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Can Catholic Social Principles Save the Economy?

© Stefan Powell

Carly Andrews - published on 05/16/14

Hedge Fund Manager Sean Fieler and expert economist Dr. Andrew Abela give US voice at Vatican conference.

Applying Catholic social principles as a way towards world economic improvement and Obamacare as a direct violation of these principles: this was the US voice coming out of the recent Vatican conference on “The good society and the future of jobs: Can solidarity and fraternity be part of business decisions?”

The world is in financial crisis; nothing new there. It’s safe to say that grand idealisms (or illusions) towards globalization haven’t solved the world’s social and economic problems.  But is there a realistic answer in terms of applying Catholic social principles? Can there really be a way towards reconstruction? And how does this translate concretely at the level of the individual entrepreneur and in the wider US socio-political context?

At the conference prof. Alberto Quadrio Curzio and prof. Giovanni Marseguerra from the Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice foundation put forward three foundational principles rooted in Catholic Social Doctrine for cultivating a mind-set geared towards reconstruction:

1. Subsidiarity:  basically boils down to this: ‘don’t do for others what others can do for themselves.’ It is an organizing principle that contrasts with a centralized view of state (a view often identified with staunch advocates of the Welfare State), entailing that the larger and more complex organizations shouldn’t be doing what smaller and simpler ones can do. Thus vertically speaking, subsidiarity “distributes institutional power between the different levels of Governments” and horizontally speaking, “distributes the function in the ‘production of goods’ between Institutions, Society and Economy.”

In a call for subsidiarity we therefore see a call – to some extent – for government decentralization, that is, a limited government, allowing for an increase in personal freedom and responsibility, which prof. Curzio and Marseguirra claim puts the “creativity of the person” into action, “stimulating the participation of social intermediary bodies, including communities, in the production of goods and services and constructing and aggregating in solidarity.”

2. Solidarity: One of the moderators at the conference, Dr. Andrew Abela, Dean of the School of Business & Economics and Associate Professor of Marketing at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, speaking to Aleteia, described the notion of solidarity as “the idea of Christian love; loving others as you love yourself, and serving the common good.”

This means that “my motivation in work is not maximizing my own wealth or my own satisfaction, it’s serving others. And this is not some kind of pious ideal; as Christians we believe that this is how we find our happiness, both in this world and the next, so it is completely rational to live that way.”

3. Development: combines both subsidiarity and solidarity, in which we see a “promotion of people and communities and an advancement to a true civilization,” says Curzio, which guarantees a “balanced and sustainable growth.”

According to Curzio and Marseguerra, the world’s current crisis requires us to rethink our approach towards international relations and rediscover a “dynamic solidarity” expressed in three components of development: economic development, “promoted by institutions, society, business”; intergenerational development, which is based on “sustainable social security systems that leads to the valorization of the family”; social development, which “promotes the cohesion of society.”

Sean Fieler, Hedge Fund manager and President of Equinox Partners, tells Aleteia that one of the fundamental practical requirements for achieving these three principles is recognizing that the domain of commerce has a moral dimension.

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