Monday 6. December 2021
2009
COMECE Press 09/10/2009

 

Prof.Ing.Lubomír Mlčoch

Charles University Prague, Czech Republic:

 

Social-economic well-being needs a glimpse of transcendent dimension:

"Back from ´Prosperity´s Gospel to the Gospel"

 

 

PANEL 4: A EUROPEAN SOCIO-ECONOMIC MODEL

 

„Solidarity-The Challenge for Europe"-The First Catholic Social Days for Europe

8-11 October 2009, Gdansk /Poland/

 

1.Point of departure to Christian baselines for a European socio-economic model

 

The last lecture given by Cardinal Ratzinger before was elected as the Pope /2005/ was about a crisis of culture in Saint Benedict´s Europe. Few months later /Spring 2006/ Cardinal Martino-presenting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church at the Montecassino Abbey- didn´t hesitate to speak about the threat of a new /technological/ totalitarianism in Europe...Again, few months later /Autumn 2006/ the European Commision published a „consultation paper „Europe´s Social Reality". The Bureau of European Policy advisers stated, that „the social well-being of all Europe´s citizens should be...at the heart of everything the EU and its Member States do." Also, the editors, R.Liddle and F.Lérais /eds./ observed that „well being embraces something more than material living standards that our societies achieved"...The point is, that our culture is predominantly materialistic, and the root of the present cultural crisis is in this materialism. Saint Benedict´s Europe observed  her patron's maxim „Ora et labora!" for centuries and God blessed the European´s effort with material progress. But according to a so called „secularization hypothesis", while increasing her wealth, Europe has lost her willingness to pray... Years ago Professor Manfred Spieker pointed out, that the loss of faith and a forgotten perspective of eternity had become the deepest reason of crisis of the welfare state in Europe. In a broad sense also the contemporary financial and economic crisis may be interpreted - as a consequence of the cultural Euro-American crisis. Nicholas J.McNally /Zimbabwe/ comparing the situation Africa vs. Europe wrote: „The first world suffers from an excess of material wealth and a lack of spiritual wealth. The third world, in the agony of its material poverty, is forced back on its spiritual wealth". /PASS,Acta 12,p.209/.

We, people from the former second world, we can only add our experience from two decades of transition from „historic materialism" to its neo-liberal form. Our temptations to „catch up" our richer neighbours in the EU as fast as possible- had unintended consequences: we were quickly exchanging spiritual values for a market affluence delusion...

 

Thinking about ways out of the crisis and seeking a „new socio-economic model for Europe" leads us to a crossroad of two different perspectives:

 

1/ to „a purely historical and materialistic vision ...transforming the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being without any transcendental goal, that is, without its most intimate reason for existing" /Compendium 170/.

2/ to an „effort to elevate the human condition" /ibid./  sub specie aeternitatis, i.e. to a vision of „integral human development in charity and truth" /the subtitle of „Caritas in Veritate"/.

No doubt, our Christian vision for Europe does not mean any promise of „a permanent material progress", even no hidden materialism under an overcoat of a  „Prosperity Gospel" /Raniero Cantalamessa in "Poverta"/. Consequently: also our thinking about solidarity does not mean an universal right to affluence, no guarantee of „super-development". /See my paper „Family as a Victim of  a Deluded Search for Paradise on  Earth, presented in „Vanishing Youth? PASS,Acta 12, 2006.

 

 

 

2.Economic regulation in the service of justice and solidarity: privileged way of peace.

„...The Church´s social doctrine places alongside the value of justice that of solidarity...PEACE IS THE FRUIT OF JUSTICE".  At the same time ...OPUS SOLIDARITATIS PAX „ /Compendium 203/. The identification of main failures and sins against economic justice in today economic world, and „acting for the best"- to try to solve them- are preconditions for every socio-economic model of a new solidarity in Europe and in the global world. Social policies themselves are unable to solve difficult problems of our complex world without simultaneous alleviation of economic injustices. In my brief introductory talk I may mention just two most crucial points.

