Britain’s Christian heritage


by Rumbold
29th May, 2008 at 3:09 pm    

His Grace Bishop Nazir-Ali has written an article in Standpoint, a new monthly magazine. In it, he argues that British values have been shaped by Christianity, and that the cultural revolution which has been going on since the 1960s has led to the decline of Christianity and a moral vacuum. I am going to leave the latter part of his discussion, and just focus on his contention that values like the rule of law, civility and suchlike arose from Christianity in Britain in the preceding centuries.

The Bishop has fallen into somewhat of a logical fallacy, which occurs when a person takes two facts which might or might not be linked, and draws a conclusion from that. A good example is when people point out that there has been no war in Western Europe since 1945, and that the EU (in its various guises) has existed for most of that time, therefore the EU has prevented war. His Grace argues that Britain has developed certain admirable values, at a time when it was a Christian nation; therefore Christianity must be the cause of these values. This is a poor argument, as he fails to prove the definitive connection between Christianity and British values. Christianity, being for so long the only major religion in Britain, did of course have an important impact on the way our island story developed. But not always in a good way.

Trial by jury is, for the moment, one of the cornerstones of our judicial system. Yet for hundreds of years before trial by jury, we had trial by ordeal in Christian Britain. Trial by ordeal involved various tests, such as suspected witches being dunked in water for a time. If they drowned, they were considered innocent, but if they floated, they were guilty of magic and burnt. Some medieval theologians eventually condemned this, not because of its inherent unfairness, but because it was blasphemous as it expected God to perform a miracle every time to save any innocents. Thanks mainly to our deep Scandinavian connection and our early break with the Romans, Britain developed trial by jury (with the jury held to represent God’s judgement), while on the continent, trial by ordeal was replaced with torture, based on the Roman model.

The Magna Carta (1215), and the Bill of Rights (1689), are the two most important written documents of our rights. Neither can be said to be inspired by Christianity. The Magna Carta was a response to King John’s abuse of what were held to be traditional rights, in regards to such things as military service, taxation, property rights and hunting privileges. While couched in religious language (as all documents of the time were), the rights demanded were not drawn from scripture or church theologians, but from what were held to be long-established customs. Similarly, the Bill of Rights came shortly after the invitation from leading nobles for William of Orange to invade, and the subsequent dethroning of his father-in-law, James II, who was considered unsuitable because he was a Roman Catholic. Parliament then used William’s precarious position (he needed English troops and money to fight Louis XIV) to demand a whole host of concessions over various rights and privileges. Both the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta were attempts to limit the powers of the monarch, a goal which the Bible does not definitively endorse or oppose.

This is not to say that the Bishop’s thesis is completely wrong. Oliver Cromwell cared little for Britain’s traditions and forms of government (“all dross and dung compared to the glory of Christ”) and he strove hard for what he termed ‘liberty of conscience’, and a loosening of the intolerant nature of the English state towards non-Anglicans. If we had to thank one man for the religiously tolerant country which we live in today, it would be Oliver. Yet even he fits uneasily into the notion of British values. He was a military dictator, who dissolved parliaments when they frustrated him and who ignored the traditional rights of many. Near the end of his reign, leading figures in the new regime tried to make him a new king, not because they loved him but because they felt that a king would at least be bound by law and custom.

His Grace’s examples are also a bit strange:

”The Reformation also had a view about governance as well as the significance of the individual, which was to prove important for the future. The theme of natural rights was taken up by the Dominicans on the Continent in the context of defending the freedom and the possessions of the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas. From there, it influenced prominent thinkers of the moderate Enlightenment in this country, such as John Locke, who were attempting to rethink a Christian basis for society. This was also the context for the Evangelical revival in the 18th century. While the Evangelicals drew inspiration from the Bible for their humanitarian projects, such as the abolition of slavery, universal education and humane conditions of work for men, women and children, the Enlightenment provided them with the intellectual tools and the moral vision of natural rights so that they could argue their case in the public sphere.”

The Dominicans were a monastic order formed in the 13th century to combat heresy, and developed into some of the most intolerant and vicious inquisitors, so I am not sure that they should be the poster boys for values. It is true that there was a vigorous debate going on regarding the rights of natives in the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries (this book covers it well), but we all know what happened in the end. It was Christian evangelicals who were at the forefront of the fight against anti-slavery and other social ills, and at the same time they were the ones calling for a Christian India and pressuring Indians to change their whole way of life (which led to the Indian Mutiny). In 1770 British Bengal was hit by a wave of famine, leading to millions dying, and this was made worse by hoarding thanks to Britons and British-linked merchants. When the news reached Britain, it was said that people could not walk past Clive of India’s house in England without shuddering at the things its master had done, and the terrible treatment of Indians helped to inspire the anti-slavery movement. Which was the real Christian Britain at the time?

As for the Enlightenment, this was in part a reaction to a Europe in which dissent, especially dissent directed at church or state, was taken as a challenge to order. A number of the leading Enlightenment figures were anti-Christian, being either atheists or deists. Others were devoutly Christian, and believed that they were doing God’s work to try and bring about a more rational and just society.

With all these examples, you can find examples of good Christians and bad Christians, good Christian theology and bad Christian theology, and times where Christianity did not even come into it at all. Britain can be proud of her values and institutions that have eventually developed, but by ascribing this to a Christian, or a Judeo-Christian mentality, the bishop misses the point and risks alienating a whole host of people for no reason.

Update: Bartholomew has an excellent analysis of the Bishop’s article here.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Current affairs,History,Religion






80 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. sonia — on 29th May, 2008 at 4:02 pm  

    Rumbold, good article, i was going to say what a silly man he is for saying what he is said, ( trying to get all the credit, how unchristian! ;-) ) of course you have made some very valid points

  2. sonia — on 29th May, 2008 at 4:51 pm  

    anyway if he wants to pin “british” values to “christian” values is he going to stand by the Crusades? Silly thing to do, pin a set of social values (which are constantly changing) to one religion, and a middle-eastern one at that too. why not find a homegrown religion if he wants to be so “precious and protective” of it.

  3. Jean-Luc Gascard — on 29th May, 2008 at 4:57 pm  

    Rumbold you must send this to his Holy Phallos…instruct him as to what to do with it.

  4. unitalian — on 29th May, 2008 at 4:59 pm  

    Hmmm… enjoyable and well-argued, although I wonder if you are carefully stepping around the elephant, as it were, in the living room.

    One can always find exceptions and fault with such a generic argument, but the fact remains that a thousand years of British history was shaped by people largely of the Christian (and from the 15C Protestant) religion and culture, who made their choices accordingly.

    Given that there are subtle, but clear, differences between, say “Protestant” England and “Catholic” Italy, from the work “ethic” to the family, one cannot dismiss the key role any religious ideology and identity plays in shaping a nation.

  5. sonia — on 29th May, 2008 at 5:04 pm  

    anyway the bloke was born in pakistan and came here as a student, i reckon his idea of linking britain and christianity is prob. highly influenced by what so many christians in the indian subcontinent seem to think, no doubt due to all that victorian missionary spirit, feeling some weird loyalty to England or seeing it as a their bastion of christianity. (what a “modern” thing to do) and using english names to signify christian-ness (just like the muslims seem to think they have to use arab names!) you wont find too many christian arabs in the middle east feeling like that, they’ve been around far longer and before christianity came to britain so maybe that has something to do with it.

    anyway im fed up of hearing british values..isn’t there anything else to talk about anymore?

  6. Bartholomew — on 29th May, 2008 at 5:08 pm  

    It’s telling that Nazir Ali avoids too much actual historical detail. I’ve got some more on his essay.

  7. sonia — on 29th May, 2008 at 5:08 pm  

    “one cannot dismiss the key role any religious ideology and identity plays in shaping a nation.”

    certainly, and no one is disputing that. this bishop is trying to stick a monopoly on. and implying that is a wholly virtuous thing too..so all a bit dishonest. perhaps some like to suggest that pre-christian britain was not culturally such a different place? and given that “christian” festivals were really a sheen on old style pagan parties..etc. so on and so forth..

  8. sonia — on 29th May, 2008 at 5:14 pm  

    and sorry to go on, but given the climate in pakistan and the kind of harrassment this poor chap would have had back in the day, and all the crap about being a minority religionist, little suprise he now wants his revenge! of course he’s going to go around saying we should convert people, look the man has finally found acceptance and wants to be top dog.

