Corbynomics is, according to its designer and at least one journalist, a radical policy. Whether or not this is the case (the jury’s still out), there’s no doubt that the economy is a current obsession right across the political spectrum; Corbynomics is just one more policy which claims to have the answer.
The economy looms large in education these days, too. ‘Education is the engine of the economy’, education’s very purpose, pronounced Nick Gibb, in a recent speech to the Education Reform Summit. Students are now human capital; each one a potential economic production unit in the drive to build a global economy. Everybody has an economic price: nobody has human value. Personal worth has to be competed for and it’s measured by the number of shiny things you can procure with your money.
Economy isn’t the only buzz word – ‘security’ is everywhere. There’s economic security, national security and your family’s security and it’s all, according to government propaganda, under threat from Corbynomics. David Cameron and George Osborne between them managed to use the word 14 times in just two articles last month. The message? Money buys security, as well as happiness.
And then there’s ‘social justice’. You can’t read a Department for Education press release these days without stumbling over the phrase, clumsily littering the narrative like so many loose stones on a country track. Apparently, even rugby coaching will now ‘deliver real social justice’ as though children live in school vacuums that will solve all their problems by making them resilient and transforming them into potentially high earners. The social justice mantra has nothing to do with people or the communities in which they live, and everything to do with their economic value, or (if they don’t develop high enough aspirations) their likely drain on the economy.
Don’t get me wrong. I think a strong economy is important. I think personal and national security is important. So is personal responsibility. Social justice is vital in building strong communities in a mature society and the broader the experiences schools can offer, the better. But how and why it’s achieved? That’s another matter – there needs to be a moral basis to prosperity and security.
Writing in On Rock or Sand, Justin Welby commented that nearly all those who engage in political debate ‘assume that the value of a given community is founded solely on its economic output’. He went on to say: ‘We believe that if we can fix the economy, the fixing of human beings will automatically follow … It is a lie … that casts money, rather than humanity, as the protagonist of God’s story’.
As soon as humanity becomes the protagonist of the story, the current narrative gets turned on its head because God’s economy is one of love and grace. God loves unconditionally and unreservedly, just because. We can’t earn it. We don’t need to compete for it. It’s boundless, it’s completely free and it’s for everyone, regardless of aspirations, social status or exam grades.
It does come with a call to action – not political, but personal. ‘A new commandment I give to you,’ Christ said, ‘that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another’ (John 13:34). We are to live in relationship with others in a way that demonstrates God’s love and shows the impact of God’s free gift of grace on our hearts and minds. Now that’s radical economics.