* Anatole Kaletsky: Associate Editor of The Times * Professor Norman Stone: Professor of International Relations and Director of the Russian Centre at Bilkent University, Ankara. * Alexei Pushkov: Anchor of the most popular Russian TV programme “Post Scriptum” which has considerable influence on Russian public perception of international events.
Speakers against the motion:
* Edward Lucas: Central and Eastern Europe correspondent for the The Economist and author of The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West (2008).
* Dr Lilia Shevtsova: Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Washington).
* Ron Asmus, German Marshall Fund of the United States
IT IS A characteristically Anglican mixture of breast-beating, self-congratulation, waffle and wishful thinking. But in the 100-odd pages of Faithful Cities, the Church of England’s new report on urban poverty, there is one glaring absence. The real poverty-busters — the people who create wealth and jobs — feature nowhere at all. Business appears only as a greedy and unwelcome backdrop.
Mercifully, the committee of clerics, do-gooders and hand-wringers (not an entrepreneur among them) who wrote the report do not repeat all the pseudo-Marxist gobbledegook of Faith in the City 20 years ago. They grudgingly admit that Britain has got richer in the past 20 years, though their simplistic parody of economic history gives no credit to the benign effects of union-busting, privatisation and deregulation under the Conservatives, nor to the low inflation and sound money policies of new Labour.
Instead, they try to solve poverty by spraying it with jargon, of the kind produced by people trying to sound profound when hopelessly out of their depth.
“It is a salient fact that market capitalism goes into decline if the market is populated by people who exercise self-restraint, are aware of the needs of others and reflect on the wellbeing of the planet.”
That’s a bizarre misunderstanding of the economic system that has lifted billions of people out of poverty. Capitalism depends on rules (contracts, property rights) and self-restraint (if you don’t save, you don’t accumulate capital). And if you ignore the needs of others, you go bust fast.
Wealth does not mean selfishness. Private philanthropy is a huge force for good in America now, and used to be in this country too, before taxation eradicated the charitable instinct of the rich. Big government, by contrast, has a dismal record, and the ghastly slums and ghettos it has created are true temples of misery.
So, encourage prosperity, generosity and mobility. Capitalism brings all three. But instead, the report bangs on about “faithful capital” (which seems to mean a collective conscience). But using the C-word ties the authors up in knots. Archbishop Rowan Williams’s foreword to their report moans that it has a “doubtful aura”.
That queasiness is paradoxical. “Capital” is the only word in the report that is meaningful and counters poverty. Britain’s inner cities could do with more capital, and fewer reports.
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Bene Merito award
Without my foreknowledge, I was last year awarded the Bene Merito medal of the Polish Foreign Ministry. Although enormously honoured by this, I have sadly decided that I cannot accept it as it might give rise to at least the appearance of a conflict of interest in my coverage of Poland.
"The New Cold War", first published in February 2008, is now available in a revised and updated edition with a foreword by Norman Davies. It has been translated into more than 15 foreign languages.
I am married to Cristina Odone and have three children. Johnny (1993, Estonia) Hugo (1995, Vienna) and Isabel (2003, London)