Despite being rather a short piece, this just goes to prove history’s usefulness (even those weirder bits) as a means by which to measure, understand and even shape our world today. Adds Paul Lay, editor of History Today magazine: “It’s quite common for journalists to create forced parallels between contemporary concerns and historical events. But one has to admire John Thornhill who, in the Financial Times on Friday, asked what the 13th-century Albigensian Crusades can tell us about the modern dispute that sees deficit spending Keynesians squaring up to advocates of fiscal austerity.”
Excerpted from the end: So what lessons can we learn from the Cathar tragedy? There are perhaps three.
- Theological debates can be magnificent, so long as they are confined to the cloister. But they can easily turn lethal when intertwined with the interests of the state. Once a ruler invests in an intellectual orthodoxy then it becomes heretical to oppose it. That argues for economists to be disestablished. Let them scrap among themselves about the true path; just make sure they have no levers to pull.
- If economists insist on descending into the earthly realm then we should test their beliefs are sincere through reinstituting the Inquisition. How many economists would defend the merits of stimulus spending when their soles were being singed?
- For the avoidance of violence and deliverance from evil, agnosticism should remain the only true, universal faith.