This is going to be a very difficult year. The coronavirus and the return of the credit crisis are two immediate reasons for this.
Last year it was obvious that the financial markets were in crisis again. The reality of our financial situation – for individuals, for businesses and for the nation – has become more vulnerable as the debt situation has got worse.
Our national debt has increased beyond all expectation that there could be enough economic growth to be able to make the payments on this debt. All advanced nations have sunk deep into utterly unsustainable levels of debt. No one believes that this debt load can be managed, that interest payments can be met. The markets have lost the ability to challenge governments and central banks by selling currencies or stocks. Stockmarkets, on which our pensions and unemployment benefits depend, are up only because central banks have been pouring new credit into them in order to prevent them from crashing. These banks have been creating new debt, to function as new money, at an unprecedented rate. Nonetheless this money is vanishing as debt is paid down, so there is a liquidity crisis – no one has any cash.
The emergency measures have gone on longer and vaster than ever before. Central banks have prevented markets from establishing real values and letting the truth of our situation from emerging. We have avoided recognising how impossible our situation has become. This long emergency intervention by governments and central banks has concealed our situation from us. We have been borrowing, but since we have not achieved any growth, we are unable to repay but have simply been taking from future generations. Our borrowing has funded our present consumption, not gone into useful investment. No new source of energy has emerged.
No government, media or population wants to hear this. Those in authority understand that their remit is simply to conceal from us the truth of our economic situation.
But we Christians are determined that truth must always be revealed. The long suppression of truth is one reason for the crisis. A reckoning is not only unavoidable but it is good. Christians offer truth by asking questions of governments and media, and so letting the contradictions in their claims become clear. We do not set out policies or one political approach. We ask questions to all the assertions and assumptions that express the worldview of our leaders and media. We do not try to have the last word on any subject. But we do not let anyone assert their view without challenge. We do not believe that the way things are is the way they must always be. Christians do not silence one another or refuse to allow questions to be asked. There are no forbidden subject areas. We are responsible for calling the mighty to account and for pointing out to our own generation the consequences of its long self-deception.
It would be a relief to see our situation with greater honesty, if our nation could begin to recover its sight and is able to admit to itself that endless economic expansion is over. Our single greatest deception has been our assumption that economic growth will continue forever, that growth is the norm and that we will soon return to it. But there has been no real economic growth for many years. Debt-fuelled ‘growth’ is not real growth, when the burden of interests payments grows ahead of real productivity. We should consider whether the economy and standard of living we have known are now gone for good. England has slipped into a long Lent, a time of passion, fasting and decline, but it has been undiagnosed, because we have not named it as such. Truth is the only medicine and truth can only emerge through public debate and judgment.