How We Create the Wealth of Nations
Chapter 12: Innovation and Consumerism
Some politicians think it quite inappropriate that Church men and women – even the most senior Churchman in Britain – should ‘interfere’ in politics and the economy. I have never understood this point of view. After all, few politicians are shy to give their opinion on anything and everything – including many things that they are quite evidently unqualified to speak about. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury from 2003–2012, is not the first Archbishop or Bishop of modern times to speak out against what he considers to be a fundamental error in our political economy.1 Moreover, as I have argued above, the relevant concept of wealth for our purposes is not M-wealth but R-wealth (‘no wealth but life’). Who could be better qualified to talk about the relationship between innovation and life? By chance, my work on this chapter coincided with the publication of Dr Williams’ book, Faith in the Public Square (2012), once described as his ‘valedictory work as Archbishop’ (Guardian, 2012b). In this he sets out some very deep concerns about our current political economy, and these seem to me so important that I decided they must be addressed here. In the context of this book, this chapter describes the potentially destructive effects of innovation on the consumer as a person – as a human being.
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