There was once a time when theology was considered “queen of the sciences”. Sadly, the old queen is now locked away in a high tower. She is little trouble to anyone, though her wailings might still disturb a sensitive soul passing by the foot of her prison. Theology no longer has any place of honour in contemporary conversation. She is irrelevant to all but a furtive few.
A new ruler sits on the throne. Once merely a palace servant, he has grown in strength and power until all others have been forced to bend their knee to him. Like many rulers before him, the ambitions that drove his ascendency were modest, even benevolent, but like the Roman Emperors of yesteryear he now knows what it is to rise to the heights of deity. Unlike them, he can perform miracles. He is, in today’s world, the “name above all names”. There is no escape from his rule, for he has put his Chief Ministers in charge of every sphere of human activity. Commerce may have been the first to come under his thrall, but she was long ago joined by Government and Church as his loyal subjects.
He is Economics.
Any act of barbarism may be excused if it is according to his will and purpose. Children may starve, farmers may be driven from their land, nations may turn from the provision of the most basic health and education services — all because his commands are irresistible. In his kingdom, the old virtues are replaced with one over-arching duty: “Be ye efficient.”
It was not always so. The elevation of Economics to absolute power has been relatively recent and has no precedent in our history. But it is doubtful that any despot of old ever had such an iron grip or stern face. His favoured subjects are contented and glad. They know that if they serve their master well they will be rewarded. He does not hold out the vague hope of an after-life — the fullness of his bounty is here and now. And though he is cruel to those who turn away from his rule, in truth he demands little of his subjects. His yoke is easy, his burden light because he commands only that they put their own desires before the needs of others. Only a fool would defy him.
And so we rejoice! Bless the name of the one who brought us this golden age of prosperity, where even the poor can seek solace in the pages of a mail order catalogue.
In the high tower, the old queen still shrieks in her madness but we have forgotten the meaning of the word that we barely hear above the throbbing bass that pours out from the pop factory.
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