannybhoy

          My point is that afaIcs the Gospel does not major on the poor but on the lost.
          The New Testament letters do not major in caring for the poor either.
          In fact the New Testament letters place caring for the poor of the household of faith before the poor outside of the household of faith.
          What I think is that in a secular society the more the State caters for the poor and disadvantaged, the more of them there will be..
          In a Christian society we would help the poor and disadvantaged, but the emphasis would be on helping that person into some kind of gainful employment.

    • Dreadnaught

      Bescause of our unwritten Constitution.

    • Anton

      Better ask Cranmer; he chose to comment on a bishop’s comments.

    • CliveM

      On this blog of all places, why shouldn’t it be discussed?

      • dannybhoy

        He is. He just opened the discussion..

      • carl jacobs

        I am discussing it. The national budget should not be the remit of the CoE.

        • alternative_perspective

          why?

          • carl jacobs

            Because a budget is a matter of prudential political judgment and not moral imperative. Because it gives credence to the idea of liberal religionists that sin is properly understood as a systemic act of the collective instead of an attributable act of the individual.

          • alternative_perspective

            What about the distribution of money and expenditure with distinctly moral and religious dimensions? Welfare payments etc. that encourage cohabitation to the detriment of marriage, IVF etc. Would you typically class these then as political decisions enabled by economics?
            Jesus seemed to view the world holistically, the entirety of creation being subject to God’s just law. Carving out a niche where Christian analysis and criticism do not apply seems somewhat out of keeping.
            On the matter of sin, does it not also have a collectivist dimension. In revelation the nation’s are subject to God’s judgement. Israel as a state is sent into exile for its collective sin, we as a humanity are at enmity with God due to Adam’s sin? It seems to me that it is the church of God which is saved that is constructed of individuals who have crowed Jesus as Lord? Moreover is there not Biblical precedent for familial salvation on account a parental submission? Personally I don’t see it as either or in this matter rather as both and, and this would go some way to illuminating Jesus baptism by John, as a cleansing of the sins he inherited by means of his human nature, his nation and his family but which weren’t of his personal volition.
            It’s a different perspective.

    • IanCad

      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day Carl.

    • Happy Thanksgiving, Yank and congrats on the election; saved by the miracle, as faulty as the miracle may look.

      • carl jacobs

        Well, thanks Avi. It seems we have chosen arsenic over strychnine. And maybe Hillary will see the inside of a prison.

        Where have you been for the past six months?

        • My head still spinneth; I stayed up watching the vote counts on Fox news feeds, depressed and resigned at first, and confess to perking up at Florida and waking up the family with a loud “yes!!!” when the Rust Belt started turning crimson. Regardless of what I may have said before, I, for one, would not blame you for scratching your “x” or marking your hanging chad for The Unbelievable Donald, the Magical Orange Ape; the alternative was unthinkable and the fate of Western civilization was in question. Take heart; the bugger seems to be doing better than expected, at least so far.

          Things got very, very busy for me, not all of it good, but all’s well for now.

    • Sarky

      They don’t.

  • Dominic Stockford

    It is indeed immoral to spend what we do not have in order to have a good time today, and therefore without care for those of tomorrow.

    • David

      Succinctly put !

  • Coniston

    The 19th century Scottish historian Alexander Tyler is alleged to have said that democracy could not last for ever, because when the electorate realised that they could vote for increased government spending (on welfare, etc), but vote against increased taxes to pay for it, eventual and final financial collapse was certain.

    • David

      Or in the vernacular, “once they grasp they can vote themselves money, the system will go bust”. I guess we are near that ?

      • The Explorer

        There are all sorts of things wrong with democracy. I believe the Muslims don’t like it. Give them democracy, and their first and last vote would be to abolish it.

      • Coniston

        Absolutely. Also the belief, by nearly all parties and governments throughout the world, that economic growth can and will grow for ever and ever.

    • Anton

      He was only 23 centuries behind Plato in arguing for the instability of democracy.

  • Inspector General

    A sizeable national debt is essential to stop the government of the day massively overspending to coax the voter into voting them back in the next time. In fact, as a theory, it runs similar to the idea that large galaxies would not be able to exist as galaxies were it not for the nightmare of a ravenous matter swallowing black hole at their centre whose gravitational pull keeps the structure intact. So, no massive national debt, no correctly managed government…

    Is there a theoretical physicist / economist in the house to concur?

