Thoughts on Caritas in Veritate: Part 2
July 15, 2009
Again, the encyclical is here.
Part 1 is here.
Last time, I got through the introduction and Part 1 before stopping for the sake of post length. Let’s see how far I get this time. Same rules as outlined in Part 1 apply.
“Paul VI had an articulated vision of development. He understood the term to indicate the goal of rescuing peoples, first and foremost, from hunger, deprivation, endemic diseases and illiteracy. From the economic point of view, this meant their active participation, on equal terms, in the international economic process; from the social point of view, it meant their evolution into educated societies marked by solidarity; from the political point of view, it meant the consolidation of democratic regimes capable of ensuring freedom and peace.”
That’s a warning flare. No mention of the Gospel. Does that mean that Paul VI did not care about their souls by focusing primarily on their physical needs (without spiritual salvation as the ultimate goal)?
“Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty. The economic development that Paul VI hoped to see was meant to produce real growth, of benefit to everyone and genuinely sustainable. It is true that growth has taken place, and it continues to be a positive factor that has lifted billions of people out of misery — recently it has given many countries the possibility of becoming effective players in international politics. Yet it must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis.”
Highlighting bad business sense. Profit has to be an ultimate goal of a company if it is to survive. Profits mean plowback to improve the state of the company and happy shareholders. It would not matter how much “common good” activities a company does if it cannot make a profit; it will have to make cuts somewhere until it can.
I’m going though that right now. My pay rate was cut down to minimum wage during the summer. Am I happy about it? Of course not. Am I happier about my economic state right now than I would be if we went under? Of course.
“The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future.”
Sounds more like Rahm than Emmanuel, does it not?
“The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase. In rich countries, new sectors of society are succumbing to poverty and new forms of poverty are emerging. In poorer areas some groups enjoy a sort of “superdevelopment” of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation. “The scandal of glaring inequalities” continues. Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries, both old and new, as well as in poor ones. Among those who sometimes fail to respect the human rights of workers are large multinational companies as well as local producers. International aid has often been diverted from its proper ends, through irresponsible actions both within the chain of donors and within that of the beneficiaries. Similarly, in the context of immaterial or cultural causes of development and underdevelopment, we find these same patterns of responsibility reproduced. On the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care. At the same time, in some poor countries, cultural models and social norms of behaviour persist which hinder the process of development.”
The globalized nature of the economy makes some of this pie-in-the-sky Utopian thought less than worthless. Does Ratzinger realize how prohibitively expensive it is to develop medical tech? Without those intellectual property rights, new medical technology would NOT BE EVEN ATTEMPTED. A company needs to recoup the cost of Research and Development; letting some start-up reverse engineer the product and undercutting the cost would mean med tech companies would stop working on new things. You know who loses? People that get sick from diseases we do not already have effective treatments for. Some examples of those diseases? Cancer, AIDS, diabetes, BSE, Alzheimer’s. You are bound to know at least one person with one of those diseases. You want to take away their hope for a cure?
That being said, the gross gap between the middle and upper classes is a little ridiculous. It is hard to justify multinational CEO salaries when they are not the entrepreneur.
“Today, as we take to heart the lessons of the current economic crisis, which sees the State’s public authorities directly involved in correcting errors and malfunctions, it seems more realistic to re-evaluate their role and their powers, which need to be prudently reviewed and remodelled so as to enable them, perhaps through new forms of engagement, to address the challenges of today’s world. Once the role of public authorities has been more clearly defined, one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally, that have come about through the activity of organizations operating in civil society.”
Alright. 24 sections in, we finally see the first pertinent suggestion. Retooling the financial overseers could have some benefits, but his implied suggestion to change them into a more localized responder for some international oversight organization is NOT the way to do it. Too many nations do not share the values that make a strong economy (democracy, right to work, right to operate one’s business that way they see fit, right to negotiate with employers, et cetera); they would use the power of the international organization to pursue their goals, killing economic freedoms and prosperity everywhere.
“Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks”
Why, Ratzinger, does social safety nets need to be government controlled ones? Is that not one of the primary jobs of the Church? Why are you endorsing the continued outsourcing of this essential function to the government? Are you saying the the Body of Christ should not be taking care of the poor, merely letting the State do it for us?
“such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome.”
Unions have a place under certain work circumstances. In the current economic state of America, they do more harm than good. In other countries that are starting to industrialize, they could (if operated properly) help. Not acknowledging these facts (by uncritically promoting unions) are intellectually dishonest.
“Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life””
Amen. Hey, first time I got to write that this chapter.
“Today the possibilities of interaction between cultures have increased significantly, giving rise to new openings for intercultural dialogue: a dialogue that, if it is to be effective, has to set out from a deep-seated knowledge of the specific identity of the various dialogue partners. Let it not be forgotten that the increased commercialization of cultural exchange today leads to a twofold danger. First, one may observe a cultural eclecticism that is often assumed uncritically: cultures are simply placed alongside one another and viewed as substantially equivalent and interchangeable. This easily yields to a relativism that does not serve true intercultural dialogue; on the social plane, cultural relativism has the effect that cultural groups coexist side by side, but remain separate, with no authentic dialogue and therefore with no true integration. Secondly, the opposite danger exists, that of cultural levelling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and life-styles. In this way one loses sight of the profound significance of the culture of different nations, of the traditions of the various peoples, by which the individual defines himself in relation to life’s fundamental questions. What eclecticism and cultural levelling have in common is the separation of culture from human nature. Thus, cultures can no longer define themselves within a nature that transcends them, and man ends up being reduced to a mere cultural statistic. When this happens, humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.”
Okay. Score one for absolutism. Moving on…
“Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional. What is missing, in other words, is a network of economic institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food and water for nutritional needs, and also capable of addressing the primary needs and necessities ensuing from genuine food crises, whether due to natural causes or political irresponsibility, nationally and internationally.”
This needs to be fleshed out for me to make a judgement on it. How is this to be organized? Controlled? Maintained? Is he calling for some kind of international regulatory agency? How are we to ensure that it is done right, when previous international food programs were absolute debacles (Iraq Food for Oil and Somalian food aid comes to mind)?
I am over 1800 words again. I’ll finish this chapter next time and (maybe) start on Chapter 3.