Having a good war

Now that the field of economics has had its reputation destroyed by the recession, the Church must abandon the social sciences and rediscover its own disciplines, writes Digby Anderson

Bear with me. You may, by now, think this column approaches its point rather slowly – and indirectly – but the point in this case is uncommonly good news and worth waiting for.

There is a phrase recently come back into my mind, ‘He had a good war.’ I think it’s from one of John Buchan’s stories, definitely about the First World War and probably about Richard Hannay.

It does not mean he made lots of money on the black market or even that he killed lots of the Boche. It means he was fortunate in being where the action was, that the action was rough and difficult but he came out a better character and with his reputation enhanced.

The phrase can be applied to any time of trial. For instance, today, somewhere, there is someone who has had a good recession. More to the point there are people who have had a rather bad one, and not just individuals but groups.

The group that has most notably emerged with its reputation diminished to the point where it is exposed for all to see as fraudulent is that of professional economists. There, I said there was good news.

Getting it wrong

Economists claim their discipline is a science able to analyse and predict. They have been eager to take substantial payments to do both. But they persistently got the banking crisis and recession wrong.

They were wrong about whether they would come, when they would come, how bad they would be, how long they would last, how they would proceed and how and when they would end. This applies not only to the academics, journalists and city economists but to no lesser persons than the last two chairmen of the Federal Reserve. Now the Governor of the Bank of England is persistently getting inflation wrong.

Ordinary people have had better things to do than worry about the fate of economics and thus economists have not yet felt the full force of their customers’ disillusion. But it is a total debacle. This is not to say economists lack all wisdom. They have insights, tips and experience to offer. What economics is not is a science.

Pretentious and fraudulent

It is the last of the social sciences to crash. In the Sixties university departments were set up for a range of disciplines pretending to be social science. There were sociology, social policy, social work, criminology, social anthropology, management, education, psychology, psycho-dynamics and counselling, media studies, business studies and amalgams such as human relations. One by one their scientific foundations have been revealed as clay.

My own discipline of sociology was the most pretentious and the most fraudulent. I can remember a time when the full evil of communism was available for all to see. Ordinary people saw it but 75% of sociologists remained infatuated with this wicked tomfoolery.

Crumbling reputations

As the Soviet Union was revealed in all its horror, they traipsed after Cuba, China – during the cultural revolution – even North Korea. Those who did not worship actual existing evil dreamt up Marxisms even more extreme in evil and stupidity. Marxism was but one version of the arrogance that thinks it can understand and rearrange societies.

Some disciplines such as psychotherapy and counselling have never subjected themselves to scientific evaluation. Others such as education and social work had no knowledge base at all. One by one their reputations have crumbled – though silly governments still fund them and naïve students still enrol to waste three years studying them. Before the recession only two had not been rumbled, economics and some parts of psychology. The recent unmasking of economics completes the long march of disillusion.

It is sometimes said that the enemies of Christian theology and ethics were the natural sciences, especially biology. But it was the social sciences that did more damage, for their territories of the human psyche and society overlapped with those of the Church. They offered rival analyses. They did not have to attack the wisdom of the Church.

Liberal Christians invited the enemy in. They fell successively under the spell of ‘clinical theology’, counselling, sociology, liberation theology, community work and the rest. And it was from them that they learned the relativism with which they are deconstructing the Church herself.

Time for a change

Now these disciplines have been revealed as fraudulent, it is time for the Church to cleanse herself of them and rediscover her own themes and disciplines. The stables of seminaries and pulpits, Christian publishing and broadcasting are knee-deep in such silliness and filth.

It is time for a thorough cleansing and a reinstatement of past and surer wisdoms. This is not a rhetorical call. There is a detailed practical project to be undertaken in changing the content of what passes for Christian knowledge. And it is deeply reactionary. ND

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