Get riches ethically, but share them, says report

by
02 November 2006

A PRE-ELECTION REPORT from the Churches on prosperity and the fostering of social justice was launched on Monday.

It says that "the thinking of all the mainstream denominations on the socio-economic issues of the day has converged around one key proposition: that under the right conditions, economic growth can serve God's purposes."

Among the principles and proposals set out by the report are:

o It is the responsibility of those  engaged in politics to reconcile the outcomes of the market economy to the demands of the common good.
o A threat to the productive functioning of a market economy comes from the attempt to squeeze too much out for socially desirable ends.
o Top pay should not appear to reward failure. It is right for the Government to review company law to see to what extent shareholders could gain greater control over boardroom pay.
o The minimum wage can be used as a way of ensuring that all forms of work available are worth while.
o The minimum wage is a right that can be met jointly by an employer and by the state.
o A culture of long-term excessive working hours is contrary to a Christian ethic of work.
o The anti-poverty strategy of encouraging paid work has built-in limits to its effectiveness.
o Rates of interest, especially to the poor, ought to be subject to a ceiling.
o Retired people should not have to submit to means tests.
o The development of international institutions to regulate international markets has lagged behind.
o The regulation of global capital flows needs urgent investigation.
o It is unethical to pretend that there is no problem of global warming.

The report, Prosperity with a Purpose; Christians and the Ethics of Affluence, commissioned in 2001, is published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI). Its final drafter, the Roman Catholic journalist Clifford Longley, described it as "a Christian contribution to political debate that no political party can afford to ignore".

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Mr Longley said that it addressed the theological issue that, if people were made in the image of God, then how could they live in a just, fair and decent society, part of a just, fair and decent world? It celebrated wealth creation with the caveat that "nobody must be left behind," and that growing prosperity must be shared.

"It is not acceptable to Christians in Britain if their prosperity depends on the poverty of people in countries abroad. Social justice has to be global, or it is a sham."

The Bishop of Southwark, Dr Tom Butler, said that, in his own diocese, "the wealth of the City was beginning to spill across the river," but the arrival of prosperity had mixed effects in the local economy.

On BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day on Tuesday, Dr Butler said that by 2010 it was estimated that the top tenth of the population would be ten times richer than the bottom tenth. This was the sort of inequality that the report was trying to address.

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