Of Housekeepers and Bookkeepers

St Paul’s Institute commissioned ComRes to conduct a survey of professionals working in the financial services (FS) sector in London. ComRes surveyed 515 professionals working in the FS sector in London online between 30th August and 12th September 2011.

The findings are interesting, at least for the Church which with a 16% attendance looks no more the part than its object of study.

Giles Fraser in his introduction to the Report says that

“According to that great Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, the face of the other is the primary site of moral obligation”

Unfortunately the place and the time did not favour any more digging in this direction his attention being drawn to the cause of the (business) angels’ fall of public grace, that is Margaret Thatcher.

The general philosophy behind Big Bang was Margaret Thatcher’s commitment to financial liberalism. Hers was arguably the most radical administration since the war. Markets worked better, that is, more efficiently, when they were free of rules and restrictions.
Governments had to get out of the way. Billions of mini decisions made by traders in a free market were always going to be cumulatively wiser and more fleet of foot than the cumbersome and out of touch regulations that came down from the committees of the great and the good. This was people power at its most direct, the wisdom of crowds.

That was the story we were told. And for some it became a sort of secular creed, never to be questioned. Those who told a different story were widely dismissed as either crusty oldfashioned paternalists or unreconstructed socialists who were more interested in how the financial cake was divided and willfully indifferent to how the cake was actually created in the first place. The Thatcher revolution was the only answer.

What caught my attention back after this incursion in politics was the following, let’s call it, confession:

And it is interesting that, according to the figures, the City goes to church less than the general public as a whole.
This is partly explained by the fact that the church itself is largely illiterate when it came to questions of finance. Despite the fact that, if you count up all the references, the right use of money is the number one moral issue in the Bible, the church has preferred to spend its time arguing endlessly about sex.

Although when it comes for the Church itself I am reluctant to believe in the dyslexic inaptitude when faced with taking financial decisions for its own share of the market, the fact that the general public is guilty of general ignorance when facing the same issues looks now more like a truism than a sudden revelation. As for sex…let’s change it (the subject that is). It has very little connection with the matter at hand.

And now some numbers from the findings

13. Which one of the following statements comes closest to your own view

about God?
37% of FS professionals in London have always believed in God and further 4% say they believe in God now, but have not always done so – 41% currently believe in God. A similar percentage (38%) do not believe in God, although this lack of belief assumes different forms for different people. Indeed, 15% say they have never believed in God, 11% say they believe in a higher power (albeit not a god), 7% say they are a spiritual person (but not a god-believer) and 5% say they used to believe in God, but no longer do. Interestingly, around 1 in 5 professionals (21%) do not know whether there is a God.

So, no surprise then that

76% of FS professionals do not agree that the City needs to listen more to the guidance of the Church.

Dr Giles Fraser cites the Archbishop of Canterbury who said

Economy’ is simply the Greek word for ‘housekeeping’.

It would be much simpler if we find out first whose house are we to keep.

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