Occupy London: archbishop of Canterbury backs new tax on banking
Rowan Williams says the protest at St Paul’s shows ‚widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment‘
The archbishop of Canterbury has outlined a package of political and financial measures needed to take forward the „moral agenda“ of Occupy London campaigners encamped outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
Backing a new tax on banking, Rowan Williams said the protest against financial inequality and banking excesses had been seen „by an unexpectedly large number of people as the expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment that shows no sign of diminishing“.
Endorsing the idea of a „Robin Hood“ tax on financial transactions, he said: „There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of impatience with a return to ‚business as usual‘ – represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices.“
The archbishop’s sympathy for the protesters, in an article in Wednesday’s Financial Times, came after a day in which the cathedral announced it would not be taking legal action to evict them from its land and the Corporation of London said it was „pausing“ its bid to clear the encampment. Its officials are expected to make a further announcement on Wednesday.
Williams stepped into the debate as another senior figure in the Church of England, the bishop of London, Richard Chartres, told the Guardian that the protesters‘ voices chimed in with „alarm bells ringing around the world about the connection between finance and ethics and human flourishing“.
The archbishop was careful to include other religious leaders in a debate over finance and ethics, saying the demands of the protesters had been „vague“. Williams continued: „Many people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism; but it isn’t easy to say what we should do differently. It is time we tried to be more specific.“
He joined the Vatican in calling for routine banking business to be clearly separated from speculative transactions and said governments should recapitalise banks with public money, obliging them in return to help reinvigorate the „real economy“.
A third suggestion was probably the most far-reaching, said Williams, endorsing a financial transaction tax known as a Tobin or Robin Hood tax. „This means a comparatively small rate of tax (0.05%) being levied on share, bond, and currency transactions and their derivatives, with the resulting funds being designated for investment in the „real“ economy, domestically and internationally.
Seeking the best outcome from „the unhappy controversies at St Paul’s“, Williams concluded: „If religious leaders and commentators in the UK and elsewhere could agree on these three proposals, as a common ground on which to start serious discussion, questionings alike of protesters and clergy will not have been wasted.“