REFLECTION: Morality and the economy PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 02 September 2011 13:50

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church dedicates a big section to this topic of morality and the economy precisely because it in itself is important and essential in our life, and also because it is often forgotten or taken for granted, if not wantonly violated.

In one point of the Compendium, it is said that “the relation between morality and economics is necessary, indeed intrinsic: economic activity and moral behavior are intimately joined one to the other.” (331)

We have to remember that economics is not only a science but also a human activity, involving not only individuals but also whole societies. It cannot help but assume moral requirements that we have to pursue and fulfill, develop, protect and defend.

Economics should not be done in a purely materialistic way, expressed in terms of money alone, or profit. That would be an inhuman economics that would sooner or later convert us into objects or targets, and not anymore as persons, and much less as children of God.

We have to be wary of the subtle pressures—social and political—that lead us to forget about morality in economics. Some political leaders, for example, in their effort to gain political advantage, can just pursue economic plans that produce quick political favors but sacrifice some moral and spiritual requirements.

We can refer to the phenomena of workaholism and professionalitis that afflict many people and that erode family life as well as spiritual life of personal prayer and the fulfillment of religious obligations.

We also have the culture of indiscriminate dole-outs and bail-outs, and other forms of questionable entitlements and privileges that spoil people, making them overly dependent on others and the government.

There are other forms of inequalities and injustice: hiring of minors, pressuring women to work at the expense of caring for the family, unhealthy working conditions like young people asked to work overtime and at grave-yard shifts for long periods of time, children used in cybersex, etc.

The bad effects are unmistakable and are growing—physical, mental and spiritual deterioration, alcoholism, marital infidelities, family break-ups, cultural impoverishment, growing materialism, greed and envy.

We cannot anymore treat these problems independently of the organic relationship between morality and economics. We have to realize that they stem from a bigger problem that needs to be resolved adequately and quickly.

The Compendium further clarifies that “the necessary distinction between morality and the economy does not entail the separation of these two spheres but, on the contrary, an important reciprocity.”

This doctrine is very relevant these days since there is a big tendency for us not only to separate the two but also to put them in conflict. Very often we are forced to make a choice between the two. We are made to believe they cannot be together.

Everyone of us, in the different levels and aspects of life, from the individual to all degrees of collectivity that we get involved in, should realize that we need to be well grounded in the correct delineation of the link between morality and spirituality, on the one hand, and the economy, on the other hand.

We cannot remain naïve in this regard. We cannot anymore afford to stay primitive in this concern. Those involved more in the promotion of morality—priests and teachers—should be mindful of the objective needs of economics and should foster rather than obstruct their fulfillment.

So they should try their best also to know more and more about economics—its laws and different doctrines—so they could attune their teaching and counsels to concrete conditions of the people, and not remain only in theories that hardly have any impact on real situations.

We are now into an interdisciplinary way of life. We should continue our education and formation, updating ourselves with the endless flow of developments that are now also monitored more closely by our new technologies.

Those working more directly in the economy—employees and employers, businessmen, investors, etc.—should also be mindful of the requirements of morality. They just cannot remain in the level of practicality and profitability. They have to know the deeper needs of men and learn to adapt their economic plans to such needs.

The crises we are witnessing in the world at present are caused to a great extent by our not integrating morality and spirituality with our economics, business and politics. This is the challenge we are facing these days.

Let’s hope the bigger entities—churches, government, schools, families—can help in tackling this challenge, developing programs for this particular concern.