Letter: No to an economy of exclusion

Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013 in Opinion

To the editor:

One does not have to be religious, let alone Roman Catholic, to identify with Chapter II. of Pope Francis’s  Evangelii gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), released in English on November 24. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html#No_to_an_economy_of_exclusion
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless”, Francis writes.  “As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded... We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us”. Francis decries “the idolatry of money...the earnings of a minority ...growing exponentially,...  the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation...Widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion....have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market...”
No, one does not have to be religious. Secular ethics, a mind open to mere common sense, not to mention respect for the scientific method, should  move one to agree with Francis. As long ago as 1890, Wilhelm Ostwald, Nobel laureate in Chemistry called for “radical reorientation” of economic theories built on limitless growth that ignored the finite nature of resources. Frederick Soddy, another chemist-laureate (1921), distinguished “real wealth” from the “phantom wealth” of money and credit. And the Founders of this republic – rebellious children of the Enlightenment, who held “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and pledged their lives and fortunes to the cause of abolishing tyrannies standing in the way,– how could they possibly disagree that, yet again, this world cries out for change?   

Paul Kando

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