It is a good rule of thumb that whenever the Archbishop of Canterbury makes a political statement, the exact opposite is true. Last week, Mr Williams proposed a updated version of the medieval 'Royal Touch', whereby the monarch's touch alone could allegedly heal sufferers of scrofula.
In a 21st Century update, Rowan Williams has suggested a law which would compel “all cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the 100 most successful financiers in the UK, [to] spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate... or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home.”
The principle behind the idea is not a bad one. Society as a whole would benefit from greater levels of personal charity, be it on a personal or organised level: David Cameron's vision of a 'Big Society' in action. But this should not be limited to those at the top of society, unless we want to relegate ourselves back to our Feudal past.
What his suggestion reveals, however, is a far more worrying trend: that of the state being the first port of call for any perceived problem. Is it really Westminster's business to legislate for our morality? Charitable actions enforced by law are no longer charitable nor moral: giving a child a lollipop whilst you're compelled to do so by the force of the judiciary doesn't make you a better person.
The state already appropriates a huge proportion of our incomes – how much is there left to be charitable with? It then proceeds to squander vast amounts of this in the name of various malleable buzz words: 'equality', 'empowerment'. Empirical evidences shows that it is those richest and most successful in society who often provide most to those less fortunate, with Bill Gates being the greatest ambassador of this. How much more does Rowan Williams expect these people to give? I would wager that in states such as the USSR, levels of private charity were negligible.
What the state should be doing is removing, not imposing more legislation. Many of the poorest in society, who are most in need of charity, are in such a position because of an infantilising state which by keeping thousands of people on unnecessary benefits has reduced them to a position of powerlessness.
By removing legislation, freeing individuals and creating the environment for greater prosperity, levels of charity would sky rocket. Until I see Rowan Williams finally dismount his high horse and make a grab for the Toilet Duck, I will continue to ignore him.