    • chefofsinners

      I am an economist, or was.
      Your argument is logical but the electorate is not. The current government was elected on an austerity ticket.
      I am sorry to say that there is only two answers to the present malaise: economic growth (which is utterly unpredictable) or TAX RISES.

      • Anton

        Tax rises will stifle the economy further from here. There is no good end from where we have reached today.

        • chefofsinners

          Tax rises do not necessarily stifle the economy, but if you don’t want to call them taxes then we could switch to health insurance for all. That would pay off the national debt in 16 years.

          • magnolia

            We certainly need a system that encourages people to exercise basic first levels of responsibility for their own health, and a sensible aversion to the idea of turning up at A and E with a bruised finger or a heavy cold. We must waste millions on hypochondria, loneliness, passive dependence on experts, and an overly mechanistic understanding of what health is.

            Also it would help if schools stopped insisting on sending every minor sporting injury to A and E to cover themselves against possible legal difficulty. Stupid, and it wastes parental time. Been there……for hours!

          • Anton

            I’m all for reducing the national debt but it has gone too far to be recoverable as taxes.

    • Anton

      There is a theoretical physicist who believes that

      1. Expertise in theoretical physics is not synonymous with expertise in economics merely because both use mathematics to describe things “out there”;

      2. There is no good end to the state of the economy today.

      The original sin of finance is fiat currency enforced by law as of equal transactional value as the people’s choice of exchange medium, namely precious metals. Discussing smaller matters in economics is scarcely relevant.

      • Yet galaxies and economics are both subject to the same natural laws. Maybe you need to grease-up you abacus and get to work? Agreed on number 2, but to bring about the end closer, all you’d need to do is protest the original sin and get everyone to convert their accounts into bullion…the awkward moment alone would be worth it.

        • Anton

          To use 18th century terminology, economics is a moral science, a study of man on the large scale, whereas physics is a natural science. You can use pattern recognition algorithms in economics to try to predict, but you will never find an underlying ontological model for an economy.

          • Perhaps your premise, that economic activity is a purely cognitive and therefore an arbitrary human feature, is faulty. Perhaps we need not look for an ontological model, as that is a metaphysical philosophy, i.e., a certain dead-end; better to look at complex models of thermodynamics as analogs and to predictable human cultural responses?

          • See, Jack warned folk.

          • Hmm. I’ve a bit of catching up to see what you lot have been up to here. Without us sensible colonials, ya’all git a bit peculiar about things. Reading up backwards and so far, so good. For example, haven’t run into Linus yet. Dare one hope?

          • CliveM

            Nope you dare’nt. He’s now pretending to be some ancient Irish hero. But he’s not on as often. Which is a blessing.

          • Yes, I saw a few posts down. France didn’t want him, I guess, and running away to Canada is not an option, with our Immigration website crashing, as the Hollywood celebrity trash just found out. Perhaps Brexit and Trump refugees need to team up with the Palis and have UNRWA look after them….in Gaza City.

          • He’s changed his name … again. Masquerading as an Irish man now.
            So, is Trump really a misogynist, fascist, white supremacist, who hates Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and women? The Democratic “snowflakes” in America are all crying in despair. Isn’t his daughter married to a Jew and a convert?
            Strange times ….

          • As if the Irish haven’t had enough heart-aches. Anyway, Trump is a crude piglet, but not much different from others of his generation…except for the money, which makes him more careless and helps him buy his way out of the frying pan. He’s been a life-long Democrat, “evolved” his views on minorities like many others, and grudgingly survived and eventually embraced Jews in the family, like many families, including my wife’s. Must have been much easier to stomach in his case though, because I think his son in law’s clan, the Kushners, can play with a few billion buckaroos more than The Donald. And yes, his daughter is a bona fide Jew now, through an Orthodox conversion. Should crank up the modesty levels on her outfits a bit, in my humble opinion, but keeps kosher, honours the Sabbath, runs a good Jewish home and sends her kids to proper Jewish schools, which is considerably more than the majority of assimilated and sissified American Jews do, so blessings and kol hakavod/kudos to her.