  9. Jean-Luc Gascard — on 29th May, 2008 at 5:15 pm  

    mondieu! ‘e iz eh dunce, no?

  10. sonia — on 29th May, 2008 at 5:15 pm  

    the whole point of heritage is that it involves lots of things, but anyway, that i should have thought was obvious.

  11. Anas — on 29th May, 2008 at 5:40 pm  

    the whole point of heritage is that it’s in the past.

  12. Avi Cohen — on 29th May, 2008 at 7:24 pm  

    Sadly the Church across Europe of the major denominations is going through an ordeal where it is claiming that all that is good came from Christianity.

    The Pope has done this and Bishop Nasty Ali has now done this.

    It is thelogical nonsense to suggest this and in fact it is based upon right wing groups who believe this.

    It is a reason the Church – Catholic at least but now probably joined by some Anglicans object to Turkey joining the EU.

    Fearing the loss of numbers of Church goers these sad individuals are playing right wing politics to try and scare the masses into thinking that Christianity is solely responsible for the development of Europe as whole.

    All faiths have played their part and continue to play their part in shaping the world.

    The whole point of this is to blame others for the massive failures of Christianity which has lost its own roots.

    If Christianity shaped the UK and Europe then it is also responsible for shaping the BNP, NF, Nazi’s etc. So why just talk about the good?

    If the Church as he argues shaped Britian and Europe as the Pope argues then they also shaped the thought of the right wing which is now hauting Europe. It shaped anti-semitism and the holocaust.

    I am not saying it did but if that is the Bishop’s argument then he also needs to step up and accept responsibility for the negative shaping not just the positive.

    It could be argued under the thought of the Bishop that the rise of the fascists was shaped by the same ideological thought as the Bishop and thus the rise of the right is the fault oif the church!

    So he is being somewhat misleading in wanting to claim credit for all that is good but then not accepting that the shaping alos brought about bad and evil elements.

  13. Cover Drive — on 29th May, 2008 at 7:30 pm  

    Almost definitely Christianity has shaped British values over the years, not always for the good because of man’s interpretation of the bible, but it’s difficult to deny it’s influence. As the majority of people on these isles were Christian, either practicing or non-practicing, you can’t deny the fact that it must had some influence on how they thought.

    If you deny Christianity’s influence on British values how do you explain the Protestant work ethic of this country? In it’s early days, Protestantism promoted the virtue of hard work among adherents, who judged one another by this standard. A devotion to work was meant to assure salvation. Protestants today were more likely to enter employment because their parents taught them the virtue of work. Protestant countries are also less hostile toward paid employment for women.

  14. halima — on 29th May, 2008 at 7:39 pm  

    European philosophy has been inspired by hundreds of years of Christian theory – but equally it’s been inspired by liberal enlightenment philosophers that were anti-church. For me the subject is quite complicated – not as straightforward as Bishop suggests.

  15. Katy Newton — on 29th May, 2008 at 8:00 pm  

    I must admit that there is nothing on the planet short of physical violence that would induce me to call someone “Your Grace” simply because they were religious and wearing a silly hat.

  16. douglas clark — on 29th May, 2008 at 9:05 pm  

    I think Christianity might be seen as a passive beneficiary of the develpoment of the nation state. In the sense that any cohesive force with elements of conformity to a norm is in the interests of the state, rather than the individual. Especially when it’s spokesmen – and they are all men – allow the idea of a ‘just war’.

    Anyway, Rumbold. I’m not letting you away with the analogy you tried to draw. It is perfectly clear that the framework for the EU was based, in part at least, on avoiding conflict between the warring nations of Europe – on that basis it is a success. And B does in fact follow A. Read up on Robert Schuman if you think otherwise.

  17. douglas clark — on 29th May, 2008 at 9:17 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Meant to say:

    Your last half dozen or so posts on here have been consistently thought provoking and excellent. Better than most of the op-ed stuff in the Sundays.

  18. Bishop Hill — on 29th May, 2008 at 9:56 pm  

    I think you need to define what you mean by British values to make your case watertight. Is there more to it than laws that define liberties?

    I can’t think off the top of my head of anything the CofE has done to develop British values, but there may be something. They could make a stronger case for having shaped British culture, and here I’m thinking of things like the influence of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, but it’s not the same thing as values IMHO.

    If anyone’s interested, MacFarlane’s book The Origins of English Individualism is good on this, to the extent that concluding that “it’s all lost in the depths of time” is a good conclusion.

  19. Piggy — on 29th May, 2008 at 10:05 pm  

    He actually makes a fairly reasonable point about Locke. Locke’s theory of toleration is based more or less entirely on protestant theology and it’s pretty difficult to talk about the British tradition of liberalism without at least a breif mention of Locke.

  20. Cover Drive — on 29th May, 2008 at 10:23 pm  

    Here’s an interesting article on why America outpaces Europe due to the stronger Protestant work ethic there:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D04E3D91739F93BA35755C0A9659C8B63

    Excerpts:

    What clinches the Weber thesis is that Northern Europe’s declines in working hours coincide almost exactly with steep declines in religious observance. In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Denmark, less than 10 percent of the population now attend church at least once a month, a dramatic decline since the 1960′s. (Only in Catholic Italy and Ireland do more than a third of the population go to church on a monthly basis.) In the recent Gallup Millennium Survey of religious attitudes, 49 percent of Danes, 52 percent of Norwegians and 55 percent of Swedes said God did not matter to them. In North America, by comparison, 82 percent of respondents said God was ”very important.”

    The loser will be the European economy, which will continue to fall behind the United States in terms of its absolute annual output. The winner will be the spirit of secularized sloth, which has finally slain the Protestant work ethic in Europe — and Max Weber, whose famous thesis celebrates its centenary by attaining the status of verity.

  21. BenSix — on 29th May, 2008 at 10:55 pm  

    Cover Drive,

    That is interesting, although the author should at least have the decency to point out the correlation in no way necessitates causation. The fact that the author is Niall Ferguson should come as no surprise, however, because – as his recent Times column implies* – he has no decency whatsoever.

    *http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article4019901.ece

  22. Don — on 29th May, 2008 at 11:00 pm  

    the spirit of secularized sloth

    Now that’s something I can get behind. I’ll wave a flag for that. Listlessly.

    Good post, Rumbold. Of course the religion which dominated the country for over a thousand years – and most of them with a damn heavy hand – ‘shaped’ our culture and values. What’s another word for ‘shaped’? Moulded? Twisted?

    I tend to think that the values I have most regard for are the ones less in need of ecclesiastical
    shaping.

    Show me one single positive ‘value’ which the church has given us, which the churchless could not.

    (Obviously, not asking you personally, Rumbold. It was more rhetorical.)

  23. Sunny — on 29th May, 2008 at 11:45 pm  

    Its obvious why Nazir Ali is saying all, and I’ve repeated it before.

    It’s a long-term tactic.

    Ali is annoyed that there aren’t enough fundamentalists Christians to provide the moral certainty in a way that fundamentalist Muslims provide. He wants Britons to become more Christian and he wants more of them to become fundamentalist and zealous in the way that groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and the CCFON are like.

    He wants to do so by provoking a fight with Muslims, because that is the best way he can rally his base.

    Its not his aim to have a theological discussion because anyone even with half the brain of Rumbold would see through that guff.

  24. Sunny — on 29th May, 2008 at 11:47 pm  

    Saying that, this is still a good post Rumbold. I just think you’re being too charitable and not looking at his ulterior motives.

    Nazir Ali wants to push out the more liberal leadership at the CoE and the Telegraph are more than happy to aid that because they hate Rowan Williams.

  25. MatGB — on 30th May, 2008 at 12:01 am  

    Overall, I concur completely, but one minor quibble:

    Parliament then used William’s precarious position (he needed English troops and money to fight Louis XIV) to demand a whole host of concessions over various rights and privileges

    Not true over the Bill of Rights—the concessions were the Acts of Settlement that happened afterwards, it was asserted at the time that the Bill of Rights was a restatement of traditional English rights and were all pre-existing but had been ignored or usurped by the Stuart monarchs.

    The Convention couldn’t pass a specifically new Act anyway, all it could really do was put William on the throne and assert existing rights.

    But other than that, a nice summation of constitutional history and why the frothing loons are wrong.