A/  Falling birth rates in almost all EU countries /Caritas in Veritate 44/ as a consequence of an unequal and unjust treatment of labor in tax systems of late capitalism. The demographic implosion is one of the most striking features of the prevailing „priority of capital over labor" in affluent societies. It is in contradiction with the opposite principle declared by John Paul II in „Laborem exercens" /LE 12-13 esp./ and confirmed in the Charter of the Rights of the Family /Holly See 1983/ and in Compendium /2004, 276-281/. We have a separate panel about  family, nevertheless I would like to argue here that it is impossible to solve difficult family problems without challenging this family-unfriendly socio-economic system. The ongoing financial crisis affected negatively pension funds more than other participants of financial markets; a distrust paradoxically also a chance: for investing again into families and children, a chance to remember  „the primacy of man over things" /LE 12/ in affluent Europe. /More in Mlčoch /2009//.

B/   Late capitalism has created a very special asymmetry in the distribution of profits and losses in the balance sheets of big corporations. While „profits" are unconditionally and strictly „private"-losses are socialized... Big enterprises and banks, that are too big to fail, gained a power of extortion of the states at the expenses of small present and future taxpayers. Compact interest groups of the late capitalism have a capacity for new forms of rent-seeking behavior using  potential of moral hazard. So called "horizontal redistribution" of wealth made the concept of commutative justice even more unreal than before. To cut this power of extortion requires to reduce the risks of systemic failure. Two approaches may be suggested: First, reinforce anti-trust and anti-monopoly policies that have evidently been failing till now. It means to de-merge banks that are too big to fail...."we need institutions that are small enough to fail without creating problems for depositors and wider public" /see New Economic Foundation, London 2008/. Second, there is a need for a „value shift" /Professor Lynn Sharp Paine from Harvard/, a spiritual conversion in the „theology of corporation", a vision of fraternity in development that  Pope Benedict XVI offered in Caritas in Veritate /esp.chapter 4/. For skeptics - such vision is just an illusion. But I still believe that it is not too late for late capitalism. It is also a matter of our courage to hold the charity in truth. Thank You for Your attention.

 

 

Literature:

-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2004.

-Europe´s Social Reality:A consultation paper from the Bureau of European Policy Advisers /by Roger Liddle and Fréderic Lerais/, European Commission, Brussels 2006.

- Caritas in Veritate, Encyclical letter of Benedict XVI, Liberia editrice Vaticana, 2009

-From the ashes of the crash: 20 first steps from new economics to rebuild a better economy. New economic foundation, Andrew Simms, nef policy director, London 2008.

- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: L´Europa di Benedetto nella crisi delle Culture, Liberia Editrice Vaticana 2005 /Czech translation 2006/.

- Mlčoch,L.: Ekonomie důvěry a společného dobra- in Czech /Economics of Trust and Common Good/, Karolinum, Publishing House of the Charles University, Prague 2006.

-Mlčoch,L.: Pour une économie de la frugalité: pourquoi une moindre production peut signifier plus de bonheur. In: Dembinski,P.H.-Buttet,N.-di Montelera,E.R./eds./: Car c´est de l´homme dont il s´agit, pp.175-183. Parole et Silence,Desclée de Brouver, Paris 2007.

-Mlčoch,L.: La tentazione di „raggiungere" un´economia felice. /Originally „Solidarity-Based Development/, NUNTIUM no.31/32, XI, 2007/1-2,pp.147-151.

- Mlčoch,L.: Human rights and globalization: the responsibility of states and private actors. Comments to Professor Stiglitz´s paper. PASS, May 2009 /Acta 15-in the press/.

- Vanishing Youth? Solidarity with Children and Young People in an Age of Turbulence. /Eds.Glendon,M.A.-Donati,P./, PASS, Acta 12, Vatican City 2006.

 

Prof. Ing. Lubomír Mlčoch, Professor of Economics, Charles University Prague (Czech Republic)

 

Prof. Ing Lubomir Mlcoch graduated in Economics and Econometrics at the Prague School of Economics (1962-1967). Following his PhD thesis in Political Economy at the Economic Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (Prague) in 1991, Prof. Ing. Lubomír Mlčoch became a researcher at the Economic Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Prague (1988-90). In 1990 he became the economic director of Concordia, a cooperative enterprise of Czech catholics. He is now Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the "Universitas Carolina Pragensis" founded in 1348.

He is also director of the section for economics and political science of the Czech Christian Academy and Vice President of the International Association for the Christian Social teaching

 

 

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