            No one can find convincing examples of Trump’s racism; the judge he trashed is a member of La Raza, which makes him biased by default, and a high enough percentage of Mexican illegals who make it across the porous border are gang-members, thieves, killers and rapists. The focus has now shifted to Trump’s choice of special advisor, Breitbart’s Bannon. Yes, Bannon presided over Breitbart News which, unfortunately, got taken over by the alt-right sewage, something he regrets, but neither Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbarter, a manic conservative firebrand (worth checking out his YouTube vids) and an Orthodox Jew who worked with him for 4 years (and personally dislikes him for undisclosed reasons), nor Ivanka’s Jewish husband, Jared Kushner, think that Bannon is an antisemite and in fact, seem to like him. So, I’ll go with their judgment. Strange times, indeed.

          • CliveM

            Now you’re just showing of.

          • They won’t let me do that anywhere else…

          • CliveM

            Well it’s good to have your proven intelligence back. I find it depressing if I can understand everything people are saying.

          • Ah-hah. Let me see about how I should take this.

          • Anton

            But a “complex model of [ie, from] thermodynamics” IS an ontological model.

            In physics, variables that are specified by numbers, ie quantitative variables, are related to other quantitative variables. But in economics, quantitative variables are influenced by factors that are intrinsically non-quantitative, such as political decisions.

          • Yes, but we are talking only about getting a better “resolution” on reality. Human decision-making may appear random now, but on a larger scale, statistically, it’s already fairly predictable, even quantifiable over the long term. It’s really about a bigger data base, more computing power and better algorithms…linking the butterfly’s flutter to the tropical cyclone.

          • Anton

            No, I mean that events like wars influence the numerical variables that economics deals with, and you will never be able to factor wars into equations.

          • Yes and no. Depends how far back you want to go, how much data you have and how good your computations are. You can predict a war, maybe not a century away (yet), but most likely by a month, and with more certainty a week or a day away. Again, it’s the resolution we are debating. Given the improvement of statistical projections, and the mere fact that many happenings are predictable by science-based metrics, the burden may be on you to prove that there is a discernible point or a series of circumstances after which predictions are impossible! But you physics wizards should know that already, since lately all you can talk about is probabilities.

          • Anton

            Not this physicist, Avi; I advocate for hidden variables underlying quantum mechanics. And no amount of sophistry can get you out of the fact that the variables of economics are expressed by numbers – exchange rates, inflation rates etc – and are influenced by things that aren’t, eg wars. The whim of one man can start a war, you know…

          • The whim of one man can start a war, you know…

            Yes, sure, and ok, we can’t predict it if he wakes up at two in the morning and can parachute himself into a dozen battlefields, drive platoons of tanks and steer a fleet. Anything else will “telegraph” a gazillion of quantifiable acts which will reveal the “whim.” Me, I advocate for the eventual ability to work with hidden variables in seemingly undetectable, arbitrary or surprising acts and phenomena. I’m not saying all can be solved and predicted to the finest detail, and I’m not claiming perfect projections, but good enough ones to make a science of economics which will yield useful results.

            Shabbat shalom, everyone!

          • Anton

            War has a profound effect on the numerical values of the quantitative variables of economics, and sometimes whether war breaks out has depended simply on whether the kings of two adjacent nations have been of the same religious sect or different. That factor is not going to be expressible in any equation. Hence *predictive* economics is impossible as a quantitative discipline.

            You might be thinking, “OK, that’s true, but if war depresses the value of one variable then equations still exist by which that variable influences the others.” In other words, what about descriptive rather than predictive economics? I’m sceptical even of that, for a couple of reasons.

            First, in physics you can say what the variables MEAN. In economics it is fairly difficult to answer even the most basic question, “What is money?” Yet money quantifies everything else.

            I don’t accept the analogy with statistical mechanics, either. I guess you are thinking that a population of people is analogous to a population of atoms in the sense that a statistical average can be taken. Each atom has different speed and position, each person has different salary and expenses, and so on. But in physics, each atom bumps only into the walls of the container or into other atoms; it knows nothing of the overall climate, the temperature and pressure. Whereas in economics, individuals make decisions based not only on who they trade with but on the overall economic climate. Importing methods from statistical physics isn’t going to work, therefore.

