The Abbot on "Temperance"

Christopher Jamison, the Abbot of Worth, in the Inaugural "Noah Lecture" has spoken about ways that people of faith might act to lead society out of the present financial and global climate crises. He points the finger of blame at our willingness to start believing that "greed is good" and says that we need to return to the basics of moral theology.

From a report in the Church Times today:

"Fr Jamison argued for a revival of the cardinal virtues: fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence. ‘We need rules and laws aimed at reducing climate change, but they will not be enough.’

[...]He argued that the four virtues could be applied to the practicalities of energy policy and consumer choice. Thus, for example, the question needed to be asked: ‘Are human beings capable of running a virtuous nuclear power industry?’

The Abbot was critical of the way in which greed had infiltrated people’s mental image of their life and its needs. The commercial version of Christmas was a good example. ‘So Nike and the other great corporations now inhabit our imagination, the place where greed is generated. Once planted there, they can make us endlessly greedy. And that is what they are doing.’"

Read the short article here.

The full text of the Abbot's lecture is posted here.

Comments (4)

OK. I'll take the bait and defend "greed is good."

Greed is good is an ironic statement. It captures Adam Smith's notion that "it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest" (Wealth of Nations).

Mandeville perhaps says it even better (Fable of the Bees):

Thus vice nursed ingenuity,
Which join'd with time and industry,
Had carry'd life's conveniencies,
It's real pleasures, comforts, ease,
To such a height, the very poor
Lived better than the rich before.

Hey, John--the very poor live better than the rich before *where*?

Yes, the American poor have access to goods an services unknown to monarchs of old. But isn't American greed causing great inequities around the world as well as at home?

Is a little voluntary simplicity from those who can afford it too much to ask?

Derek, greater inequality doesn't bother me as long as everyone is better off. That's generally been the result when people are able to act in their self interest to serve the interests of others.

But I agree that the well to do have a duty to give to the less fortunate, and not simply consume more and more.

And I would agree that CEO pay (for example) has been inflated beyond reason because of nontransparency, cozy relationships with boards of directors, and others defects in the corporate model where shareholders no longer discipline CEOs.

I don't think it's really true, anyway, that the poor live better than the rich used to. The poor, by definition, have very little - and the rich, also by definition, have more than they need.

And, as Derek points out, it's only in the prosperous West that this could be said to be true - if it is, which again I doubt.

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