In March, Parliament knocks back his new poor law. It was too much for the Commons to digest, that rich men might have some duty to the poor; that if you get fat, as gentlemen of England do, you have some responsibility to the men turned off the land, the labourers without labour, the sowers without a field… Parliament cannot see how it is the state’s job to create work. Are not these matters in God’s hands, and is not poverty and dereliction part of his eternal order? It is an outrage to the rich and enterprising, to suggest that they should pay an income tax, only to put bread in the mouths of the workshy. And if Secretary Cromwell argues that famine provokes criminality: well, are there not hangmen enough?
It’s 1536. Replace God with ‘the market’ and you’re away. Maybe that’s not even necessary – belief in the system and the sanctity of the market is such that it’s become a matter of faith. We need new expressions of disgust.