  26. BenSix — on 30th May, 2008 at 12:03 am  

    “Its not his aim to have a theological discussion because anyone even with half the brain of Rumbold would see through that guff.”

    Indeed, with platitudinous whimsy such as ‘the idea of liberation is as fundamental in the Bible as that of creation’ we can be sure of that.

    Incidentally, Standpoint looks rotten. There are three separate articles wondering “what, oh what can we do with these Muslims”, Nick Cohen has a three page essay on a television show that he didn’t like and Andrew Roberts has a column entitled “As English as warm beer”. All of that, and we have also have digs at ‘militant greens’ and Craig Brown recycling a decades worth of other people’s jokes. A shame.

  27. Sunny — on 30th May, 2008 at 12:34 am  

    What do you mean shame? :)

    What else do right-wingers have to moan about these days other than ‘those Muzzies’?

  28. BenSix — on 30th May, 2008 at 12:45 am  

    Why, “Da Left” not moaning about them of course.

    I saw that Alain de Botton was writing for it and hoped that it might contain at least a modicum of interest. It’s good to see Jung Chang, but apart from that it’s just noise and command.

    I think that my favourite article is Cohen’s. He already whined about Headcases on CiF, for God’s sake.

  29. BenSix — on 30th May, 2008 at 12:57 am  

    Hehe,

    Over at Harry’s Place, Brett has called the Bishop out on his silliness and been greeted with rather shocked comments wondering how on earth he fell for the dastardly schemes of the foreigners.

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/05/29/clash-of-silly-lies-suation/#comments

  30. douglas clark — on 30th May, 2008 at 1:24 am  

    I really begin to think that the reality I inhabit is a bit parallel to the one that is stated so often on here.

    Can I be more specific?

    I do not think that debates about how many Bishops there are in the House of Lords, zero IMHO, nor whether Islam is about to, next Tuesday, replace Christianity as our national faith, are in the least bit meaningful. It is my profound belief, and a belief is what it is, is that religion of any flavour is no longer a useful measure of most residents of this country. Sure, we see the flame wars between Inyat Bunglawalah and Sunny Hundal as if. As if they actually mattered. I believe they do not.

    Having read, with interest, the opinions of folk on here, especially those that harbour an identity based on religion, I can categorically say that their differences are as extreme as those between the hard right and the hard left. Yet they are expressed as though their views were ‘truth’. When, clearly, they can’t both be right.

    In my Universe, religious prescription is a fading facet of informed debate. Which I think it is. The ‘victory’ of common sense over religious sensibilities that was the defeat of the anti abortion lobby makes me think I might be on to something here.

    In my Universe, it is extremely unlikely that folk, fifty years down, will see the Ummah as much more that a nostalgia trip. That’s what education for women will do for you.

    In my Universe, the idea of physical territory will be replaced with one of intellectual territory. So, our wars of the future will be fought in cyberspace, and I know who’s side I’m on.

  31. unitalian — on 30th May, 2008 at 9:10 am  

    “it is extremely unlikely that folk, fifty years down, will see the Ummah as much more that a nostalgia trip. That’s what education for women will do for you.”

    Wishful thinking I’m afraid – often the most educated, males and females, are the most radical. What etnds to characterise Jihadis is that they are young and bright.

    What tends to characterise their leaders is their age and (messianic) ego.

    Um, I think…

    I also disagree about the land war thing – in the future there will be less land, thus more war. Not here but among the folk without broadband and flat screen TVs. Remember them? ;-)

  32. Cover Drive — on 30th May, 2008 at 9:20 am  

    Sunny & others

    The simple illustration I used to show that religion has shaped social values in this country was the Protestant work ethic. There have been a number of studies to show that this work ethic does exist. In none of your counter arguments have you said anything to contradict this but you’ve just resorted to ad hominem attacks.

    To say religion played no role whatsoever in shaping social values is simply wrong. I would say the role of religion on shaping social values is indirect but it definitely exists. You’ll find in non-Protestant countries the number of women in paid employment is significantly lower because of social pressures. Protestentism, because of it’s emphasis on work, it is far less hostile to women being employed outside of the household.

    Some of your arguments show an almost pathological hatred for Nazir Ali. I know you don’t agree with what he says but at least you should respect his right to say it. He’s hardly calling for a holy war! The problem with the so-called ‘liberal’ left nowadays is that it is not liberal. It’s totally illiberal toward anyone it doesn’t like (e.g. the church, the markets, pro-life campaigners, etc).

    I’m not a Protestant BTW.

  33. BenSix — on 30th May, 2008 at 10:11 am  

    Cover Drive,

    But Niall Ferguson did not demonstrate this, he simply asserted that the correlation of statistics ensured a causation. Besides, Poland and Korea have far higher rates of working hours and a far more minimal protestant demographic. He didn’t mention this, because he was using an odd form of reverse scientific method and dispensing with everything that refuted his thesis.

  34. MaidMarian — on 30th May, 2008 at 10:33 am  

    The Bishop just needs to realise that it is possible to be perfectly moral – just not a morality as expressed by him.

  35. Cover Drive — on 30th May, 2008 at 11:00 am  

    BenSix

    Leaving aside Niall Ferguson, there’s recent research from the University of Bath to back this up:
    http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/2007/10/1/protestantism.html

    Countries where the main religion is Protestant Christianity have higher employment rates than those where other religions are dominant, according to University of Bath research published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology.

    These countries, which include the USA, the UK and Nordic countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway, have employment rates that are approximately six percentage points higher than countries where other religions are practiced by the largest proportion of the population.

    The study, which is based on data from 80 countries, also showed that female employment rates are approximately 11 percentage points higher in Protestant countries.

  36. BenSix — on 30th May, 2008 at 11:19 am  

    Cover Drive,

    Ah, close to home. Thanks, I’ll try and get hold of it.

  37. Rumbold — on 30th May, 2008 at 11:57 am  

    I wasn’t trying to claim that Christianity had no impact on British values, merely that plenty of our laws and values developed not because of Christian ideals but because of other factors. I am always wary about the idea of the ‘Protestant work ethic’. True, Protestants worked more days because they had less feast/saints’ days to celebrate, but I am not sure whether there is anything more in that. Protestant states like the Netherlands and England became rich because they were trading nations, and embraced Protestantism just as the world sea lanes were being discovered by Europeans.

    Sonia:

    “Rumbold, good article, i was going to say what a silly man he is for saying what he is said, ( trying to get all the credit, how unchristian! ;-) ) of course you have made some very valid points.”

    Thanks for that (and to everyone else who said nice things as well).

    Katy:

    “I must admit that there is nothing on the planet short of physical violence that would induce me to call someone “Your Grace” simply because they were religious and wearing a silly hat.”

    ‘Your Grace’ is also the correct address for a Duke.

    Douglas:

    “Anyway, Rumbold. I’m not letting you away with the analogy you tried to draw. It is perfectly clear that the framework for the EU was based, in part at least, on avoiding conflict between the warring nations of Europe – on that basis it is a success.”

    Now you have fallen into the logical fallacy trap. The EU said that it was designed to promote peace; we have peace, but that doesn’t mean that it was the EU that caused it. What about the years between its formation and WWII? Or the various countries that joined it later on (including Portugal, Spain and the UK)?

  38. Muhamad [peace be upon myself] — on 30th May, 2008 at 11:57 am  

    “Gott ist tot!”
    from “Also Sprach Zarathustra”

  39. Rumbold — on 30th May, 2008 at 12:05 pm  

    Bishop Hill:

    “I think you need to define what you mean by British values to make your case watertight. Is there more to it than laws that define liberties?

    I can’t think off the top of my head of anything the CofE has done to develop British values, but there may be something. They could make a stronger case for having shaped British culture, and here I’m thinking of things like the influence of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, but it’s not the same thing as values IMHO.”

    It is more than just laws, but as you say, it is difficult to assess what actually caused values. Laws are easy because they are brought in at a specific point and there are clear reasons behind the introduction of the laws.

    Sunny:

    “Nazir Ali wants to push out the more liberal leadership at the CoE and the Telegraph are more than happy to aid that because they hate Rowan Williams.”

    Inter-Anglican politics do play a part. He is not just implicitly criticising Rowan Williams, but is trying to cement his position as the alternative leader, in the face of opposition from the Archbishop of York and the conservatives’ darling, the Archbishop of Nigeria.

