Saturday, January 27, 2018

John Sentamu: a bit of an embarrassment to an omniscient god, frankly

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York: the kind of man who illustrates why a god might rain death and destruction upon the Earth.

The main problem with the Church of England—other than the fact that no one actually attends the services, donates money, or gives a fuck about whatever say-fairy bollocks it is wittering on about today—is that its representatives are so fucking stupid and pig-ignorant that they make the Middle Ages look like the Enlightenment. I mean, what institution could possibly preserve its reputation when chiefly represented by arch-beta Justin Welby...?

However, prat though Welby might be, he has been eclipsed this week by the barn-storming ignorance of John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. Now, generally, if one is completely ignorant, one might avoid the press in general: unfortunately, there are none so blind to their own stupidity as the truly ignorant, as evidenced by Sentamu indulging in a Grauniad interview (via Longrider).
“Income inequality is the cause of all our trouble. Inequality leads to huge social problems,” he said.

Referring to a 2009 book, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Sentamu said: “You can only build a wall if the spirit level is absolutely straight. At the moment, our spirit level is going the other way, so our walls aren’t straight, and all our attitudes, our behaviours, our cultures are warped. The book says we should not concentrate too much on growth at the expense of equality. More equal societies are happier societies.”
There is absolutely no evidence for this assertion at all. This book, that purported to "prove" this kind of assertion, has been comprehensively debunked—not least by Christopher Snowdon in The Spirit Level Delusion.

People were pretty equal under Communism: so tell me, Archbishop, were people frolicking and dancing in the sunlit fields of the USSR, Communist China, and Cambodia? No. I mean, lots of people were in fields under those regimes: there were plenty of people above, enslaved in a subsistence lifestyle on collective farms; the others were mainly below ground, in mass graves.

Leaving aside the evils of Communism for a second, part of the problem is that, in surveys, most people don't really care about inequality: well, they might say that they do, but they don't care enough to actually do anything about it.

Which is a bit of a problem for the dear Archbishop's next nugget.
People who are willing to pay more tax towards health, education and social care should be able to do so through voluntary, hypothecated payments, John Sentamu told the Guardian.

Sentamu also pointed to a 2017 British Social Attitudes survey, which found 48% of respondents favoured higher taxes to pay for more spending on health, education and social benefits. Only 4% said they wanted taxes to be cut, and 44% said tax rates should stay the same.

“If citizens are willing to pay more, there needs to be a mechanism to do so. I call it top-up,” said Sentamu.

People were worried that higher taxes would be absorbed into general government spending. “The government should say it would guarantee that these tax increases will go towards health, education and social care. There’s no reason why it can’t be done.”
Here's the thing, Johnnie-boy: there already is a mechanism for doing this. You simply write a cheque to HMRC, and post it to: The Treasury, 1 Horseguard's Road, London. And yes: you can specify what you wish your donation to be spent on.

And via Tim Worstall, the government's Debt Management Office even publish a report on how many people actually donate every year. Despite the many thousands of people clamouring for more tax—and assuring us sceptics that they themselves would just luuuurve to hand over more to the state—the numbers are not very impressive.

It's almost as though Revealed Preference was a real thing, eh...?

On other topics, it is implied that Sentamu also praises Oxfam's recent click-bait wealth report.
An Oxfam report showed that 42 individuals in the world hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the global population. Nearly three-quarters of people in the UK want the government to urgently address the income gap, a survey for the charity found.
It's a pity, then, that this report contains such basic—or mendacious—definitions as to render it wrong at best (and both wrong and deeply dishonest at worst). After all, Oxfam is the fake charity that declared, in a 2010 blog post, that:
"... Venezuela certainly seems to be getting something right on inequality."
Yes, indeed. Venezuela is, indeed, far more equal than it used to be (although it's not ideal if you are a pet rabbit—although eating nothing but rabbit carries its own problems)—and for the same reasons as in Communist Russia, China's Great Leap Forward, etc. See above.

Sentamu is doing pretty badly here; but wait—he has some medical wisdom to dispense!
A resurgence in cases of scarlet fever, which recently hit a 50-year high, illustrated growing inequality and malnutrition. The disease, which was a common cause of death in children in Victorian times, “had been wiped out and is now re-emerging in poor communities. Hello, what is going on here?”
Well, let's ask the NHS, shall we?—by referencing their summary of the relevant report:
The researchers conclude: “England is experiencing an unprecedented rise in scarlet fever with the highest incidence for nearly 50 years. Reasons for this escalation are unclear and identifying these remains a public health priority.”

Therefore, though this is a definite rise in cases we don't currently know the reasons.
The reason that scarlet fever was "a common cause of death in children in Victorian times"—although far less common than a very great number of other things—is quite simple: the Victorians did not have antibiotics.

Now look: I have to assume that John Sentamu believes in a sky-fairy (although this is not actually a given with religious officers these days—especially in the Church of England) so I am not expecting great powers of reasoning from him. However, I think that he has really excelled himself here: the blinkered worldview, philosophical and economic ineptitude, rank stupidity, and screaming ignorance displayed in this interview are almost supernatural—perhaps, indeed, he has been possessed by a three-day-old cowpat.

Your humble Devil is sure that we must all be in hell—because having to endure the witterings of this fucking fool are, truly, torturous.


Bloke in North Dorset said...

As I like to point out to those who claim they’d be happy to pay more tax - virtue is not conditional.

Anonymous said...

I was once confronted with a version of the poorest 3.5 Billion and the worlds 10 richest people. Using google to get new worths and dividing that total by 3.5 Billion resulted in each “poor” person getting 135 dollars each. To pay for this, hypothetically, each of the 10 wealthiest families were made destitute, all their employees were made redundant, huge knock on affect to local economies, all the supply chain had their income slashed, govement tax revenues were decimated, charitable donation and foundations were obliterated. The person who confronted me simply called me a bad word and stormed off.

Anonymous said...

Dear Devil

People become more equal during recessions.

Therefore we should have more recessions. QED.


JohnM said...

"People were pretty equal under Communism"

Actually they weren't. I think it was Robert Conquest who showed that pay differentials were retained (or restored). In fact, if my memory serves me correct, the pay differences comparing East and West Germany were higher in the Soviet sector.

Of course some of this is conspicuous, for example: the Special Shops and ZIL lanes for party apparatchiks.

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...