Monday, July 14, 2014

Economic Inclusion and the Global Common Good

On July 11 and 12, Pope Francis met with a group of policymakers, economists, and other influential thinkers at a conference called “The Global Common Good: Towards a More Inclusive Economy.” The conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and held at the Pontifical Academy of Science in Vatican City.

Pope Francis spoke out against "anthropological reductionism" in the economy, echoing a tradition of Catholic social teaching that links economic inclusion to human dignity. The 1986 pastoral letter Economic Justice for All says:
"Every economic decision and institution must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person...We judge any economic system by what it does for and to people and by how it permits all to participate in it. The economy should serve people, not the other way around... 
All people have a right to participate in the economic life of society. Basic justice demands that people be assured a minimum level of participation in the economy. It is wrong for a person or group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to participate or contribute to the economy. For example, people who are both able and willing, but cannot get a job are deprived of the participation that is so vital to human development. For, it is through employment that most individuals and families meet their material needs, exercise their talents, and have an opportunity to contribute to the larger community. Such participation has special significance in our tradition because we believe that it is a means by which we join in carrying forward God's creative activity."
One participant at the conference was Muhammad Yunus, a pioneer of microcredit and microfinance and the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank is called the bank of the poor because its borrowers, mostly poor and female, own 95% of the bank's equity. Yunus and the Grameen Bank jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Yunus has a PhD in economics from Vanderbilt and is the author of Banker to the Poor and Creating a World Without Poverty. At the conference, Yunus spoke about social business and about sharing and caring as basic human qualities.

Development economist Jeffrey Sachs also attended the conference. Sachs, author of The End of Poverty, founded the ambitious and controversial Millennium Villages Project. For a glimpse into the project from two different perspectives, I recommend Russ Roberts' interviews with Sachs and Nina Munk on the EconTalk podcast. 

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, attended the conference as well. Carney has spoken previously about economic inclusion. He gave a speech at the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in London this May, in which he remarked:
"To maintain the balance of an inclusive social contract, it is necessary to recognise the importance of values and beliefs in economic life. Economic and political philosophers from Adam Smith (1759) to Hayek (1960) have long recognised that beliefs are part of inherited social capital, which provides the social framework for the free market. Social capital refers to the links, shared values and beliefs in a society which encourage individuals not only to take responsibility for themselves and their families but also to trust each other and work collaboratively to support each other.

So what values and beliefs are the foundations of inclusive capitalism? Clearly to succeed in the global economy, dynamism is essential. To align incentives across generations, a long-term perspective is required. For markets to sustain their legitimacy, they need to be not only effective but also fair. Nowhere is that need more acute than in financial markets; finance has to be trusted. And to value others demands engaged citizens who recognise their obligations to each other. In short, there needs to be a sense of society."
Also in attendance were Jose Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD; Michel Camdessus, former managing director of International Monetary Fund; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister of Nigeria; Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank; and Huguette Labelle of Transparency International. A complete list of attendants and more detailed remarks from the conference should be up at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace website in the next few days.  I look forward to seeing what kinds of practical proposals might have been discussed.

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog, keep up the good work... Btw are you Catholic?


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