Archbishop's Call for Society to Rediscover Human Dignity in a Time of Global Turmoil and Economic Uncertainty; Rowan Williams Says Capitalism Must Work for the Common Good

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Byline: David Williamson Senedd Correspondent

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has warned against looking for "scapegoats" to blame for the present economic crisis.

In a hard-hitting speech for the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in Cardiff, Dr Rowan Williams said: "It is a little too easy to blame the present situation on an accumulation of individual greed, exemplified by bankers or brokers, and to lose sight of the fact that governments committed to deregulation and to the encouragement of speculation and high personal borrowing were elected repeatedly in Britain and the United States for a crucial couple of decades."

The Archbishop also warned that efforts to rescue the economy must not pass on a burden of debt to the next generation.

He said: "Any morally and practically credible policy should be looking to guarantee that future generations do not inherit liabilities that will cripple the provision of basic social care."

Stressing that the environment must remain a priority, he said: "There needs to be a robust rebuttal of any idea that environmental concerns are somehow a side issue or even a luxury in a time of economic pressure; the questions are inseparably connected."

Demanding that society acknowledge the scarcity of global resources, he said: "A goal of growth simply as an indefinite expansion of purchasing power is either vacuous or malign - malign to the extent that it inevitably implies the diminution of the capacity of others in a world of limited resource."

Dr Williams told the audience in Cardiff's Temple of Peace on Saturday night that it was the task of Christians to rediscover a "vision of human dignity that is indestructible".

He said: "There is much to fear at the moment but, as always, more to hope for - so long as we can turn our backs on the worlds of unreality so seductively opened up by some of our recent financial history."

The Archbishop said the world may need new international conventions about wages and working conditions to prevent the creation of "cheap labour havens" where "urban paupers" are exploited.

Despite concerns about outsourcing and the power of multinational companies to dominate economies, he cautioned against a new wave of protectionism.

He said: "It is one of the most effective ways to freeze developing economies in a state of perpetual disadvantage; it makes it impossible for poorer economies to trade their way to wealth."

Urging the restoration of a model of capitalism which was not defined by a "deep and systemic impatience", he said: "We need to restore an acknowledgement of the role of trust as something which needs time to develop; and so also to move away from an idea of wealth or profit which imagines that they can be achieved without risk, and to return to the idea of risk sharing as an essential element in the equitable securing of wealth for all. …