Toward a Moral Economic LifeZENIT
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church dedicates a special chapter to look at economic activity in general. Like other chapters, it starts with an overview of some biblical principles.
The other side of the coin, poverty, is seen as part of the human condition. In this context the Old Testament calls upon people to recognize their poverty before God. He, in turn, is portrayed as answering the cries of the poor, who will receive their reward through a new David. "Poverty takes on the status of a moral value when it becomes an attitude of humble availability and openness to God, of trust in him" (No. 324).
In the New Testament, Jesus calls for a conversion of hearts and to be attentive to the needs of others. Working for justice and helping the poor is one way of building the Kingdom of God.
In general, the Bible considers economic activity as part of the vocation in which mankind is called upon to administer the gifts received from God. The parable of the talents also teaches that "what has been received should be used properly, preserved and increased" (No. 326).
Regarding the role of the state in regulating the market the Compendium invokes the application of two principles: solidarity and subsidiarity. Solidarity is to stimulate actions to defend the weak and disadvantages; subsidiarity is to guarantee that the state's intervention will not become overly invasive.
Over several numbers the Compendium insists that the state must not interfere too much in the workings of the economy, thereby unduly restricting the liberties of individuals and businesses. On the other hand, it also defends the legitimate role of taxes and public spending, which play an important role, especially in protecting the weak. Therefore, paying taxes is "part of the duty of solidarity" (No. 355), but the state has the corresponding obligation to ensure that taxes are "reasonable and fair," and that public resources are administered with "precision and integrity."
The last part of the chapter considers some of the recent developments related to globalization and international financial markets. "Globalization gives rise to new hopes while at the same time it poses troubling questions" (No. 362).
The Compendium recognizes that globalization has opened up many opportunities, but expresses concern over the inequalities between advanced economies and developing countries. Citing John Paul II the text calls for a "globalization in solidarity" to deal with this problem.
A more equitable system of international commerce, and a strong defense of human rights are among the reforms called for by the Compendium. Respecting cultural and religious differences and ensuring a greater solidarity between generations are other points dealt with.
Regarding financial markets, the text acknowledges their positive role in facilitating economic growth and large-scale investments. However, there is a risk that the financial sector will lose sight of serving human development and will become "an end unto itself." And faced with the severe problems caused by financial instability, there is also a need to make these markets more stable.
Globalization also requires greater cooperation by states to coordinate the economy, given that individual governments are often no longer able to exercise effective guidance. The Compendium calls for the creation of "adequate and effective political and juridical instruments" (No. 371) that will ensure "the common good of the human family."
Renewing its call for solidarity, one of the concluding numbers observes that achieving this will also bring benefits for richer countries, where the abundance of material goods is often accompanied by "A sense of alienation and loss of their own humanity" (No. 374). The chapter concludes by calling for educating people so they will realize that economic activity must be seen in the wider human context.
of the Social Doctrine of the Church, here.
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