The second chapter of Caritas in Veritate is “Human Development in Our Time.” In this section, Benedict offers some morally-based principles for thinking about the relationship between the economy and society. Briefly, he touches on how to think about economic growth, hunger, the role of the state, and the relevance of globalization. All in all, he seems to lay the groundwork for a progressive-capitalist vision, although he does not explicitly endorse the market.
Benedict begins by outlining a different vision of economic growth:
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.
As for the current crisis (and the timing of this encyclical is no accident),
The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future.
The Catholic Church is no different, in this respect, than President Obama or non-mainstream economists, who seek to “not let a crisis go to waste.”
Benedict goes on to note than development has taken on new meaning as old distinctions have become less salient.
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.
Benedict notes that, even moreso than during Paul VI’s time, globalization has changed the role of the state in all of this:
In our own day, the State finds itself having to address the limitations to its sovereignty imposed by the new context of international trade and finance…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
The role of governance is something that becomes more important later on, but this previous section lays the groundwork for thinking about it.
From the social point of view, systems of protection and welfare, already present in many countries in Paul VI’s day, are finding it hard and could find it even harder in the future to pursue their goals of true social justice in today’s profoundly changed environment…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.
Here, Benedict implicitly states the importance and validity of social security systems. Top-down welfare-statism has always been a tricky subject in CST, especially during the Cold War. Nevertheless, it seems that Benedict is endorsing, at least to some degree, the welfare state. To add to that, he bemoans the decline of influence for unions:
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. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.
Explicit acknowledgements of the importance of unions are manifest in CST. The quote that always sticks out to me is from JPII’s Laborem Exercens:
[Unions] are indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people…
Thus, Benedict is simply reaffirming what CST has said since the beginning, but that has often been ignored by the faithful.
One of the sections of the encyclical that reads most like a policy paper is on food insecurity:
Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional…ses, whether due to natural causes or political irresponsibility, nationally and internationally. The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. This can be done by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability over the long term as well. All this needs to be accomplished with the involvement of local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land.
Of course, these recommendations don’t really get at the “who” of food aid, but Benedict’s endorsements of development aid elsewhere seem to indicate that he supports external funding.
The next section seem to aim at ensuring that development occurs in accordance with Catholic moral teaching.
Not only does the situation of poverty still provoke high rates of infant mortality in many regions, but some parts of the world still experience practices of demographic control, on the part of governments that often promote contraception and even go so far as to impose abortion…Openness to life is at the centre of true development
Then, in a way that reminds me of Sen’s “Development as Freedom,” Benedict says that development cannot come at the cost of religious freedom.
There is another aspect of modern life that is very closely connected to development: the denial of the right to religious freedom. I am not referring simply to the struggles and conflicts that continue to be fought in the world for religious motives, even if at times the religious motive is merely a cover for other reasons, such as the desire for domination and wealth…[also,] the deliberate promotion of religious indifference or practical atheism on the part of many countries obstructs the requirements for the development of peoples, depriving them of spiritual and human resources.
Benedict closes the chapter by discussing the relationship between faith and reason in the context of development from a couple angles.
This means that moral evaluation and scientific research must go hand in hand…The Church’s social doctrine, which has “an important interdisciplinary dimension”, can exercise, in this perspective, a function of extraordinary effectiveness. It allows faith, theology, metaphysics and science to come together in a collaborative effort in the service of humanity.
He then discusses economic reason in the context of morality:
The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone. All things considered, this is also required by “economic logic”…Economic science tells us that structural insecurity generates anti-productive attitudes wasteful of human resources…On this point too, there is a convergence between economic science and moral evaluation. Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.
Finally, Benedict again brings up the importance of globalization as a segue into the next chapter:
If some areas of the globe, with a history of poverty, have experienced remarkable changes in terms of their economic growth and their share in world production, other zones are still living in a situation of deprivation comparable to that which existed at the time of Paul VI, and in some cases one can even speak of a deterioration…The principal new feature has been the explosion of worldwide interdependence, commonly known as globalization…Originating within economically developed countries, this process by its nature has spread to include all economies. It has been the principal driving force behind the emergence from underdevelopment of whole regions, and in itself it represents a great opportunity. Nevertheless, without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family.
Unsurprisingly, the message is not to let the market forces of globalization sweep the globe unhindered. Indeed, as I mention at the outset, Benedict sees a clear role for the state. As we will see, the role for the state will also evolve into a role for the collection of states, and I presume this is why Benedict makes globalization an important them throughout. Since this chapter has covered the role of the state and the meaning of development, the next chapter will focus more on the proper role of the economy. Stay tuned…