Better than Mary, eh?

We’ve the seemingly odd news that Princess Diana is regarded as a better mother than the Virgin Mary. Something about which a number of points can be made, the most obvious being that this was a survey of members of the Church of England, none of whom are likely to believe in, even be sure about, the existence of Mary in the first place. We might also observer that at 35 William’s a bit passed the being nailed to a tree bit.

The important point to make though is about what we might call proximity bias:

You might think that in a Church survey about the “ideal mother”, the Virgin Mary would be an obvious winner.

But the Church of England’s own Mothering Sunday poll has thrown up a surprising result.

Princess Diana beat the mother of Jesus Christ to the top spot, and was named the ideal mother by five per cent of respondents – the most popular single choice.

The Virgin Mary only made eighth place, behind both the Queen and Michelle Obama.

“My own mother” was the second-most popular choice, followed by Mother Theresa, with the Queen coming fourth.

Well, yes, My Mum always was going to do well but Mother Theresa wasn’t in fact a mother at all. As with so many other things Adam Smith did get there first. As all too many reach for in Theory of Moral Sentiments:

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connexion with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befal himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own. To prevent, therefore, this paltry misfortune to himself, would a man of humanity be willing to sacrifice the lives of a hundred millions of his brethren, provided he had never seen them?

Whence the little finger as opposed to hundreds of millions of people thought. As Gavin Kennedy points out this isn’t really quite Smith’s point:

Most commentators stop there and do not read on, and thereby jump to the wrong conclusions. Smith, they conclude asks: “if ‘the man of humanity’, obsessed with saving his ‘paltry’ finger, of which he is highly emotional about, could save ‘his brethren’ in China from the earthquake disaster, but only at the cost of losing his little finger, what would he do?”

Well, if he rolls over and snores after dreadful news of an earthquake it’s obvious: he keeps his little finger! But does he?

Read on and I think you will agree that what Smith says next turns the whole, somewhat cynical, assertion he begins with on its head, and treats us to one of his thunderous affirmations of the moral spirit, which he finds in human kind when exposed to the society of his fellows.

The point being that we are all subject to that proximity bias. Thus the rather more recent Princess Diana and the somewhat more distant Virgin Mary. A proximity bias that we can and often do rise above with a little thought and moral concern. Things apparently in short supply in the CoE but then as a Papist in bad standing I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Support Continental Telegraph Donate

18 COMMENTS

    • Yes. The day after Di’s unfortunate encounter with a tunnel support stanchion, I remarked to one of my female staff: “Yesterday, she was just a silly little tart who couldn’t keep her knickers up – today, she’s a cross between Mother Theresa and Wonder Woman.” It didn’t go down well,

      • @QV

        I too was amazed at the lunatic fake grief.

        One of my first thoughts when I saw this behaviour was Gov’t should use her death to promote always wearing a seat-belt in cars. If she’d worn her’s she wouldn’t have died.

        Recalling “Stop, Look, Listen” & “Clunk Click”: “Dead Di Says Belt Up”

    • Michelle Obama? What churchgoer would want any child to be mothered with frequent lessons that a majority of their countrymen have it in for “people who don’t look just like them,” a head start to a giant chip on the shoulder? A sizable number at the Church of England evidently don’t believe in mothering!

  1. As you’re a Papist (in bad standing to boot), we’ll excuse your ignorance. I don’t think there are any CoE people who doubt the existence of Mary (except the ones who also doubt the existence of her Son, of course), though they may doubt if – and for how long – she was a virgin.

    I think that ‘Mother’ Theresa coming in at 3rd place tells you everything you need to know about the survey…

  2. Wearing shitloads of mascara and photobombing children’s heart surgery is perfectly normal behaviour, bigots.

    Tim N – amidst the surreal craziness of Di’s death, I felt like a stranger in my own country. I was sorry to hear about her demise, but the media-fuelled scenes of chronological grown-ups crying like a bunch of Italians over an attention-seeking clotheshorse they didn’t even know left me cold.

    I burst out laughing when Tony Blair went on TV to wibble his lower lip like a girl and waffle such blatantly manipulative shite as “the people’s princess”. ‘What dribbling retard would fall for that pantomime performance?’, I thought.

