Last Tuesday, Dr Sheridan Gilley, Emeritus Reader of Theology at the University of Durham, addressed the society on "Newman and the Crises of Capitalism". We are extremely grateful to Dr Gilley as a long standing contributor to the society, this being the seventh time he has visited us. Dinner with the speaker was attended by committee members and by the Fr John, Fr Roger and Fr Simon of the Catholic chaplaincy amongst others.
Although Newman may not at first hand have much to contribute to our understanding of modern economic theory and its impact on society, Dr Gilley drew our attention to Newman's attacks on the character of Sir Robert Peel. Peel, Prime Minister of Britain briefly in 1834 and during 1841-46, can be seen as one of the greatest implementers of a free market capitalist policy during the 19th Century. The liberal Toryism of the heirs of Pitt was marked by its growing belief in the free market as shown by Hutchinson (the chap who died being hit by a train) and others at the Board of Trade. It is this programme that Peel is seen to have implemented.
Newman's basic attack against Peel lies in what he saw as the overly simplistic understanding of human nature by the free market policies that Peel was introducing. Dr Gilley made much of Newman's distrust of an unregulated market as a force against humanity and the integrity of the person. Perhaps such misgivings have been shown right by recent events. In all, the lecture proved to be an interesting contribution to a relevant topic as the apparent failure of fluctuations of the free market.