By Mark Wallace
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It's fair to say I haven't always been the biggest fan of the Church of England's views on politics and economics. Rowan Williams in particular regularly fired my ire with his barmy pronouncements about Marxism being not so bad after all, and his attacks on Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms.
That's why I'm overjoyed with their announcement today about Wonga.
It seems Justin Welby, unlike his predecessor, actually understands how markets work – and has retired the jerky knee Williams used so regularly. For instead of demanding state intervention, he is using the Church's financial might to go into competition with payday lenders whom he thinks are too expensive.
This may or may not be deserved – as Sam Bowman of the ASI points out, many of the statistics used against Wonga are misleading, and a company operating within the law is far preferable to violent loansharks operating criminally – but it can only be a good thing for consumers. More competition in a market helps to drive down prices, increases corporate accountability and places greater power in the hands of the customer.
This is a far more enlightened intervention from the CofE than its old, prohibitionist tendencies – hopefully some more of our national institutions will learn from Welby's example.