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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

7 March 2012: Michael Blakstad, St Laurence

Age of Austerity

When the Chancellor and the media predict a long period of austerity, they do so in doom-laden tones. High unemployment, low growth for the economy, shops closing - all causing misery for those directly affected. We Christians, who cut down on consumption during Lent, might be forgiven for feeling that we are making a bad situation worse, by spending less and slowing the economy still further.

Isn't it possible to argue the opposite? The current situation was caused largely because nations and individuals ran up phenomenal debts, many of them unsustainable. Churches urge us, correctly, to avoid conspicuous consumption, to lead simple lives. By resisting the blandishments of the advertisers, and reining in our spending, are we not living more virtuously, and contributing to a more robust economy? To say nothing of reducing CO2 emissions?

The economists predict that things are going to be so bad that we shall return to the dark days of 2003. Actually, I can't remember life being so bad a decade ago. I do feel sorry for those who lose their jobs, and especially for the young who can't get jobs in the first place. But those who do work complain of long hours; the very successful take home salaries beyond the dreams of avarice. Couldn't the workloads be shared out and salaries spread among more people? One pundit has argued for a 20 hour week.

Abstinence, it could be said, is not just for Lent ...

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