    MatGB:

    “It was asserted at the time that the Bill of Rights was a restatement of traditional English rights and were all pre-existing but had been ignored or usurped by the Stuart monarchs.”

    True, but it still needed William’s support, as it wasn’t passed until January 1690. I take your point though.

  40. Anas — on 30th May, 2008 at 12:15 pm  

    Additionally, Protestants tend to have far less children because they don’t believe that “every sperm is sacred/every sperm is great/if a sperm is wasted/God gets quite irate”.

  41. Ashik — on 30th May, 2008 at 5:17 pm  

    ‘British values’ are conspicuous by the absence of strict definitions. Hence Britain does not have a written constitution encapsulating these values. It relies on the fudge of ‘customary conventions’. I think that despite the overwhelmingly secular nature of modern Britain, cultural aspects of Christianity continue to influence Britain. Often the cultural aspects of a religion linger well past the lost religious significance eg. the sanctity of Sundays even while most Churches are empty

  42. Sunny — on 30th May, 2008 at 5:36 pm  

    Of course I respect Nazir Ali’s right to say what he wants. He’s still an idiot though… I can see his agenda a mile off.

    Rumbold, your post has now been linked from the government’s website!
    http://governance.justice.gov.uk/

  43. Sid — on 30th May, 2008 at 5:39 pm  

    Well it *is* a great post.

  44. soru — on 30th May, 2008 at 6:03 pm  

    Protestant states like the Netherlands and England became rich because they were trading nations, and embraced Protestantism just as the world sea lanes were being discovered by Europeans.

    Everyone knows the cart goes behind the horse, but, for historical trends, it’s not necessarily obvious which is the cart and which the horse. And whether there is a donkey leading the horse, itself following a carrot…

    It’s basic game theory that the overall pattern of interactions between free agents depends very strongly on whether at least some of them follow self-imposed moral rules: with such rules, things are possible that are otherwise not.

    I strongly suspect that mathematical fact has historical relevance – you simply can’t be a trading nation without stories and myths that enable people to follow those rules, act out those roles, that celebrate and explain the distinction between a good trade and a bad. If bankers don’t treat trust as sacred, soon there will be no more banks.

    In humans, moral rules come from stories: that’s just a quirk of the way we think. For the UK, those stories happen to have been Christian in origin – in fact, they look to have been selected out of the Bible like a sculptor choosing which bits of a marble block not to remove in order to make a statue. For every Parable of the Talents praising Prudence, there are 10 passages on the virtues of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. If you read the Bible as directly as possible as a guide to a modern society, you would probably end up with some form of slave-owning pacifist socialists, not the crusading traders with a freedom fetish we historically got…

    Still, replacing all those Biblical stories with replacements that work equally well is a pretty big task, and not without risk.

  45. BenSix — on 30th May, 2008 at 7:26 pm  

    In contemporary literary criticism there has been an odd trend of identifying elements Marxism in classic literature. Even Jane Austen, it is argued, appears to have aped Das Kapital (decades before its publication).

    The same, if one were ruthlessly selective, could probably be done for the Bible. Any interpretation could be taken from the Bible.

  46. Shuggy — on 30th May, 2008 at 9:53 pm  

    True, Protestants worked more days because they had less feast/saints’ days to celebrate, but I am not sure whether there is anything more in that.

    I’ve read with interest the comments about the Protestant Ethic thesis because I did my honours dissertation on the subject. Half-way through I wish I hadn’t because, dealing as it does with people’s inner religious motivations, concrete evidence is difficult to come by. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that there’s something in it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with saints’ days or attitudes to usury. The key thing about protestantism was its inner-worldliness. Work had always been an ascetic tool in Christianity but prior to the Reformation, the more the spirit of asceticism gripped the religious – the more inclined they were to retreat to the cloister. Protestantism eliminated this option and while the work ethic has long since become disengaged from its religious origins it, as Weber said, the idea of work as a calling ‘prowls around in our souls like the ghost of dead religious beliefs’.

    While I could make the point that the thesis has flaws with more evidence than any of you could muster, it’s worth pointing out that the literature attempting to take apart Weber’s thesis is generally of a poor standard. There’s a good reason for this – like this issue, people find it difficult to be objective: a lot of protestants don’t like Weber’s thesis because they don’t like their religion being associated with capitalism; Catholics don’t like their religion being associated with relative backwardness; and atheists don’t like religion being associated with modernity on any way at all. It’s the last of these that one is sensing from both the post and some of the comments below. I’m a secular pagan myself but y’all will just have to get over it. The idea that Christianity had no positive role in shaping our traditions or institutions – including those we actually like – is, I’m afraid, ahistorical bullshit. Take this, for example:

    “While couched in religious language (as all documents of the time were), the rights demanded were not drawn from scripture or church theologians, but from what were held to be long-established customs.”

    It simply isn’t sensible to argue that ‘long-established customs’ in Britain can somehow develop without being influenced by Christianity in some way. Acknowledging this certainly does not oblige one to go along with the Bishop’s Daily Mail stuff about a ‘cultural revolution’.

  47. Cover Drive — on 31st May, 2008 at 6:25 am  

    As a result of the Protestant work ethic, women enjoy greater freedoms today – certainly more freedom than before the Reformation or even the pre-Christian era.

    The greater agency of women in society has helped make our society fairer. Therefore, we can deduce that Christianity has had a very positive impact on our society.

    It doesn’t matter how many laws we have in the statute books. Society can always choose to ignore them if they wish. Social values are developed by people themselves and if women are included in that process, the chances are those values are bound to be fairer.

  48. unitalian — on 31st May, 2008 at 7:48 am  

    Er… hold on a minute, for those that argue Britain does not have a Christian cultural identity – how about India? Has India been influenced by Hinduism? Or Pakistan by Islam? Or, given the British rule for a couple of centuries and the institutions adopted thereafter, has this made their religious heritages irrelevant?

    Because funnily enough, India always seems quite overwhelmingly, um, “Indian” whenever I visit, and I don’t think it’s only to do with the weather and the monkeys.

  49. douglas clark — on 31st May, 2008 at 9:43 am  

    Rumbold @ 37,

    You said:

    The EU said that it was designed to promote peace; we have peace, but that doesn’t mean that it was the EU that caused it. What about the years between its formation and WWII? Or the various countries that joined it later on (including Portugal, Spain and the UK)?

    Not exclusively, no. The pressure of the Warsaw pact and the nascent cold war probably had a bit to do with it to. And it can be argued that NATO was important, in the sense that you are not supposed to fight your allies.

    Just in case we forget, as we are quite likely to do, Europe was completely shattered in the years following WW2. Even the winner – us – had rationing up until about 1954, nine or so years after the war ended.

    The establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community happened around 1951 and it’s main advocate Schuman was quite clear that one of it’s main reasons for existing was to prevent further war between France and Germany. So, I do not see it as too ridiculous to say that the European Union – which grew out of that first ever supranational organisation hasn’t been a force for peace. With NATO struggling to find a post Cold War role, you should at least consider that creating an economic and social integration on the vast scale of the EU is at least a positive in terms of peaceful co-existence.

    So far, touch wood, no EU member state has taken up arms against another EU member state. And that’s been the case for nearly fifty years. Can you point to an era in Europe, say in the last thousand years, that has had continous peace for that long? I can’t.

  50. Rumbold — on 1st June, 2008 at 1:09 pm  

    Soru:

    “Everyone knows the cart goes behind the horse, but, for historical trends, it’s not necessarily obvious which is the cart and which the horse. And whether there is a donkey leading the horse, itself following a carrot…”

    Heh- that does seem to sum up historical trends rather well.

    “In humans, moral rules come from stories: that’s just a quirk of the way we think. For the UK, those stories happen to have been Christian in origin – in fact, they look to have been selected out of the Bible like a sculptor choosing which bits of a marble block not to remove in order to make a statue. For every Parable of the Talents praising Prudence, there are 10 passages on the virtues of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. If you read the Bible as directly as possible as a guide to a modern society, you would probably end up with some form of slave-owning pacifist socialists, not the crusading traders with a freedom fetish we historically got…”

    But it is unclear to what extent our values developed as a direct result of Christianity.

