Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Economy Needs Good Priests

Vatican Bank Head: Economy Needs Good Priests

by Edward Pentin

The president of the Vatican bank has said that more than a renewal of
capitalism led by economic experts and industrialists, what the global
economy needs most are good priests to renew man.

Reviewing a book called “The Disease of the West” by Italian economist
Marco Panara in today’s L’Osservatore Romano, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi says
that the “real disease” of the West is “the nihilism that has uprooted man
from any absolute truth and led him to become a materialist, pursuing a
satisfaction that is ever more materialistic.”

“The disease of Western man,” adds Gotti Tedeschi, “is his distance from
God and the tendency to drown his anxieties in consumerism.”

Although he mostly praises the book, he differs with Panara’s conclusion
that capitalism needs to be renewed. “The instruments described in
[Panara’s] book - technology, finance, outsourcing - are all good but do
not work if they are misused,” says Gotti Tedeschi. “And that happens when
you forget that they are tools in the hands of man, who must not only know
how to use them, but must be able to give them a meaning, a purpose.”

He warns of a political crash if this isn’t heeded, one that could even
“put democracy at risk”. To avoid falling into that trap he says it is not
enough to renew capitalism, as Panara claims. “Instead, you must renew man,
as proposed by Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. And to do that, it
takes good priests more than good economists or good industrialists.”

The Italian president of the Vatican bank makes several other interesting
points in his review –- headlined “The damage of only materialistic growth,
the West and the loss of work”—which aren’t often seen in the secular

He points out that in a world that renounces natural growth (falling
birthrates and therefore real growth of GDP), the only way forward is to
consume more and try to increase buying power, “which instead decreases as
taxes grow in order to pay the costs of an ageing population.”

“To increase purchasing power one can seek to increase productivity,” Gotti
Tedeschi explains, “but it is easier to reduce prices of goods, producing
them where labor is cheaper - that is, outsourcing production to countries
with low costs and re-importing the goods at prices much lower than those
produced at home.”

But Gotti Tedeschi points out the strange trend this has caused: producing
countries that “are not consuming” and consuming countries (those in the
West) “that are not producing.” Jobs are being lost, he points out,
particularly in manual labor, as there is an ever increasing push towards
efficiency (greater use of technology, privatization, liberalization of
markets) in the West to compete with low-cost production in the East.

But he welcomes Panara’s reminder of the other economic mistakes of the
past 50 years – the errors of “statism, protectionism, welfarism, and then
from consumerism, until the excesses of consumerism, to unsustainable

He adds that strategies to compensate for the current economic crisis and
loss of labor “haven’t been pursued by the West,” perhaps because it’s
happened so fast, but also – in Gotti Tedeschi’s view – because of a need
to rediscover meaning and purpose in the economy.

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