Why Americans Should Pay Attention to the Vatican’s New Economic Document

NCR has some outstanding coverage of the new Vatican document “Considerations for an Ethical Discernment Regarding Some Aspects of the Present Economic-Financial System.” Here are three thoughtful op-eds to check out from their site:

Stephen Schneck writes:

The Vatican’s economic document does not disappoint. It calls into question the failure of regulators to address the moral lapses behind the Great Recession. It confronts the false anthropology and disregard for the common good that corrupt the market ideologies so dominant in our current economies. It proposes practical reforms for the banking industry, the bond market, sovereign debt repayment, and even computerized trading. It reminds consumers that they are not simply passive agents in the global economy but bear real moral responsibility for the market forces generated by their purchases. And, it is on the whole a sharp and pointed rebuke not just to the excesses of the “free” market but to the moral error regarding the conception of liberty in competition that is too often lodged in its foundation.

That said, with due respect, I had hoped for more….

First, it is unfortunate that the argument does little to address how uncritical engagement in market activity alters the way we think, the values we hold, the way we look at others, our conception of our place in the world, our understanding of the purpose for human life and so much more….

Second, it is also unfortunate that the Oeconomicae focuses so narrowly on the economic market and neglects how market-like processes are structurally ubiquitous everywhere in our age.

MSW writes:

We in the U.S. also live at a time when the political right remains organized fundamentally around a naive belief that pristine, unregulated markets yield the best results. The Republican Congress has not accomplished much, but it passed a huge tax cut, and the administration is deregulating whole sectors the economy as fast as it can. The Vatican’s economic document instead insists that “it is clear that markets, as powerful propellers of the economy, are not capable of governing themselves. In fact, the markets know neither how to make the assumptions that allow their smooth running (social coexistence, honesty, trust, safety and security, laws, and so on) nor how to correct those effects and forces that are harmful to human society (inequality, asymmetries, environmental damage, social insecurity, and fraud).”…

Since this document comes in part from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, there is no more hiding behind the false right-wing talking point that some issues, like abortion or same-sex marriage, involve irreformable doctrine while economic matters are the stuff of prudential judgment and we can all pretty much think what we wish. No. Economic matters involve very core doctrines of the faith as well.

Eric LeCompte writes:

The technical language of finance can feel complicated, but its use demonstrates that this document is seeking to engage with actual policies — the policies debated at U.S. Congress, United Nations, International Monetary Fund and summit meetings. These economic policies impact our lives almost as much as the oxygen we breathe, and yet too often, because of the jargon, we leave these conversations to lawyers, economists and investors.

The Vatican’s document lifts the reality that God has given us a rich and abundant world so each of us can reach our full potential and that we are closest to the Creator when we share these resources among us….

In terms of funding the development of each human person and addressing global inequality, the Vatican takes aim at the ethical considerations around taxation, tax havens, tax avoidance and corruption. The document asserts the needs of states to collect adequate taxes to meet the needs of their people. The Holy See heightens and more profoundly explores its concerns around tax havens or “offshoring.” Annually, the developing world loses a trillion dollars because of tax evasion and corruption. The church is highlighting these concerns as the G-7, G-20, the U.N. and the IMF are reviewing solutions for these revenue drains on the developing world. These issues are being raised as Europe moves forward stronger guidelines to prevent tax evasion and corruption and as Congress considers the Corporate Transparency Act.