    Shuggy:

    “I’ve read with interest the comments about the Protestant Ethic thesis because I did my honours dissertation on the subject. Half-way through I wish I hadn’t because, dealing as it does with people’s inner religious motivations, concrete evidence is difficult to come by. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that there’s something in it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with saints’ days or attitudes to usury. The key thing about protestantism was its inner-worldliness. Work had always been an ascetic tool in Christianity but prior to the Reformation, the more the spirit of asceticism gripped the religious – the more inclined they were to retreat to the cloister. Protestantism eliminated this option and while the work ethic has long since become disengaged from its religious origins it, as Weber said, the idea of work as a calling ‘prowls around in our souls like the ghost of dead religious beliefs’.”

    The decline of lazy monks arguably had more to do with secular factors, as rulers (especially in this country) saw the Reformation as an excuse to seize the monastaries’ lands. Then the Counter-Reformation hit, and instead of the typical indolent medieval monk, you get institutions like the Jesuits emerging, as the ‘shock troops of the Counter-Reformation’ as one historian put it. It could also be that Protestantism tended to take hold in countries with smaller land masses, who had to work hard and trade in order to keep pace with coutnries like France, which had roughly 18 million people and expansive, fertile land in the middle of the 16th century.

    “There’s a good reason for this – like this issue, people find it difficult to be objective: a lot of protestants don’t like Weber’s thesis because they don’t like their religion being associated with capitalism; Catholics don’t like their religion being associated with relative backwardness; and atheists don’t like religion being associated with modernity on any way at all. It’s the last of these that one is sensing from both the post and some of the comments below.”

    I think that I am pretty objective on this issue. If I thought Protestantism did promote more of a work ethic than Catholicism, then I would say so. I think that the Calvinist and Calvinist-inspired sects promoted the virtue of hard wrok, but I am not sure that same could be said about the Lutherans and the non-Puritan section of the Church of England.

    “It simply isn’t sensible to argue that ‘long-established customs’ in Britain can somehow develop without being influenced by Christianity in some way. Acknowledging this certainly does not oblige one to go along with the Bishop’s Daily Mail stuff about a ‘cultural revolution’.”

    My point is that Britain has experienced good and bad things (trial by jury, witch burning, slavery, etc.) over the centuries, therefore it is misleading to turn around and say that British values have been influenced by Christianity, without also acknowledging that the reverse is also true, and that bad things have been influenced by Christianity.

    Unitalian:

    “Er… hold on a minute, for those that argue Britain does not have a Christian cultural identity – how about India? Has India been influenced by Hinduism? Or Pakistan by Islam? Or, given the British rule for a couple of centuries and the institutions adopted thereafter, has this made their religious heritages irrelevant?”

    Religion does influence a country, but it would be like saying that all the good things in India have come about as a result of Hinduism and the other religions, and ignoring the caste system and so on.

    Douglas:

    “So far, touch wood, no EU member state has taken up arms against another EU member state. And that’s been the case for nearly fifty years. Can you point to an era in Europe, say in the last thousand years, that has had continous peace for that long? I can’t.”

    But that is do to democracy, and greater prosperity amongst the EU citizens, as well as the Soviet threat.

  51. douglas clark — on 1st June, 2008 at 2:20 pm  

    Rumbold,

    I trust no hangover? What sort of protest against not drinking on Tube trains consists of not drinking on Tube trains?

    But that is do to democracy, and greater prosperity amongst the EU citizens..

    I am struggling to get my hands on the details, but Europe between 1900 and 1950 was pretty democratic, and yet, as we all know, it caused two World Wars. So the least that could be said, was that rampant nationalism on the European stage, was bringing the world to the edge of disaster. So, something had to be done about it. And something was done. 1951. European Steel and Coal Community.

    There has always been a democratic deficit in the nation state model of democracy, especially when it could be subverted by attacking your neighbour for no particularily good reason whatsoever. Does anyone understand the causes of WW1?

    That supra national model has served us incredibly well for it’s entire existence.

    Europe, and I’d include the UK in that, needed a model that allows us to live together without the bloodshed that the previous thousand years had inured us to. I’d further argue that it has little or nothing to do with wealth, as wealth is largely a relative concept, at least above the starvation level.

  52. Rumbold — on 2nd June, 2008 at 5:38 pm  

    Douglas:

    “I trust no hangover? What sort of protest against not drinking on Tube trains consists of not drinking on Tube trains?”

    Heh. I was never going for the protest anyway, just for the company.

    “I am struggling to get my hands on the details, but Europe between 1900 and 1950 was pretty democratic, and yet, as we all know, it caused two World Wars.”

    1939 Germany wasn’t democratic, nor was 1939 Italy, and they were the ones who started the war.

    “Does anyone understand the causes of WW1?”

    Er… yes.

    “That supra national model has served us incredibly well for it’s entire existence.”

    In what way?

    “Europe, and I’d include the UK in that, needed a model that allows us to live together without the bloodshed that the previous thousand years had inured us to.”

    But why do we need a controlling superstate? If Britain broke free of the EU do you think its first action would be to declare war on an EU country?

    “I’d further argue that it has little or nothing to do with wealth, as wealth is largely a relative concept, at least above the starvation level.”

    The wealthier a country, they less likely they are to invade for resources.

  53. Rumbold — on 2nd June, 2008 at 8:13 pm  

    Oh and Douglas- try to come next time. I know that it is a bit of a trek, but…

  54. Anas — on 3rd June, 2008 at 12:35 am  

    The wealthier a country, they less likely they are to invade for resources.

    Huh? You say some odd things, Rumbold, but even for you, that is pretty dumb. Hello, Iraq?!? How can poor countries afford the financial cost of an invasion anyway?

  55. Rumbold — on 3rd June, 2008 at 5:01 pm  

    Anas:

    I was thinking in the historical sense, when countries would invade in order to secure valuable resources/trade routes. America did not invade Iraq for resources, given the cost of the Iraq war.

  56. douglas clark — on 3rd June, 2008 at 6:06 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Hello? My enormous refutation of only one of your points is being treated as spam. I am grossly offended. It might have been shite, but it wasn’t spam :-)

  57. Rumbold — on 3rd June, 2008 at 8:18 pm  

    Douglas:

    Sorry about that, maybe the spam bot doesn’t like the EU either. I don’t know how to rescue your comment, as it is not in the ‘awaiting moderation’ queue. Should we just agree that I right?

    Seriously though, sorry about that.

  58. douglas clark — on 3rd June, 2008 at 8:40 pm  

    Rumbold,

    You will either be delighted or horrified to know that I’ve got it saved. Can I send it to you maybe?

    BTW, thanks for the invite. There are a few new things I’d like to see in London since I was last there, y’know – The Tower of London – stuff like that. So, maybe. Although the flight costs are ridiculous unless you fly to Stanstead, which is only about half way there. :-)

  59. Rumbold — on 3rd June, 2008 at 8:47 pm  

    Douglas:

    “You will either be delighted or horrified to know that I’ve got it saved. Can I send it to you maybe?”

    Please do (rumbold@pickledpolitics.com)

    “There are a few new things I’d like to see in London since I was last there, y’know – The Tower of London – stuff like that.”

    Heh. Can we have the stone of scone back please?

  60. Douglas Clark's avatar — on 4th June, 2008 at 9:26 am  

    Rumbold,

    There are too many points there to answer at one bite of the cherry, and whilst a lot of what follows will not be new to you, it may be new to others. So, bring a stick of chewing gum and stick it on the floor and I’ll tell you Bible Stories that you’ve never heard before.

    Deep Breath. I owe most of this post to:

    http://www.countercurrents.org/comm-hornberger300604.htm

    but there are a lot of other sources out there.

    You have cracked open a secure vault on my computer which is headed ‘Adolf Hitler Shit’. It is arguably true that by 1939 Germany was no longer a democracy, but the rise and rise of the little shit was in fact through a flawed democratic process. Here are some of the highlights:

    Post WW1, Germany becomes a democratic republic

    13th March 1932 – Presidential Election

    Hindenberg (the incumbent) – 49.6%

    Hitler (the shit) – 30.1%

    Thaelmann (who he?) – 13.2%, and

    Duesterberg – 6.8%

    Hindenbergs’ failure to get 50%, a 0.4% margin let it be noted, meant that there had to be a run off, which was held on 19th April 1932:

    which resulted in

    Hindenberg – 53%

    Hitler – 36.8% and our chum

    Thaelmann – 10.2%

    Onwards, ever onwards. Hindenberg, who was now president appointed Franz von Pappen chancellor. This twit then called elections.

