Thought for the Day - Lord Harries of Pentregarth - 17/05/2013

Good morning. Europe has been in the news all week, again. But leaving aside all current political controversies, the issue of Europe raises much wider, bigger questions. The early European institutions and structures were brought about by political leaders with a passionate vision for the future. They wanted to bring lasting peace to the countries who had just been devastated by the two terrible recent wars. And the key figures in bringing this about were for the most part fired by a deep Christian faith. So the first question is whether their vision for Europe has any relevance today, or do we simply assume that the work has been done and there will be peace in Europe for evermore.

Then, if we look at the long history of human political arrangements, from tribal societies to war lords, princedoms and great empires, the nation state as we know it is a relative late comer. Are we really to assume that the nation state, or indeed the EU or the UN as they are now, is the end of this process of political evolution? Certainly from the standpoint of religious faith it would be absurd hubris to think we have somehow arrived at what God intends for human societies.

Then, perhaps the most crucial feature of our time-globalisation. This means that capital can be switched from one part of the globe in an instant, and international companies can evade the power of the state with off shore accounts and tax havens. In short, whereas in the past individual governments could for the most part ensure that the financial sector worked to benefit its people, they have now substantially lost control-the financial world runs riot, or at least rings round individual governments. So the third question is whether the financial sector can be reined in and structured to serve the common good without wider institutions involving whole continents and the international community as a whole; institutions that are strong and effective because of legally enforceable arrangements between countries.

Globalisation is the most potent economic and political factor of our time bringing change many areas of life. But if this is a serious challenge it also forces us to think of the world as a whole, of co-operation with others as well as competition with them. As the Divine purpose is inclusive of all humanity and as the thrust of the New Testament is to make us look beyond our ordinary boundaries whether or family or nation, to see a neighbour where there is a human person, especially someone in need, globalisation is to be welcomed. But I do not see how it can be channelled to serve the good of all without wider structures and institutions, whatever form they turn out to be.

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