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Who will rid us?

Posted by Helen Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I suppose it would be too much to ask clerics to stick to the subjects they know something about. Or, at least, subjects they are supposed to know about. Well, you know, things like religion and the question of right and wrong, not politics, which is not their business or economics that they clearly do not understand.

There are, of course, exceptions – individual clerics who either speak to the aforementioned subjects or even those who have some basic grasp of economic matters. But, en masse, those turbulent clerics are a nuisance.

A newsletter from International Policy Network (IPN) calls our attention to a couple of letters in the Times. (I have to rely on information of that kind because I find it impossible to read that once great newspaper any more.)

The first letter is from a group of clerics, led by the Lord Bishop of Exeter and sundry other religious personalities. Its theme is a protest against free trade ideas. As it happens, there are problems with the EU-ACP negotiations but in order to discuss them one needs to go into complicated details not make broad-brush statement that plead for the poorest countries to be allowed to retain their protectionist policies.

As it happens, protectionist countries remain among the poorest and the idea that there has been any kind of a “recent progress towards making poverty history” is the merest moonshine. Furthermore, protectionist policies and the concomitant control of trade by the state prevents any possibility of corruption disappering in those countries.

Most of this is said clearly in the second letter by various economists and policy wonks (and one cleric) that ends with the following paragraph:

Trade barriers in poor countries lead to resources being allocated to industries where they are least productive, raise prices for consumers and provide a vehicle for corruption. This is a recipe for stagnation and poverty and not for development.
Henry II would have had something to say about this.