January 22, 2015
Our obsession with shopping, pay rises and nice houses is making us miserable, according to the Archbishop of York.
Dr John Sentamu, condemned the so-called consumer society as little more than a "mechanism for distributing unhappiness".
He said the financial crisis happened because "people borrowed money they didn't have, to buy things they didn't need".
He was speaking at the launch of "On Rock Or Sand?", a book of essays edited by Dr Sentamu with contributions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and experts on subjects such as poverty and economics.
The book, timed for the start of the General Election campaign, contains a scathing critique of Britain under the Coalition as a country in which the poor are being left behind and wealth increasingly concentrated on London and the South East.
David Cameron said last week that he "profoundly disagreed".
Archbishop Welby told the launch, at Church House in Westminster, that the book simply called for "a people centred economy rather than economically centred people".
Dr Sentamu explained: "What the financial collapse in 2008 should teach us is that we were becoming obsessed with money: salaries, bonuses, the cost of houses, and expensive luxuries we could live without.
"When money rules, we remember the price of things and forget the value of things.
"That is a bad mistake. The financial collapse happened because people borrowed money they didn’t have, to buy things they didn’t need, to achieve a happiness that wouldn’t last."
He added: "The whole of consumer society is based on stimulating demand to generate expenditure to produce economic growth.
"This involves turning genuine values upside down. "Advertising creates a thousand blandishments that focus our minds on what we don’t have, while real happiness lies in rejoicing in what we do have.
"So in a curious way a consumer society is a mechanism for creating and distributing unhappiness."
Archbishop Welby added: "You could say it calls for a people centred economy rather than economically centred people.
"And the lie of the consumer society ... is to say that people will be better people when they are economically centred, when they are based on material values."