by Phil Kingston
I invite you to consider some questions about the global Neoliberal economy. How does it:
- recognise the limits of the Earth, and demonstrate its humility to live within them?
- appreciate the wonder and beauty of all forms of life, and care for them?
- embrace God’s special love for those who are poor and excluded?
- share the goods of the Earth between everyone?
- include all future generations in that sharing?
- provide regular work which gives dignity and meaning and livelihood for all?
If you cannot answer in the affirmative, it seems reasonable to conclude that this economy excludes essential attributes of the God of creation, love and justice.
This economy is a human construct. The excluding of God is organised primarily by those who have the most power to develop it and to promote the consumerist society in which we each live.
I call it an idol because its proponents claim it as the primary basis for human security, a security which I imagine most Christians would regard as being fulfilled by God and people who seek God’s will. As with all idols, its false claim must not be questioned. It seems that nothing must be allowed to suggest that economic growth has problematic consequences for the Earth and future generations. Even while the World Wildlife Fund’s research shows that consumption by the current human population is exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth by 50%, the mantra of more growth drowns out calls for debate about this overuse.
Of the few states-persons who voice concern about this economy’s fitness for purpose, Pope Frances is the most significant. The following are from Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) and Laudato si’ (Care for our Common Home):
‘The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.’ EG 55
‘…. the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.’ Ls 106
‘In this (economic) system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.’ EG 56
‘How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference is made to protecting labour and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice.’ EG 203
‘’.. the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.’’ (Ls 193).
With regard to Pope Francis’ courageous exposure of structural sin, I often think of him as a rather lonely man within many of the Churches of the materially rich countries, where I see his pastoral care and simple living acclaimed but his economic critique made almost invisible by silence.
A very different economic model is promoted by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy http://steadystate.org/ I invite everyone who wants the world which Pope Francis points toward to study it; and then to link it to our faith by considering Green Christian’s Joy in Enough project http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/joy-in-enough .
(Published in The Universe, a Catholic weekly, on 30/06/2017)