    Turns out it was most of them.

  3. Dongguan John March 12, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Banging playboy army officers behind your kids’ dad’s back is being a good mum?

    Banging playboy army officers in such a way your son’s father would find out about it, actually. And so would all their playground class mates.

    Diana was screwed over by Charles. Royally, so to speak. But she was still as mad as a box of sun burnt snakes. However was that cause or effect?

  4. The Diana phenomenon is a strange one. My French ex-wife suffered from it. Posthumously. Diana’s, not her’s, more’s the pity. Never showed much interest in anything wasn’t retailed before but went into deep mourning for the funeral, laid flowers & all that. But Diana was a media sleb & thoroughly marketed. (The ex was a fan of Lola Ferrari as well. Go on, Google her – dare you!) The brand continues to sell.

  5. Reminds me of this bible quotes:

    Matthew 15:4-6
    4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
    Ephesians 6:1-3
    1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

    Todays lesson comes from Richard Murphy.

    The news that large companies are enjoying a steady decline in their real rates of tax, revealed by the FT, comes as no great surprise. As I have commented this morning:

    The fact is that despite all the efforts to end international tax abuse by multinational corporations a Faustian pact has been made between these entities and governments, including that of the UK. As a result whilst measures have supposedly been taken to tackle abuse, tax rates have come down rapidly.

    In this context the Labour Party promise to increase corporation tax from its current 19% for all companies to 21% for small companies and 26% for larger companies if Labour wins the election makes sense. Let’s leave probabilities aside and discuss the merits of this idea.

    The logic of both proposals is sound. For small companies the case is that it makes no sense at all to have a corporation tax rate below the basic rate of income tax: all that becomes is a blatant invitation to avoid tax. This abuse is already costing up to £4 billion a year according to the Office for Budget Responsibility: I suspect it may be more when the full national insurance impact is taken into account. In that case the 21% rate is almost certainly too low: I would have gone higher to beat abuse and win back more of the lost billions, which is exactly what is required.

    Dealing with larger companies (of which there are vastly fewer) the situation is more complex. First, 26% is not high: it is close to the EU and OECD averages when adjusted for our current low rate.

    Second, it’s not that long ago we had these rates.

    Third, there is no evidence at all that cutting the rate has brought jobs, growth or new corporation tax revenues to the UK (the rise in revenues is very largely because of the rise in the number of small companies and broad based recovery in profits from banking and elsewhere and not because of new inward investment driven by tax).

    Fourth, we know that business itself did not lobby for the low corporation tax rates now on offer.

    Fifth, we know business says tax is low in its considerations when real business is being relocated as opposed to profits being relocated – which is the type of abusive activity Ireland attracts and which has rendered its national accounting meaningless because so much of its GDP is profits simply flowing through the place leaving almost not a trace bar some fees for bankers, lawyers and accountants on the way.

    Sixth, and most important, I argue low tax rates and low capital allowance rates are counter productive and rarely help anyone but banks. This needs explaining.

    Right now, and I summarise, with a corporation tax rate of 19% and a 20% allowance on capital spending a year a large company in the year that spends £100 on capital equipment gets a cash rebate of £100 x 19% x 20% = £3.80 in the year it spends the money. Tory plans to reduce the corporation tax rate to 17% reduce this to £3.40. That, to be candid, provides no incentive for investing at all. This is a tax system for rentiers and bankers. It does nothing at all to encourage any activity in the real economy where people work and value is created.

    Now change the tax rate to 26% and offer 100% first year allowances and the allowance is worth £26, or near enough seven times more.

    This will encourage investment.

    That will create growth.

    The investment will increase productivity.

    That increases wages.

    And growth, again.

    And so future tax revenues as a result.

    In other words, increasing the corporation tax rate kickstarts the economy in a way that a corporation tax cut can’t. And it pays for itself.

    It’s time for the debate on corporation tax to move to rates.

    And it’s time to talk about using an Alternative Minimum Corporation Tax to support that rate.

    The game playing has to end.

    NB: I am aware some do not agree with the suggestions on 100% capital allowances: behaviourally the evidence is that they work for the businesses that are likely to invest, which are the ones that matter