  61. Rumbold — on 4th June, 2008 at 9:35 am  

    Bloody spam bot…

  62. Douglas Clark's avatar — on 4th June, 2008 at 9:36 am  

    On the 31st of July 1932 the National Socialists – Hitlers’ mob – won 230 seats in the Reichstag, out of a total of 608. Which made them the largest party, but well short of a majority. Political deadlock ensued.

    Bloody hell, 1932 was a busy year for German election agents.

    On November 6th 1932, a further Reichstag election was held. This resulted in the National Socialists losing 34 seats. Despite this the new chancellor Kurt von Scleisser was unable to form a coalition and on the 10th of Jan 1933, Hindenberg appointed Adolf Hitler the Chancellor of Germany.

    So, the National Socialists were given the running of the country on the basis of less that 38% of the votes cast.

    After the Reichstag Fire, Hitler, with that moral certainty and naturally duplicitous nature that makes me wary of politicians to this very day, asked the Reichstag (parliament) to suspend the German constitution, something that required a two thirds majority. Remembering that the National Socialists at this time accounted for just over one third of the Reichstag. The vote was 441 for, 84 against.

    23rd March 1933 – the Reichstag passes the Enabling Act, making Hitler dictator.

    Every four years after that young Adolf returned to the Reichstag to seek a continuation of his ‘Enabling Act’. Maintaining a facade, or fiction depending how you want to read it, of this being exceptional business and we’ll all get back to normal eventually.

    So you are right, Germany was a dictatorship in 1939. One in which the legislature had actually voted to let it happen. And one in which they had, nominally at least, the right to stop it.

    That is the point of the sentence I wrote:

    There has always been a democratic deficit in the nation state model of democracy, especially when it could be subverted by attacking your neighbour for no particularily good reason whatsoever.

    Which, I hope, helps to explain why EU standards of democracy are a good thing for all of us.

  63. Rumbold — on 4th June, 2008 at 9:39 am  

    I think I found a way to beat the spam bot. Just post a few lines of text, then when it accpets your comment click on the ‘edit’ section and copy and paste the rest of what you wanted to write into the box.

  64. Rumbold — on 4th June, 2008 at 9:53 am  

    Douglas:

    “It is arguably true that by 1939 Germany was no longer a democracy, but the rise and rise of the little shit was in fact through a flawed democratic process.”

    I agree that Hitler had some support. However, the elections in which his secured his power were not free and fair, as there was massive intimidation by Nazis and thugs allied to Nazis. As you point out, Hitler was appointed Chancellor, and this was because the grandees thought that they could control him. Furthermore, instances like the Reichstag fire hardly fall inot the model of a normal democracy.

    It is not clear how the EU would have presented the Nazis from gaining power. What we have seen over the past few years in some European countires is the rise of populist politicians, and the EU has (rightly) done nothing to stop them. 1930s Germany was ripe for extremism because of the Depression and the concessions of the Treaty of Versailles. No EU country is in that position today, so it si not a fair comparison.

  65. douglas clark — on 4th June, 2008 at 11:11 am  

    Rumbold,

    You are, of course, quite right about the intimidation. Despite which, he still failed to gain a majority. And was also losing support. At least between the elections of July and November 1932.

    Y’know, maybe you are right. Perhaps we shouldn’t look to historical precedents, but the Reichstag fire seems to me to be a good example of what you can do to a democracy when fear overtakes sense. Especially when the nation state is seen as supreme.

    The Reichstag fire was a put up job. 7/7 wasn’t. But the outcomes are different only by degree, I think. I don’t want to make too much of that lest you think I too am a conspiraloon, but governments take rather than give, generally. And the ability to strike fear into us is a weapon of state.

    The Germans back then were sold a crock of shit and they believed it. We, too, are now being sold a similar story. Where I do think you Libertarians are right is in taking everything that our Government, of whatever flavour, says with a pinch of salt. As a society, we need that brand of scepticism.

    Anyway. It is a requirement for EU membership that you have a functioning democracy. It doesn’t preclude right wing demagogues, and neither should it. But if, oh I don’t know, Italy or someone went to a dictatorship, they’d be shown the exit door.

    Which would have serious consequences for Italy. My arguement, and remember I’ve only attempted to answer one half of one of your comments so far, is that integration is better than war. And that is what we have these days. It is also largely true that EU member states don’t go looking for a fight. That is a sea change compared to how Europe conducted itself ninety odd years ago.

    As a ‘what if’, had the EU existed circa 1900, would either World War have happened? I don’t know, but I’d doubt it.

  66. Rumbold — on 4th June, 2008 at 12:26 pm  

    Douglas:

    “The Reichstag fire was a put up job. 7/7 wasn’t. But the outcomes are different only by degree, I think. I don’t want to make too much of that lest you think I too am a conspiraloon, but governments take rather than give, generally. And the ability to strike fear into us is a weapon of state.”

    But the Reichstag fire was only one in a series of incidences which helped Hitler’s rise to power. 7/7 was an isolated incident, and while admirable restraint was shown by everyone, it was never likely to lead to the rise of a populist dictator.

    “Where I do think you Libertarians are right is in taking everything that our Government, of whatever flavour, says with a pinch of salt. As a society, we need that brand of scepticism.”

    Its like you and DK are of one mind.

    “Anyway. It is a requirement for EU membership that you have a functioning democracy.”

    But the EU central command is in no way a functioning democracy. It is a corrupt oligarchy, with no democratic controls or mandate. It is comparable to 18th century Britain, in that most people join the EU superstructure not because of a public service ethos but because they want top get rich. D you think that the EU would really throw one of its old members out?

    “My arguement, and remember I’ve only attempted to answer one half of one of your comments so far, is that integration is better than war.”

    I don’t accept that Britain has to choose between one or the other. As far as I can remember, since 1945 we have not been close to going to war with New Zealand or Mexico, yet they are not in the EU.

    “As a ‘what if’, had the EU existed circa 1900, would either World War have happened? I don’t know, but I’d doubt it.”

    Impossible to say.

  67. Anas — on 4th June, 2008 at 2:01 pm  

    I was thinking in the historical sense, when countries would invade in order to secure valuable resources/trade routes. America did not invade Iraq for resources, given the cost of the Iraq war.

    You’re only thinking short term here R. The long term strategy is to maintain control over the source of oil in Iraq (which comes only second after SA in terms of amount of oil) after installing a friendly puppet government there; thereby ensuring a steady supply of the black stuff from such an important source until of course it all runs out.

    And re: ‘the historical sense’, even there your point doesn’t stand up. Are you telling me Spain, Portugal, Britain, etc, were all poor countries when they began colonising the Americas, India, Australia, and Africa?

  68. sonia — on 4th June, 2008 at 4:56 pm  

    34. as maidmarian says..amen to that! ;-)

    douglas makes very good points in 49

  69. Rumbold — on 4th June, 2008 at 8:23 pm  

    Anas:

    “You’re only thinking short term here R. The long term strategy is to maintain control over the source of oil in Iraq (which comes only second after SA in terms of amount of oil) after installing a friendly puppet government there; thereby ensuring a steady supply of the black stuff from such an important source until of course it all runs out.”

    I can’t prove that you are wrong, but surely it would have been a lot easier to simply spend the money used to pay for the war on just buying up oilfields in a friendly nation.

    “And re: ‘the historical sense’, even there your point doesn’t stand up. Are you telling me Spain, Portugal, Britain, etc, were all poor countries when they began colonising the Americas, India, Australia, and Africa?”

    For the most part, yes. The initial wave of colonisation takes place in the 16th and 17th centuries, and that is how many European countries increase their wealth, especially Spain, Portugal, Englad and Holland. Even 19th century Europe could hardly be descrivbed as rich. I don’t mean to suggest that there is some magical cut-off point which causes countries to lose interest in securing resources in other countires, but the richer (in real terms) that a population becomes, the less willing it is to go to war to gain more resources.

  70. douglas clark — on 5th June, 2008 at 4:05 am  

    Rumbold at 66,

    I think you are being tag teamed by Anas and I ;-)

    I love it when PP threads go off in a direction that has nothing, much, to do with the original post. Though I do think this particular byeway is almost the point of PP, or as Stephen Fry might say, quite interesting. You, Rumbold are forcing me to stand up for some cherished beliefs, and that is a good thing, as I’m forced to re-evaluate them and see whether they are still valid.

