The Vatican and Economy: Part 2

This is a continuation of my original post found here.

We continue:

But the inequalities within and between various countries have also grown significantly. While some of the more industrialized and developed countries and economic zones – the ones that are most industrialized and developed – have seen their income grow considerably, other countries have in fact been excluded from the overall improvement of the economy and their situation has even worsened.

This is a moral statement, one which has considerable weight to it too.  In essence: people are starving while others grow to have more.  It is not wrong, though, for other countries to prosper.  The moral issue here is that they are not taking a moral and humanitarian interest in the development of those less fortunate than we are.  The document is not stating that the inequality is created by certain economic systems, but leaves to imply the idea that the inequality is the result of a lack of true charity (in the Christian sense of the term) for others who are less fortunate.  We have become morally individualistic and hedonistic: care for neighbour has been lost and many in other countries are suffering as a consequence of that.

Here is something I myself struggle with as a statement:

Nonetheless, it should be reiterated that the process of globalisation with its positive aspects is at the root of the world economy’s great development in the twentieth century. It is worth recalling that between 1900 and 2000 the world population increased almost fourfold and the wealth produced worldwide grew much more rapidly, resulting in a significant rise of average per capita income. At the same time, however, the distribution of wealth did not become fairer but in many cases worsened.

The words “distribution of wealth” always give me the willies.  This is because magisterial documents (this is not a magisterial document, by the way) tend to look at economics in a different way.  Centessimus Annus, perhaps one of the greatest social encyclicals to come out of any pontificate, promotes a different sense of wealth.  It argues that there is no “economic pie” in which, let’s say,one percent has the majority of the wealth while the other 99% are suckered and have only a very small share of the pie.  The Church sees economics, rather, in an infinite manner.  She tends to look to wealth creation as something with limitless possibility. The classic example is silicon.  Prior to the digital revolution, it was virtually worthless.  But someone saw that it had value and created things in order for it to have value.  There is no pie, wealth is there always to be created.

Now, I must say that distribution of wealth could have a different sense, in that those who have wealth are not meeting their moral obligation to help those with less with what has been given them.  If that is the sense (though, I must admit, I tend to doubt it), then I would not cringe so much at the statement.  Besides, economic systems do not fall within the purview of magisterial authority, only the moral application of them.

Let’s do one more for this post.  Asking what is at the core of the current economic crisis, the Pontifical Council states the following:

First and foremost, an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls. Economic liberalism is a theoretical system of thought, a form of “economic apriorism” that purports to derive laws for how markets function from theory, these being laws of capitalistic development, while exaggerating certain aspects of markets. An economic system of thought that sets down a priori the laws of market functioning and economic development, without measuring them against reality, runs the risk of becoming an instrument subordinated to the interests of the countries that effectively enjoy a position of economic and financial advantage.

This statement frustrates me, to be honest, and I am trying to see what I can accept of this.  I have yet to know of any economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls.  If anything, I would say most economies are saturated by rules and controls.  They are important, and unless one leans towards liberatarianism, I have yet to encounter even a classical liberal who spurns rules and controls.  I can agree that the crisis is the result of not analyzing markets and economies against the backdrop of reality.  The issue, though, is that it is thanks to rules, controls, and people on both sides of the political divide being controlled, bought, and manipulated by banks, companies, etc.  They did not look to reality, they gave in, simply, to their greed.  That is not the fault of capitalism, that is the result of moral bankruptcy which looks to the self instead of others when making economic decisions.

More on this later.

in Christ




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4 responses to “The Vatican and Economy: Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Vatican and Economy: Part 3 of 3 | The Christian State of Life

  2. Pingback: Daily Round-Up, November 10th, 2011 | The Christian State of Life

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