Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Home | Contact us | Search
Our mission | MOGC publications | Staff members | Our partners | Contact us
Africa | Asia | Middle East | Latin America | United Nations |
War is not the answer | Arms control/proliferation | U.S. military programs/policies | Security | Alternatives to violence
Maryknoll Land Ethic Process | Climate change | GMOs | Water | U.S. energy policy | Earth Charter |
Trade/Investment | Foreign debt | Millennium Devel. Goals | Corporate accountability | Int'l financial institutions | Work | Economic alternatives
Indigenous peoples | Migrants | Children | Women | People with HIV/AIDS
Educational resources | Contact policymakers | Links | MOGC publications |
Subscribe | NewsNotes archive

Thinking on the species level
NewsNotes, March-April 2010
Vol. 35 No. 2

On February 9, a column appeared in the New York Times regarding the newspaper’s most e-mailed articles. According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the most frequently e-mailed articles are intellectually challenging and involve opening and broadening the mind. While this study applies to e-mailed articles, it may bear some relevance to what participants look for and remember in attending conferences regarding the issues of contemporary concern. Following are some invitations to broad thinking found in recent conferences.

In January, a conference on Building an Ethical Economy was held at Trinity Church, Wall Street, in New York City. Speakers included Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a true renaissance man, able to speak with knowledge and grace on a broad range of subjects. Nevertheless, it was a lesser known person who raised the most difficult and memorable questions. Dr. Daisy Machado, born in Cuba, and currently professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary, New York, was a panelist for the topic of Christian Values and the Market Place. She stated that the manner in which a good is exchanged gives a flavor to the good. To clarify, she gave an example on the individual level; she cited the case of a person giving blood. If one is paid for giving blood something happens. One feels diminished sensing that blood is not a commodity for market exchange. Machado went on to speak of questions that arise from large-scale economics and particularly the “impersonality of markets” as they are currently experienced. “How is it,” she asked, “that goods made cheaply in Mexico are allowed across the border into the U.S., but the people who make the goods are barred from entering?” Finally, Machado asked the stinging question, “Are Christian churches complicit in bringing about the economic crisis by preaching a Gospel of Prosperity”?

Another speaker, Dr. Partha DasGupta, originally of Bangladesh and currently professor of economics at Cambridge University, raised questions regarding the general form of economic accounting which is detached from resource accounting. Prior to the contemporary period, natural resources were understood to be a fixed economic factor; and, therefore, not taken into consideration when determining profits and losses. Now, it is understood that natural resources must be accounted for and care taken not to deplete them leading to impoverishment for future generations of people. This requires a total reorganization of the accepted means of economic measurement; Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will have to be replaced with a comprehensive indicator that includes resource extraction, and human well-being rooted in an intergenerational sense of responsibility for the preservation of the planet. Lastly, he movingly addressed the loss of trust in the market place resulting in chaos and failure. According to him, truth must be the foundation of an ethical economic system. If there is truth, one can trust the word of the other and negotiations can proceed with fairness. A profound aspect of the mission of the churches before the present economic turmoil is insistence on truth: personal and institutional.

In February, a forum was held in Rome for Catholic Inspired Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Stefano Zamagni, professor of economics of the University of Bologna, Italy. The topic addressed by Professor Zamagni was “global authority.” To illustrate the need for global authority, Zamagni addressed the change in the relationship in the economic and political realms rendering democracy meaningless before the wealth and power of banks, investment houses and corporations. He referred to the 2007 case of massive hunger caused by the 40 percent price hike in the cost of rice over a two month period, at a time of abundance of rice. This situation was created by speculation on the New York Stock Exchange that placed derivatives over food commodities. Governments were powerless before this human calamity. Zamagni asked, “How can speculation on what is necessary for life be allowed?” He calls for the creation of a global authority, with a moral foundation rooted in the protection of human rights. According to him, the United Nations has the capacity to develop the global authority that corresponds with this vision.

Surely, if we are to go forward as a species, we need to seriously rethink the dimensions of how we want to develop and who we want leading the way.

About us | Privacy Policy | Legal  |  Contact us
© 2010 Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns