Monthly Archives: July 2008

A small step forward for humanity: another bastion of sexism has crumbled – the General Synod of the Church of England has decided to allow women bishops, 14 years after ordaining women priests. As a dyed-in-the-wool Protestant, I would have preferred a solution that did away with all priests and bishops, but if we are going to have them at all, let’s have them of either gender or none.

There are reported to be as many as 1333 clergy who have threatened to leave the Church of England if they are not given legal safeguards to set up a network of parishes that would remain under male leadership. I really don’t want these theological sad sacks to leave. They are misguided and deeply offensive in their insistence that women be barred from leadership positions in the Church of England, but the Church should be broad and tolerant enough to accommodate a small Conan-the-Barbarian wing. I actually doubt that very many would leave, even if they did not get their MCP reservation inside the Church, because they are unlikely to be sent on their way with a pro-rated share of the Church assets.

The next step will be a lesbian bishop in a committed relationship. Then a female Archbishop of Canterbury, straight or gay, with or without a beard. DV I will see the day. Progress is made one small step at a time.

A recent World Bank report on the causes of the rise in food prices during the past three years confirms the view, widely held outside the Washington DC White House and the French farmers’ lobby, that increased bio-fuel production has made a major contribution to rising food prices.  According to Rising Food Prices: Policy Options and World Bank Response, global wheat prices rose by 181 percent over the 3-year period leading up to February 2008 and overall global food prices by 83 percent. Food crop prices are expected to remain high in 2008 and 2009 and then begin to decline.  They are likely to remain well above the 2004 levels through 2015 for most food crops.  Around 15 percent of the increase in food crop production prices is due directly to higher energy and fertilizer costs.

The list of the usual suspects for the cause of this food price boom is not controversial, but the quantitative magnitudes of the individual contributions is.  The main drivers are (1) global economic growth and especially rapid growth of real per capita income in the emerging markets (mainly the BRICs), countries whose consumption expenditure share on food (and energy) is still high because of the low levels of real per capita income: (2) crop failures; (3) diversion of crop production away from food into bio-fuels; (4) food subsidies in emerging markets and developing countries and food export controls/taxes/tariffs leading to hoarding in food importing countries; (5) destabilising speculative behaviour in the commodities futures markets.

With a slight modification of the all-time classic referee’s report,  I can say the following of the Treasury’s recently released consultation document Financial stability and depositor protection: further consultation: this document contains much that is new and much that is good.  Unfortunately, what’s new is no good and what’s good is not new.

One of the most attractive features of the Church of England (the Anglican Communion, or the Episcopalian Church for the less Ango-centric ) is that it is a broad, inclusive and remarkably tolerant church. I have always felt that as long as I did not overtly worship Zeus, I would be welcome there.

The parish church my family used to worship in when we lived in the Isle of Dogs, is a good example of what a church should be. It was founded it the 19th century as part of the Oxford movement-inspired High Anglican ‘missions’ to the East End. That Anglo-Catholic tradition endured. If the church had been any higher, it would have been in orbit. There were bells and incense and priests in colourful garments. We prayed to the virgin Mary and to the saints (something viewed as idolatry in my Dutch Reformed church of origin). There were crucifixes galore and we were asperged occasionally. The priests chanted part of the liturgy (or tried to).

But there was never any pressure to conform. Many worshippers crossed themselves. Some did not. I never figured out whether the correct order was Up-Down-Left-Right or some other permutation. Some knelt during prayers, some sat. These differences were not divisive. Coming from a protestant tradition without priests (according to the protestant doctrine of the universal or common priesthood of the believers, every believer is a priest in Christ, and therefore no-one is), the very notion of third party interposing himself/herself between God and me seemed outrageous at first, but on reflections of no great significance .

Maverecon: Willem Buiter

Willem Buiter's blog ran until December 2009. This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science; former chief economist of the EBRD, former external member of the MPC; adviser to international organisations, governments, central banks and private financial institutions.

Willem Buiter's website