Class #21


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  • Last time we looked at the figure of Jesus. Of course all of you who said on your previous Voicethreads that there can be no one final image of Jesus are absolutely correct. That also means that stopping at the image of Christ as good shepherd, meek and mild, can leave out a lot. In particular, I think we see better after last class how Jesus challenged the power structures and economic arrangements of his day, and how that led to conflict with those most enjoying the privileges of power and wealth. Against a society based upon privileging some and excluding others, he preached the kingdom of God, which was a society without power and privilege in which the dignity and worth of each person was recognized, as Sr. Helen explained. Every time Christians pray the “our father,” they pray for that kingdom to come ON EARTH as it is in heaven. Here’s a statement from Luke’s Gospel that really shows the disruption Jesus caused and the threat that he represented to the established powers.
  • From that passage in the New Testament that took our dependence on one another very seriously, I want now to move to Pope Benedict in the reading for today. If we’re created in God’s image and likeness, and our lives are gifts from God, then we’re created in the image of the giver. As Benedict says, “The human being is made for gift.” That is for Benedict the truth about human existence, and it’s what’s behind the whole notion of CHARITY in TRUTH. Our responsibilities to one another are based upon the truth of who we are and who we were made to be.
  • If who we are is entirely up to us, and not the result of gift, then that affects what we think about how we should relate to others, especially economically. That affects how we view the economy as outside the web of human relationships and therefore autonomous.
  • I know it looks like we’ve left poor Oscar Romero way behind. But I promise that all these things are related! So let me just read this Voicethread and then go back and fill it in for you: As we’ll see, there’s a lot in Romero about the notion of neutrality or taking a side. Romero began his tenure as archbishop thinking that he could remain neutral in what was going on around him. He came to see, as you will see, that he could not do that and that in fact such neutrality wasn’t even possible. I want us to look at why that is, but then I want to bring those ideas north to the United States economy. So, as you look at the material on the market in light of Romero, try to generate some insights. Namely, there’s a sense in which the market is neutral about what’s distributed and to whom it’s distributed (e.g., the LAW of supply and demand). That’s essentially what we mean by a FREE market. All you need is the money or the goods to participate in the circle of production and exchange that goes on every time we buy something. That’s what Benedict meant on the previous slide about the market being “autonomous.” The implication of this neutrality or autonomy is that the market as the market doesn’t care about those who can’t participate in it for whatever reason because they don’t the money, goods, or resources to do so. That’s why, as you’ll see from these readings, a Catholic perspective on the economy will call for a bigger role for the government, and why Pope Benedict would probably be seen as a socialist—and even more so the early apostles. Of course, this is the big debate today about more government or less government, more individual freedom or less individual freedom. You see this played out and explained in “The Pope or the Tea Party?” as well as how Daniel Fill says that Catholicism should respond to free-market philosophy and all the things Rebecca Blank explains about viewing the market economy through the lens of faith. And you’ll certainly see this in Benedict’s writing. In Caritas in Veritate (charity in truth) from 2009, Pope Benedict is discussing social responsibility in an age of global capitalism, of a global market. If we’re made for gift, then we’re made for relationship. The economic crisis of these last few years only added urgency to his emphasis on how interconnected we all are and how vulnerable we all are to devastating economic consequences when profit becomes, as he says in §21, the “exclusive goal” and how that could lead to “the damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing.” So maybe this is the other issue to ask about in class—if we’re gifted—by God (life is a gift) and by others in our lives for those things not up to us, rather than self-made individuals, what might that do to how we understand the economy and our own participation in it? Romero asks whether neutrality is really neutral. And Rebecca Blank asks whether the market is really neutral. Do you see overlaps here? Or: what’s the Catholic case for government intervention in the market? What would a completely unrestricted (or neutral) market look like? If you look at the material on the market in light of Romero, what insights emerge for you? Namely, there’s a sense in which the market is neutral about what’s distributed and to whom it’s distributed (e.g., the LAW of supply and demand). What does Romero show us about ‘neutrality,’ and what do you think that means for the market and economic justice in light of the readings on the U.S. economy for today? Should the market be neutral leaving more room for individual freedom (you’ll see this played out in “The Pope and the Tea Party”, or should it be controlled by the government?
  • Market isn’t neutral—that’s why government intervention needed.
  • Class #21

    1. 1. <ul><li>“ Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’ Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’ But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’” </li></ul>
    2. 2. <ul><li>“ And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need…. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.” </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>“ Charity in truth places before man the astonishing experience of gift…. The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension. Sometimes modern man is wrongly convinced that he is the sole author of himself, his life and society. This is a presumption that follows from being selfishly closed in upon himself, and it is a consequence—to express it in faith terms—of original sin.” </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><li>“ Then, the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.” </li></ul>
    5. 5. If you look at the material on the market in light of Romero, what insights emerge for you? Namely, there’s a sense in which the market is neutral about what’s distributed and to whom it’s distributed (e.g., the LAW of supply and demand). What does Romero show us about ‘neutrality,’ and what do you think that means for the market and economic justice? vt
    6. 6. <ul><li>discuss your reactions to Romero, and </li></ul><ul><li>generate insights from those reactions, and use those to consider certain elements of the U.S. economy. </li></ul><ul><li>We will especially concentrate on the notion of neutrality, which is an important idea running through Romero, as well as some of the other readings for today. </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>I. Lessons from Romero </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A. How Romero changes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B. From ‘neutrality’ pref. option </li></ul></ul><ul><li>II. Moral considerations of a free-market </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A. Tensions between market & CST </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B. ‘Autonomy’ and ‘neutrality’ in the market </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1. Is the market MORALLY neutral? </li></ul></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Market values Catholic Social Thought values Material Happiness Self-Interest Freedom from Government Intervention Neutrality
    9. 9. Start Finish