          • Well, I’m at a distinct disadvantage here, arguing with a physicist, someone by definition much more knowledgeable and considerably smarter than I. It hate it when that happens. Nevertheless, I can do what I do in such cases, namely keep to generalities, fundamental principles and the basics. Rhetoric comes in handy, too.

            So, three points. First, do note that we haven’t really precisely defined what we are arguing about. You seem to have raised your evaluation of economics as a discipline to the level of experimental physics, whereas I merely claim that economics can be scientific, by virtue of adopting scientific principles and more concretely, scientific research strategies. The difference (now) is that physics has the better tools, ones which lend themselves to testable empirical protocols. What I argue is that just as physical sciences looked mysterious and unknowable in the past, due to technical limitations, so do the seemingly “soft” sciences appear now, because we have only recently attained the computing power to mine, sort through and interpret the vast amounts of data which, when handled scientifically, will yield better predictions. This is why the “mystery” of what is money is ultimately solvable; we already know what it represents and how it interacts in economies on macro and micro levels and a good economist, sociologist or anthropologist can make fairly good predictions by applying empirically tested principles…and one day, with more data, laws.

            Secondly, I challenge your assumption in your first paragraph, that human decisions are largely cognitive and independent of their environment. Describe a material condition, and a good anthropologist can give a fairly good estimate on social structure, economic activity, political arrangement and even religion and philosophy. For example, if you tell me that a group of about thirty isolated humans living in a semi-arid, temperate climate have been discovered, even I can tell you that they are highly migrant hunter-gatherers with minimal personal property, basic reciprocal exchange patterns, with no concept of real estate, a merit-based culture without firm social strata and a highly personal and unstructured Animistic religion. Tell me that the group practices animal husbandry and gardening, and lives in semi-sedentary villages, and I’ll “predict” an entirely different society with different beliefs. Predictions, fairly good ones, if you factor-in environment, population numbers and densities, can be made. Now, you will argue that I can’t project details about their language and beliefs, for example, but here I’ll argue that such precision while unobtainable today, may be obtainable with more data, more powerful computing and more advanced analytical methodologies.

            And thirdly, in you last paragraph you have made a curious distinction between physics and economics which, I’ll say, is irrelevant. What you described is a difference between working data used in physics as opposed to economics. Yes, molecular interaction is in some ways “simpler” than the cultural kind, which is why it provides for better test-ability and yields more certainty but the broader scientific principles and research strategies and protocols, are (or should be) the same.

          • Anton

            It was you who suggested that importing the methodology of statistical averaging used in order to get thermodynamics from molecular dynamics should work in economics. I have given a specific reason why it won’t.

            Beyond that, I simply suggest that economics is a subcategory of group psychology. If you think that that is an intrinsically quantitative discipline, good luck in quantifying it. As for me, I’ll be content with physics and beer.

          • Not knowing enough about thermodynamics or molecular dynamics, I may have inadvertently implied, but couldn’t have seriously suggested anything so specific, drunk or sober. Only that laws seem to apply to all phenomena, and as we can see from the example of physics, laws are ultimately knowable with the right tools and methods. The science process continues, and its most fascinating discoveries may soon take place at the frontiers of behaviour of organisms. Not that I want to frighten you; your beer will be there and physics will retain its importance. But your condemnation of economics as a branch of psychology, which I’m guessing you see as fluffy quackery is unfair; a bit of a straw man.

          • Anton

            No, I do not regard psychology as quackery; it is a science, and my point is that it is not intrinsically a quantitative science.

          • SQAB, the Society for Quantitative Analysis of Behavior says otherwise (http://www.sqab.org/).

          • Anton

            With a name like that, they would, wouldn’t they?

            Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters.

    • Me likes your analogy. Two months from now, when I start on my tax returns, the visuals of the nightmarish, voracious black hole which sucks-up my meager income and crunches it into oblivion, without even releasing a photon of light, will at least provide me with an explanation for my misery.

      • Goodness! Who is this strange, dishevelled looking creature. Got to be a Mossad agent attempting to infiltrate the British alt-right movement.

        • Busted. But you and I are a bit too long in the tooth to be in anything involving infiltration or movement!

          • Good to see you back.

          • Thanks. Good to be back.

          • carl jacobs

            So … You go away for six months, during which interval Trump gets elected to the shock and dismay of pretty much every media observer everywhere. And now you are back. Hrmmm.

