A Baptist minister gave a sermon on economics that the ACLU and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State would surely regard as crossing the theological divide. “During the last two years, some of the most notable commercial reputations have been hopelessly destroyed,” he said. “Men in the great world of trade, who were trusted, around whose characters there hovered no cloud of suspicion, not even the shade of doubt, have proved themselves reckless of honesty and devoid of principle.”
“The fiery trial has been too much for the wood, hay, and stubble of many a gigantic firm.” The preacher who delivered this broadside, C. H. Spurgeon, did so in 1869.
Moreover, he made them in London at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Nevertheless, the world of British commerce he neatly dissected then seems eerily like what we have come to regard as quintessentially American today.
“Probably we have more of this to come, more revelations still to be made of apparent wealth which covered insolvency, as a rich paper may cover a mud wall, crafty schemes which duped the public with profits never made, and tempted them to advance to deeper speculations, even as the mirage of the desert mocks the traveler,” Rev. Spurgeon warned one and a half centuries ago. “We have seen in the public prints, month after month, fresh discoveries of the modes of financing adopted by the villainy of this present age, to accomplish robbery respectably and achieve felony with credit.”
“We have been astonished and amazed at the vile tricks and shameless devices to which men of eminence have condescended.” Of course, capitalism survived that crisis in the United Kingdom. Great Britain remained free market in good times and bad until the World War II.
As part of the coalition government formed by the crown, conservative PM Winston Churchill’s free hand in foreign affairs was a trade-off for the Labor Party’s authority in matters domestic. Of the post-war Tories who worked from #10 Downing Street, only Margaret Thatcher pried that progressive palm loose from the home front.
It is a precedent worth pondering as we contemplate giving unprecedented power to the president while opposition party leaders in Congress get tired of saying no to him.
Perhaps they should partake of abstinence education.
The winner of Accuracy in Media’s 2009 Reed Irvine award for lifetime achievement in investigative journalism, author M. Stanton Evans, once described Marxists as “economic determinists with no knowledge of economics.” It is tempting to characterize would-be planners in America today in that same fashion.
As we have seen, though, at least one long-gone clergyman, who specialized in matters spiritual rather than topics temporal, seemed to have a better handle on so-called “bread and butter issues” than most modern-day official sages and not who would prescribe for us stimulating bailouts. Closer to our own time, before his untimely death, Troy University journalism professor Chris Warden penned a textbook setting out in simple terms How to understand economics without really trying.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.