Thursday, May 05, 2005


Harper's May 2005 has several superb articles on conservative Christianity and capitalism.

La plus ce que ca change: Ireland, 1845-1850. An evangelical-ridden British government stopped food relief (of imported U.S. corn) to Ireland during the great hunger because it was an intervention into the free market and into the wages of sin: "This crisis seemed to offer the opportunity for the Irish to atone." The assistant secretary of the treasury suggested that "the fear of starvation would ultimately be useful in modernizing Irish agriculture." Their free-market modernization thesis was linked to an evangelical doctrine of original sin. "The trials of economic life...were earthly tests of sinfulness and virtue...they saw the pain of earthly life as means of atonement for original sin." Compassionate conservatives without the benefit of public relations professionals,1 press officer, or campaign strategist. The good news is that this evangelical political economy fell out of favor at least until recently. From Gordon Bigelow, "Let There Be Markets."

Perhaps Ridley Scott should make a movie about the potato famine -- would a film titled The Great Hunger have a slamming first night? It could have a score with that damn tin whistle that seared Titanic into one's cortex. And star American actors playing Irish folk with fine sets of teeth. But surin' enough, couldn't we use some popular cultural imaging of the cruelty of capitalist christianity now?

1 The Bush administration spent more than $88 million on contracts with public relations agencies in 2004. Over the past four years a single agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, spent more than $94 million on contracts with public relations agencies. Had the British administration contracted public relations services, the great hunger of the potato famine could have been recast as the "migration freedom act." Source:


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