    Guess what? I think they are. And here’s why:

    The US has been guilty, certainly since the Second World War, of attempting to ensure that the governments of South America – by which I really mean the Carribean, Central America and South America – were clients rather than equal partners. What I think you might conceed is that South America – see definition above – was largely suceeded to the US at Yalta.

    Without a by your leave from the aforesaid folk. I’d have thought that that was basically undeniable. [For pities sake, don't make me prove it, it would take days and would be an huge pile of links to all the obvious suspects, which you probably know already!]

    Any self determination, by those pesky South Americans, that was contrary to Beltway beliefs, was stamped on. And Beltway beliefs were about unrestricted exploitation. Now that is the richest country on the planet playing games of economic empire, largely through proxies rather than directly.

    Is that any better than an Empire built on direct intervention? If only the facade of freedom is retained? It reminds me a bit of the Vichy France model.

    Hopefully some of these countries are getting nearer to some sort of self determination now, but that is not through a benevolent US foreign policy, it is partly through building their own version of the EU. It’s called Mercoseur if you want to Google it.
    See here:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5195834.stm

    And, whilst it is currently relatively weak, it is a genuine attempt to establish a supra national framework, modelled it must be said, on the EU.

    What I am arguing here, for it isn’t as plain as I’d like it to be, is that folk will band together, if they see an external threat to their sovereignty, by pooling their assets where they can. This was true of the original partners in the ECSC, who feared their partners as much as any external agency, and Mercoseur who fear a US divide and conquer strategy.

    ——————————————————

    Rumbold, I thought you were my pal. How could you have possibly said this:

    Its like you and DK are of one mind.

    No. DK is a shitty wee climate change denialist, and I’m not.

    DK is motivated, I think, by the sort of daft arguements that said, “hey, I’ve got a great idea here. Lets carve faces into rocks and fuck up our whole ecology. That’d be fun. Oh, and see those trees over there, let’s chop them down too”. Easter Island libertarianism. Or insanity.

    And who’s to say they were wrong? They are all dead. Which is your, apparently good friends, idea. Follow me, ’cause I’m the Pied Piper. Die for my stupid, evidentially empty belief system.

    Rumbold, I have always been against the madness of crowds, I am vehemently opposed to the madness of DK, who is a crowd stirrer, exraordinairre. And he knows it.

    Still, you thought about it long and hard and that was your answer to the Universe and everything…

    Wrong, my friend, totally, and utterly wrong…

  71. Rumbold — on 5th June, 2008 at 12:55 pm  

    Douglas:

    “I think you are being tag teamed by Anas and I.”

    Heh. “Oh my god he’s got the chair!!”

    “Any self determination, by those pesky South Americans, that was contrary to Beltway beliefs, was stamped on. And Beltway beliefs were about unrestricted exploitation. Now that is the richest country on the planet playing games of economic empire, largely through proxies rather than directly.”

    I agree that the US tried to rule through proxies, but this was far more to do with Cold War politics then economics. The US often spent millions of dollars in each country trying to keep out communist regimes, because they wanted South America to remain free of Soviet influence. It was a logical progressio of the 19th century Monroe doctrine, which stated that the US would counter European attempts to gain undue infulence in the Americas.

    “Hopefully some of these countries are getting nearer to some sort of self determination now, but that is not through a benevolent US foreign policy, it is partly through building their own version of the EU. It’s called Mercoseur if you want to Google it.”

    But the greater freedom these countries now enjoy derives not from a proposed union, but because the Soviets and Americans aren’t meddling as much in their affairs anymore.

    “What I am arguing here, for it isn’t as plain as I’d like it to be, is that folk will band together, if they see an external threat to their sovereignty, by pooling their assets where they can.”

    An external threat can almost always be dealt with by a temporary network of alliances. There is no need for political integration.

    “Rumbold, I thought you were my pal. How could you have possibly said this.”

    I was just trying to wind you up. You say nice things about the EU to enrage me, I compare you and DK for the same effect.

  72. douglas clark — on 5th June, 2008 at 1:56 pm  

    Last point first. DK is a publicist. He is unintersted in threads like this that do not directly challenge his insanity. He is a Sunday Express journalist from the 1960′s, probably a
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/League_of_Empire_Loyalists

    idiot. One that can call me on Pascal’s bet. And pretend that that is an answer. He is a manipulitive piece of shite, that’d for sure. Still, and all, if you see DK as the way forward, that is up to you and your concience. Personally, I think he is a moron.

    ————————————————-

    Back to the point.

    But the greater freedom these countries now enjoy derives not from a proposed union, but because the Soviets and Americans aren’t meddling as much in their affairs anymore

    No. There are still folk that want to meddle, in this instance the Chinese. My point is that standing up locally, requires you to stand up supranationally. I’d have thought this was obvious.

    Anyway. you misunderstand the European ambition, it was to stop war, and in that is succeded.

  73. Rumbold — on 5th June, 2008 at 7:27 pm  

    Douglas:

    Sorry, your comment was caught in the spam net.

    “Still, and all, if you see DK as the way forward, that is up to you and your concience.”

    I agree with him on some issues, and disagree on others.

    “My point is that standing up locally, requires you to stand up supranationally. I’d have thought this was obvious.”

    I don’t understand that.

    “Anyway. you misunderstand the European ambition, it was to stop war, and in that is succeded.”

    We are back to the logical fallacy arguement again. Canada, America and Mexico have fought one another in the past, yet since 1945 they haven’t. Yet they are not in a union.

    Why does the EU need to make 80% of our laws to avoid WWIII? What would happen if national parliaments made the law instead? Why the need for closer political integration?

  74. Anas — on 6th June, 2008 at 6:36 pm  

    I can’t prove that you are wrong, but surely it would have been a lot easier to simply spend the money used to pay for the war on just buying up oilfields in a friendly nation.

    Not really, we’re talking about the second largest proven oil reserves in the world here. It’s simple: any country which has control of those reserves wields an enormous amount of power internationally. Why else was Iraq invaded, Rumbold? What’s your thinking here, I’m sure it’ll provide a well-needed chuckle.

    The initial wave of colonisation takes place in the 16th and 17th centuries, and that is how many European countries increase their wealth, especially Spain, Portugal, Englad and Holland. Even 19th century Europe could hardly be descrivbed as rich. I don’t mean to suggest that there is some magical cut-off point which causes countries to lose interest in securing resources in other countires, but the richer (in real terms) that a population becomes, the less willing it is to go to war to gain more resources.

    Again, no. Those countries I mentioned, were all prosperous, to varying degrees during most of the last 500 years of European-led colonisation of the planet. How else could they afford to finance the armies and the civilian hordes that they set sail to different parts of the world?

  75. justforfun — on 6th June, 2008 at 7:52 pm  

    The wealthier a country, they less likely they are to invade for resources.

    Rumbold I think you fall into the same trap as you accuse the Bishop when it comes to the above. You have in your mind a few examples of poor countries going to war for reasources and a few examples of wealthy countries not engaging in occupational warfare – so you assume that ‘wealth’ or ‘lack of wealth’ and the desire to wage wars of occupation are connected.

    There is no rule that can be used to say this. While wealth might in some circumstances pacify the larger nation – that will be because the circumstances that prevail are stable, the there is no need to invade to get the reasources – the reasources will come to where the money is.

    In other circumstances, the money is not enough to draw in the reasources – so war is used to achieve the goal. A classic is the Opium War. Hardly a war, but it illustrates the point. Britain only had silver to pay for goods from China, and did not want to trade all its money for these goods (this was in the days before governments could just print money). It wanted to trade something other than silver; something it could manufacture. It had nothing the Chinese wanted. Then it happened apon the flegling desire in China for the use of opium. Bingo – The rest is history … a wealthy unified country , with only the use of 3 Gurkha regiments soon makes the Chinese state capitulate and allow Opium to be traded for Chinese goods. No need now to ship all that silver to China, just opium which one can print (so to speak).

    Japan in the early 20th century was the richest country in the Far East. It waged a war specifically for raw materials to feed it growing wealth. Opium was by now no longer an acceptable commodity to trade, even if opium could be grown in Japan, which it can’t.