            I’m beginning to see the dark hand of conspiracy here. What do you know about electronic voting machines? And what are all those chads hanging from your fingers?

          • Those machines are pretty handy when you need them, better than the chads, and work quite well with older Android devices, like mine. Let’s not get too excited, though; Trump might still knuckle under the old GOP guard and the inside-the-Beltway meat grinder, although I expect his cabinet to keep him from kissing up to Putin too much and his daughter and son in law from building a Trump hotel on the Temple Mount.

          • Jack is good at covet infiltration ….

      • Inspector General

        Avi, dear boy! Good to see you back! One will fetch his finest Scotch and some of those sardines you seem to like for some reason…or was it sand eels?

        • Good to be here, Inspector sir. But sardines and sand eels? Harrumph! The silver of the seas, the noble herring of the Baltic and the North Sea which fed your ancestors not to mention the whole of Northern Europe, which together with the humble potato led to the dominance of the West. When I let that slippery pickled herring slice slide down my throat, in a chase to catch up with that shot of golden single malt, well, it tastes like, like…victory!

          • Inspector General

            Indeed, Avi. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the humble pilchard…

          • carl jacobs

            When I let that slippery pickled herring slice slide down my throat, in a chase to catch up with that shot of golden single malt, well, it tastes like, like…

            Cauterized cat food.

          • May your wife serve you surströmming herring for breakfast every day of the week (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmu7bHj81WI).

          • carl jacobs

            So … for the crime of pointing out that herring is naught but inedible catfood, you are condemning me to eat … herring?

            Is this some kind of Canadian logic pattern?

          • carl jacobs

            This stuff is hilarious.

            “Man loses eviction case over surströmming when defense opens can in court room.”

            “Airlines ban surströmming”

            “Fire turns surströmming cans into exploding missiles.”

            “Sweden fights EU over surströmming ban”

          • LOL! The EU cannot help itself. It may well be defeated by a revolution over the humble herring.

  • IanCad

    Probably happier for you than for me. Daughter suckered me into buying a 10lb turkey that cost $68.00. It was a happy turkey, wandered free and fed the best the land could provide. Led the life of Riley ’til it got topped. Hung apparently, for ten days – improves the taste so they say – now, said daughter has invited all the neighbours over for a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal. Fourteen of them!!!
    I’ll be lucky if I get to lick out the gravy pan.

  • chefofsinners

    Intergenerational equity is a naive concept.
    Young people today have more education, better health and greater material wealth than at any time in history.
    Far more wealth is inherited today than ever before.
    National debt is reduced by inflation, divided between a growing population and largely spent in ways which benefit future generations.

    • Anton

      And we shall all live happily ever after.

      Regarding inflation, be careful what you wish for…

      • chefofsinners

        I’m inflation proof. God supplies all my needs.

  • Just don’t mention Brexit.

  • IanCad

    Charles Dickens may well have been one of the most tedious writers ever to scratch paper, but his brief economic treatise is a gem of wisdom succinctness:

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

    • Anton

      Never mind the CoE, the GOVERNMENT needs to promote that notion.

      • IanCad

        You are quite right Anton, but as the Bishop of Birmingham was the first to be mentioned in the OP I confined my comment to the CofE.

        • dannybhoy

          The government faces a host of difficulties. The CofE is like HM’s Opposition: they can say what they like because they have no decision making responsibility..

  • alternative_perspective

    Its my estimation that it is via global default and the offer of jubilee in exchange for a centralised, worldwide economic regulatory system that the beast (whatever this means) emerges.
    I expect a cabal of central banks, pension funds, investment houses, sovereign wealth funds and cash rich corporations will effectively stage an economic coup – they after all will be the creditors to which our humbled governments will have to go begging.

    • Anton

      That’s part of the truth, but it is governments rather than bankers who have armies.

  • IanCad

    I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; but, try as I might I can’t see much of the milk of human kindness in the photo of Hammond above. I’m sure he has associates who could vouch for his ready wit, charity, compassion and easy smile – perhaps the picture was taken after some bad news, or was it Photoshopped?

    • CliveM

      I read an interview with a previous beau of his, who claimed he use to be a great kisser.

      I’m not sure we needed to know!