Monday, 10 March 2014

Is Martin Luther to blame for the creation of the NHS?

Apparently on this day in 1528, Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, published a book entitled Liber Vagatorum (The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars). In it, he argued for the abolition of begging and vagrancy by the establishment of a social welfare system coordinated by the civil magistrates. Interestingly, before this treatise, no one would have (or could have) imagined that the State could match the efficiency of the church in caring for the poor. And why is that? Well the church's system of care was so comprehensive and effective, having been honed over centuries of charitable work practiced the local level (hence fitted to various contexts + ensuring accountable charity contra today's welfare system). So my question is what on earth was Luther thinking? Why the slip in biblical reasoning? I suspect that the newly formed Reformed church was struggling financially but is that a good reason to embrace pragmatism while promoting faux compassion? To riff off Mr Knightly in Emma: Badly done Luther. Badly done.

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