The big questions: Is milk too cheap? Are the Games worth it? Should young people work for experience?

Answered this week by John Sentamu

John Sentamu
Friday 27 July 2012 20:22
How can it be right that a bottle of coke or water is more expensive than a bottle of milk?
How can it be right that a bottle of coke or water is more expensive than a bottle of milk?

Is it immoral to sell milk at below the cost of production?

Absolutely. As consumers, each one of us should say it is unacceptable. How can it be right that a bottle of Coke or water is more expensive than a bottle of milk? I think we should have a fairtrade mark for British goods. We shouldn't just be fighting for fairness overseas. We should demand it at home too. Hence my plea for a living wage. Supermarkets and the milk processors are short-changing our farmers, paying derisory amounts.

Is it desirable (or even possible) to measure happiness?

Growing up in Uganda, we didn't have much money but we were always a happy family. We have a saying in Africa that it takes a whole village to raise a child – that sense that no one is living in isolation and we all have a duty and responsibility to each other. We are all living busier lives and trying to do stuff on our own. We need to look out for our neighbours and pull together in the same direction. You don't need to measure happiness; you can see it in the health of a society. How? By the way it treats the vulnerable, older people and children.

Is it "morally wrong" to pay cash in hand to a cleaner?

No, it's simply immoral to not pay your dues through the tax system. When we see some millionaires evade tax by hiding their money offshore, you have to wonder why it's those at the bottom who get picked on. Some chief executives are paid 300 times what the lowest-ranking person in the business is paid. Can that be right? A more equal society is not only a fairer society, it is also a happier one. That's one of the reasons why I back a national living wage.

The Olympics – a waste of public money?

No. It is fantastic that we can celebrate our sporting talent and welcome the best athletes from across the world. The regeneration of poorer areas like the East End of London will make a difference for future generations. There is a real sense of hope and we need to nurture the dreams and aspirations of young people, rather than pouring cold water on them.

Would it be a bad thing to disestablish the Church of England?

It would be a very bad thing. I don't think we always appreciate the role the Church plays as the spiritual glue that cements the social fabric. It's not just about the role that bishops play in the House of Lords. Did you know that more people volunteer for church groups than any other organisation in the country? Up and down the country the CofE is present in every community – it has a unique role to play in maintaining and promoting community.

As Archbishop William Temple once said, the church is the only organisation that exists for the well-being of its non-members.

The next US president could be a Mormon. Should it worry us?

People should be free to express their faith. It's not something we should be afraid of. I think faith shouldn't be a bar to public life. It should be respected and celebrated.

Should young people work for no pay under workfare schemes?

Workfare is exploitative, unfair and deeply harmful. You can't ask someone to work for free in the hope they may get a job further down the line. We should be paying fair wages for a fair day's work regardless of age.

Should sanctions be eased on Zimbabwe?

We cannot allow Robert Mugabe off the hook. We owe the people of Zimbabwe too much to give up now. His regime has survived in the past three years due to the discovery of a huge diamond deposit. It is being mined mercilessly to prop up the regime – those diamonds are blood diamonds.

Do all our public institutions need a Leveson-style inquiry?

No. Leveson revealed that as a society we are becoming more and more celebrity driven. We too have a responsibility to engage with the process and say, actually, invasion of privacy is unacceptable. On the whole, our public servants do a good job. It's our elected representatives who are democratically responsible for public institutions. If we aren't happy, then we can express that at the ballot box.

Dr John Sentamu is the Archbishop of York

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