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Observations placeholder

Gladstone, William Ewart - Removing threats - Government debt



Type of Spiritual Experience


Another threat that can come between a person and spiritual experience is that of debt.  Worrying about money, whether one has it, how to acquire it, lacking it but still spending too much and living beyond one’s means also consume the mind in trying to find solutions, and the chattering intellect blocks out all spiritual input.

Personal debt did concern Gladstone, but he also recognised that the state itself and Government can become a major threat to the individual via its policies.  A person has to pay their taxes, whether this is income tax, or council tax.  Council tax in particular in the UK is particularly nasty as it is based on the apparent value of a property.  If a person living in a house becomes very short of money from lack of work or by becoming a widow or widower, sickness or old age, the same amount still has to be paid even if the income of the person barely meets the bill. 

People pay taxes in order to pay for Government spending and Gladstone became intensely interested in making sure that the Government was not wasteful, did not overspend and ‘balanced its books’.  So good was he at his job that Nigel Lawson, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Chancellor, called Gladstone the "greatest Chancellor of all time"

As a very unfortunate legacy of Blair’s former Chancellor Gordon Brown, the United Kingdom National Debt is £1.56 trillion – that is £1,560,000,000,000 which as you can see per head of population is somewhat steep given there are only 65.1 million – that is 65,100,000 people in the UK.  Roughly £24,000 for every man woman and child, or about £96,000 per family.  On this interest is being charged, which also comes out of taxes.  Let us assume the interest is 5% , this is £1200 per person year or £4,800 per family.  In effect without even paying off the debt, each family is having to pay £4,800 in taxes just to pay for the debt Government has incurred.

In 1859, Lord Palmerston formed a new mixed government and Gladstone again joined the government as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he inherited a deficit of nearly five million pounds, but dismissed the idea of borrowing to cover the deficit. Gladstone argued that "In time of peace nothing but dire necessity should induce us to borrow".

Margaret Thatcher proclaimed in 1983: "We have a duty to make sure that every penny piece we raise in taxation is spent wisely and well. For it is our party which is dedicated to good housekeeping…. ".
In 1996, she said: "The kind of Conservatism which he and I...favoured would be best described as 'liberal', in the old-fashioned sense. And I mean the liberalism of Mr Gladstone, not of the latter-day collectivists".

A description of the experience

Speech at Edinburgh (29 November, 1879), as quoted in Gladstone as Financier and Economist (1931) by F. W. Hirst, p. 243

The Chancellor of the Exchequer should boldly uphold economy in detail; and it is the mark of a chicken-hearted Chancellor when he shrinks from upholding economy in detail, when because it is a question of only two or three thousand pounds, he says it is no matter. He is ridiculed, no doubt, for what is called candle-ends and cheese-parings, but he is not worth his salt if he is not ready to save what are meant by candle-ends and cheese-parings in the cause of the country. No Chancellor of the Exchequer is worth his salt who makes his own popularity either his consideration, or any consideration at all, in administering the public purse. In my opinion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the trusted and confidential steward of the public. He is under a sacred obligation with regard to all that he consents to spend.

The source of the experience

Gladstone, William Ewart

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Reducing threats
Suppressing obligations