    Now of course America has not learnt this lesson. It has paid for Chinese goods with dollars that it found it could easily print without too much inflation. Like Japan it could not use opium for trade and direct military action is not possible, so it has printed dollars , dollars, dollars and more dollars. Now it has woken up to the fact that China has keep these dollars and is soon to go on a spending spree. The British selected better; or were just lucky that they were in the Empire business when there were fewer moral scrupals. Anyway – fortunately for us the Opium was smoked, not stored away to be sent back to Britain 20 years later, to be traded for Maxim guns.

    Anas – How else could they afford to finance the armies and the civilian hordes that they set sail to different parts of the world?

    Hordes? – hardly . India was taken by a few. Africa by a dozen. Latin America by 1 or 2.

    The countries were relatively rich in the sense they had function governments who could mobilise effective and adequate military assets, but they were often poorer in wealth than the countries they overran. The Gold and Silver of Latin America was the Spanish wealth. The wealth of India was the wealth of Britain.

    It might make one feel better to think our ancestors were overrun by a horde, but the numbers don’t support that.

    justforfun

  76. halima — on 6th June, 2008 at 8:18 pm  

    Douglas C

    What I think you might conceed is that South America – see definition above – was largely suceeded to the US at Yalta.

    Absoloutely – there was that nice little doctrine called the Monroe Doctrine peddled about in 1880s which was formally conceded around Yalta – one of Roosevelt’s popular campaigns at the time. And now we see why the idea of a unified Latin continent along Simon Bolivar’s ideas sends chills down US political circles – it would mean revisiing over a hundred years of US sphere of influence in Latin America – long before US was involved in European continent or in the Pacific.

    Justforfun

    Good points – was thinkig about Japan as a classic example.

  77. Rumbold — on 8th June, 2008 at 8:37 pm  

    Anas:

    “Why else was Iraq invaded, Rumbold? What’s your thinking here, I’m sure it’ll provide a well-needed chuckle.”

    A belief in WMD, a need for revenge post-9/11, an excuse to get rid of Saddam, a desire to reshape the Middle East. Take your pick.

    “Again, no. Those countries I mentioned, were all prosperous, to varying degrees during most of the last 500 years of European-led colonisation of the planet. How else could they afford to finance the armies and the civilian hordes that they set sail to different parts of the world?”

    Justforfun deals with this well, but the best comparison is between the Mughal Empire and the English/British when the East India Company was set up. At that point Elizabeth and James I would have been lucky to enjoy a regular revenue of over £500,000 p/a, while Akbar/Jahangir had a regular revenue of between £9 and 10 million p/a.

    Justforfun:

    “There is no rule that can be used to say this. While wealth might in some circumstances pacify the larger nation – that will be because the circumstances that prevail are stable, the there is no need to invade to get the reasources – the reasources will come to where the money is.”

    It was not meant as an iron-clad rule, (good example by the way), but the wealthier a country, the less willing its citizens and leaders are willing to go to war to secure more resources. If you don’t have enough land or food, then war for resources makes sense. If you have two TVs, three cars, a big house and a computer then securing oil supplies doesn’t have the same meaning.

  78. Anas — on 9th June, 2008 at 12:04 am  

    A belief in WMD, a need for revenge post-9/11, an excuse to get rid of Saddam, a desire to reshape the Middle East. Take your pick.

    The first two of those are bullshit, others are meaningless unless there is some other deeper motive, i.e., oil.

    Justforfun deals with this well, but the best comparison is between the Mughal Empire and the English/British when the East India Company was set up. At that point Elizabeth and James I would have been lucky to enjoy a regular revenue of over £500,000 p/a, while Akbar/Jahangir had a regular revenue of between £9 and 10 million p/a.

    He doesn’t deal with it that well in fact i think he misunderstood me. By civilian hordes I was referring to the army of administrators, bureacrats etc, that follow the initial invasion and are necessary to establish a presence in the colony in order to secure a good return. In other words in order to start successfully exploiting the colony you’ve secured you need to make put forward a certain amount of expenditure, i.e., to make money you need money. Sure, the Brits were no where near as wealthy (according to certain measures of wealth) as the Indians but that didn’t make them poor by any means.

  79. Rumbold — on 9th June, 2008 at 12:29 pm  

    Anas:

    “The first two of those are bullshit, others are meaningless unless there is some other deeper motive, i.e., oil.”

    How did yopu come up with that conclusion? How can you be sure that it was about oil, and not because of half a dozen other reasons?

    “He doesn’t deal with it that well in fact i think he misunderstood me. By civilian hordes I was referring to the army of administrators, bureacrats etc, that follow the initial invasion and are necessary to establish a presence in the colony in order to secure a good return. In other words in order to start successfully exploiting the colony you’ve secured you need to make put forward a certain amount of expenditure, i.e., to make money you need money. Sure, the Brits were no where near as wealthy (according to certain measures of wealth) as the Indians but that didn’t make them poor by any means.”

    An initial invasion of where? Some places, like sub-Saharan Africa, saw European powers establish themselves quickly (thus it was a scramble). In other places, like India, it was hardly an invasion, as the earliest English were only there because of the goodwill of the Mughals, and it would be more than a century and a half before the British began to expand beyond Madras, Bombay and a chunk of Bengal.

    “Sure, the Brits were no where near as wealthy (according to certain measures of wealth) as the Indians but that didn’t make them poor by any means.”

    At the time most Europeans and most Indians were what we would describe as poor (i.e. often going hungry, no savings, no access to proper healtcare, education or sanitation).

  80. justforfun — on 9th June, 2008 at 2:06 pm  

    By civilian hordes I was referring to the army of administrators, bureacrats etc, that follow the initial invasion and are necessary to establish a presence in the colony in order to secure a good return.

    Anas – I see what you are trying to say about an intial investment being needed before the ‘return’ is acheived. This is possibly a reason why ‘western’ colonization was successful. At the start – As a king – you offer your toughest, badest people the right to go and get rich – with only a 10% -50% franchise fee of any proceeds brough back. If they fail – nothing lost really. If they succeed – you get rich. If they commit alot of atrocities along the way – you can always blame the church and then if it just gets too bad you might have to impose proper law , and hang a few of your appointed ‘conquistadors’.

    Now how did other colonizers work – they had to go with their armies. No staying at home for Babur etc – It was soon apparent that any generals sent out ‘unaccompanied’, just set up rival kingdoms. So these conquests tend to be ‘forgiven’ in our reading of history. Funny how our whole view of colonization is very selective. We modern 21c humans forgive the Moghuls, the Afghans, the Turks, the Arabs, the Americans, the Canadians, the Australians etc because they stayed on the land they conquered and colonized. The British and French of course went home so no forgiveness.

    Sorry to ramble off – however in the 16 to 19 centuries I doubt there was really any horde of administrators dispatched to colonies (excluding de- populated colonies like NZ , Oz and SA). The local administration was done by locals. Even in 1947 the number of British in India was miniscule. 0.5% ? – NO it was 0.06% – less that the percentage of Racial Equality Administrators in this country :-) ? ( perhaps not, but it would be enlightening to know the number of Government administrators in the UK now looking after ‘native’ afairs. It would be ironic if it is more than looked after the ‘natives’ back in India, pre 47.

    (http://gpih.ucdavis.edu/files/India_1750_and_1947.pdf.)

    However you would be correct to say that by the end of the Victorian period, Britain was loathed to get involved in creating new colonies. The cost of the administration was now way beyond any expected return. The British had got coy about public opinion and it knew it could not do colonies on the cheap. It had to maintain certain standards, ( A bit like GAP – it could not be seen to be using slave labour – indentured labour is OK however) – that was left to the new colonizers who were not too worried about public opinion. So it left the last land grabs to the Germans ( Africa), Belgiums (Congo), Americans (Philippines) and French (Indo China and N.Africa) and Italy (Libya and Ethiopia). The last hoorah was Younghusbands conquest of Tibet ( or perhaps the Falklands war). The Annexation of Tibet, as a venture, was opposed by the British Government because it deemed to be too expensive to maintain a British presence that could not be paid for from the proceeds of conquest. Younghusband however used the pretence of Russian involvement in Lhasa to force the issue so it became a security calculation not an economic calculation. However the Russian involvement was a fabrication. Things don’t change :-) .

    Justforfun

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.