Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Ideal for the World Economy

Pope Benedict XVI issued his World Day of Peace message for this year on the theme "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace". The text takes up issues of globalization, development, finance, population and more. Above all, it emphasizes a guiding perspective on the world economy that recognizes the human race as a family:

[T]he reference to globalization should also alert us to the spiritual and moral implications of the question, urging us, in our dealings with the poor, to set out from the clear recognition that we all share in a single divine plan: we are called to form one family in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – model their behaviour according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility.
If there is a temptation to minimize abortion as the primary unjustice, the message here is clear. These are the poorest of the poor. "The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings."

The Pope notes that population, rather than being a deterrent to well-being, has helped development, as the poverty rate of the world which was 40% in 1981 has been halved since then. He emphasized the vulnerability of children and the need to combat AIDS with a holistic approach that factors in the dignity of the person in sexual matters. The problem of the diversion of resources into armament is addressed, another in a long series of papal pleas.

The Holy Father spoke positively of financial markets as a necessary means to achieve economic stability for the future, but urged an "ethical approach to economics".

Objectively, the most important function of finance is to sustain the possibility of long-term investment and hence of development. Today this appears extremely fragile: it is experiencing the negative repercussions of a system of financial dealings – both national and global – based upon very short-term thinking, which aims at increasing the value of financial operations and concentrates on the technical management of various forms of risk. The recent crisis demonstrates how financial activity can at times be completely turned in on itself, lacking any long-term consideration of the common good. This lowering of the objectives of global finance to the very short term reduces its capacity to function as a bridge between the present and the future, and as a stimulus to the creation of new opportunities for production and for work in the long term. Finance limited in this way to the short and very short term becomes dangerous for everyone, even for those who benefit when the markets perform well....

While it has been rightly emphasized that increasing per capita income cannot be the ultimate goal of political and economic activity, it is still an important means of attaining the objective of the fight against hunger and absolute poverty. Hence, the illusion that a policy of mere redistribution of existing wealth can definitively resolve the problem must be set aside. In a modern economy, the value of assets is utterly dependent on the capacity to generate revenue in the present and the future. Wealth creation therefore becomes an inescapable duty, which must be kept in mind if the fight against material poverty is to be effective in the long term.

The preference for the poor was emphasized, and the Pope noted that the gap between rich and poor has also widened in developed countries. Practical solutions are not sufficient in front of the whole need of the person.

As my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II had occasion to remark, globalization “is notably ambivalent”[14] and therefore needs to be managed with great prudence. This will include giving priority to the needs of the world's poor, and overcoming the scandal of the imbalance between the problems of poverty and the measures which have been adopted in order to address them. The imbalance lies both in the cultural and political order and in the spiritual and moral order. In fact we often consider only the superficial and instrumental causes of poverty without attending to those harboured within the human heart, like greed and narrow vision. The problems of development, aid and international cooperation are sometimes addressed without any real attention to the human element, but as merely technical questions – limited, that is, to establishing structures, setting up trade agreements, and allocating funding impersonally. What the fight against poverty really needs are men and women who live in a profoundly fraternal way and are able to accompany individuals, families and communities on journeys of authentic human development.
We are not off the hook of our responsibility by simply offering charitable aid. A more comprehensive change is proposed to us.

Faithful to this summons from the Lord, the Christian community will never fail, then, to assure the entire human family of her support through gestures of creative solidarity, not only by “giving from one's surplus”, but above all by “a change of life-styles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies”.

No comments: