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A memory of Bishop David Jenkins

October 4, 2016

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Bishop David Jenkins, who died on September 4, 2016, Barnard Castle, was interested in the 1997 gathering of the Bromsgrove Group and replied to the following letter from our editor:

If something is Iaunched would you please keep me in touch – with the hope that I could join in.

She wrote: “The three days spent at the Community for Reconciliation’s conference centre, exchanging news and views about our monetary system were both pleasant and profitable. A few initiatives have been strengthened and some new proposals were made.

“One of our contacts, James Robertson, was asked to produce a briefing on just and sustainable development for the European Commission. I thought that you might like to see brief extracts from the section on money and finance. The whole briefing will be published next year. (It was: transcript at http://www.jamesrobertson.com/book/neweconomicsofsustainabledevelopment.pdf)

“A good monetary system is a vital component of economic reform. Once achieved, the concerns set out in the recent CCBI report on poverty and unemployment could be effectively addressed and the whole cycle of national and Two-Thirds World indebtedness eliminated.

“To get even a pilot scheme going such people will need the wisdom of the serpent and the gentleness of the dove.

“We look forward to seeing your book published (link) and hope you will offer to share this material with many groups, including the one I’ve described. I leave for India on the 20th, returning in April”.

Other exchanges followed but the correspondence lapsed and a move to smaller accommodation meant that many documents were jettisoned, including these letters.

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In 1973 David Jenkins became director of the William Temple Foundation, whose work was valued by several members of the Bromsgrove Group, and continued his work relating the Christian faith to contemporary social issues. The founder, William Temple, wrote:

“In the case of money, we are dealing with something which is handled in our generation by methods that are extremely different from those in vogue a century or half century ago. When there was a multitude of private banks, the system by which credit was issued may have perhaps been appropriate, but with the amalgamation of the banks we’ve now reached a stage where something universally needed – namely money, or credit which does duty for money – has become in effect a monopoly… The private issue of new credit should be regarded in the modern world in just the same way in which the private minting of money was regarded in earlier times. The banks should be limited in their lending power to the amount deposited by their clients, while the issue of newer credit should be the function of public authority. This is not in any way to censure the banks or bankers. They have administered the system entrusted to them with singular uprightness and ability and public spirit. But the system has become anomalous, and, as so often happens when anomaly has persisted through a long period of time, the result is to make into the master what ought to be the servant.” The Rt. Rev. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, London, September 26, 1942

David Jenkins’ book Market Whys and Human Wherefores: Thinking Again About Markets, Politics, and People has been described as an extended layman’s critique of economic theory and its application to policy, in which he called himself an ‘anxious idiot’ using the latter term in its original meaning of an ordinary person with no professional expertise.

It diagnosed many of the problems with economic theory and its application to a deregulated economy that would later be seen as prescient in the light of the global economic crisis of 2007 onwards.

 

 

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