By Mercy Sister Mary Schmuck, Catholic Charities of Louisville
There seems to be widespread agreement that there are
basically 2 economic systems: heavily state-run socialism, and fully free
It also seems to be the case that left uncounterbalanced,
each system can generate considerable harm for multitudes of people and
Contrary to the hopes of some, utopia didn’t arrive with the
fall of at least Soviet communism. Now we have rampant concentration of
wealth, the dominant theory that the ability to compete (at whatever cost)
trumps other values, a real race to the top that leaves the vast majority
behind – some being aware of that and many still apparently unaware.
But – can’t we adjust or develop an economic system where
everyone benefits? That is based on the belief that every single person is
inherently valuable, has dignity? That those who benefit most realize how
much others have contributed to their benefits over time and are willing to
contribute more? That there are some “global commons” like air, water,
basic good health for all in the community that need very determined
protection? A realization that this protection will cost money to tend and
that those with the most benefits have more “skin in the game” to protect —
for the benefit of all?
Do we also need to carefully understand that the perception
that the system is rigged and grossly unfair no matter how hard one works is
one big recipe for revolution?
A wide range of various faith communities as well as
humanitarian groups have a body of wisdom about all this with broad swaths of commonality in those principles. Some of these principles include:
- Every human person has a right to life and dignity.
- We all are called to family, community and participation in
society. We are inherently social beings.
- With rights go responsibilities (and vice versa).
- We need to put the needs of poor and vulnerable persons first.
- Work has dignity and workers have rights. The economy should
serve people, not the other way around.
- We are all one human family – locally AND globally.
- We must take care of God’s creation. (Ignore that at our peril.
As with any system of values, these principles are at once
basis for the vision of a sound, stable, healthy society AND tools for
analysis when things are not going well. We can critique the situation,
piece by piece, address weaknesses, become stronger.
Most days it seems to me we are weakest right now in
remembering we are all one human family, our poorer sisters and brothers have special claim on us, and creation needs very intentional protection.
How does your analysis go? Can we indeed move to a much better, fairer, productive economic third way?