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Economic justice, a possible reality

The global economy offers many new opportunities but also risks. There is a need to make the market inclusive for all. 

by Luigino Bruni

editorial published in Mondo e Missione n.5/2011


The global economy is a very powerful machine yet it is fragile and unstable. This is one of the messages of the crisis we find ourselves in. Specifically, the globalized economy creates enormous opportunities of wealth but also produces new costs. Among them is the radical uncertainty of the financial systems and stronger social imbalances. Oftentimes the consequences of these crises are borne not by the social sector that caused it and normally the much poorer ones. This is why the theme of social justice today is also the dominant theme of the new economy. We are witnessing it in the Middle East (we should not forget that the revolution these months were triggered by issues relating to economic justice). I believe we will continue to see this in the coming years not only in the Arab countries but also in China and in India. When individual freedom and democracy takes over, the enormous inequality we find in these new giants will no longer be tolerated.

It is my belief that the there is a growing intolerance for inequality, whether within countries and among countries. It seems as if the post-modern man, informed and global, after having achieved political democracy, is now seriously demanding economic democracy. It seems as if he’s become aware, with much struggling and with much delay, that economic democracy is an essential part of political democracy. In fact, the market, though being a venue of life in common, governed by rules based on mutual advantage, is not able to ensure a just distribution. Rather, in the absence of other principles and institutions, the market tends to augment the inequalities in time. On one hand, the market is in fact a free place, of creativity based on individual talents and the talents are not evenly distributed across the population. On the other hand, we do not part from the same starting line in this market race. He who has more (resources, education, opportunities) tends to have even more tomorrow.

 What can be done then?

 May 29, 2011 marks the anniversary of the Economy of Communion (EoC), the economic project launched by Chiara Lubich in Brazil. It was the same month that Pope John Paul II published  Centesimus annus, an encyclical that Chiara had meditated on during that trip. Representatives of the EoC from various parts of the world will come together in San Paolo ,from May 25 to 29, to celebrate this occasion. It will be a chance to review the first twenty years but more importantly, to look into the next twenty years. (www.edc-online.org).  The message that Chiara launched during that trip remains alive today and continues to mature and grow in history. It has reached beyond the Focolare community where the EoC was born. Pope Benedict XVI has cited it in Caritas in Veritate as an experience that needs to be developed and propagated.

The message is simple and clear: the enterprise has to be, above all, an instrument and a place of inclusion and of communion. While it produces wealth, it should also distribute wealth, thereby making it a place of justice. If we really want economic democracy and just redistribution, we cannot and should not rely on the States or on the governments. It should be the same enterprise, with the encouragement of civic society and the citizens of the world, which evolves and looks after the new things, of those res novae in the global context we live in.  The enterprise cannot limit itself to operating legally, paying taxes (even when they pay) and to engaging in some philanthropic efforts to gain clients. In this new phase, there is so much more that is demanded from the enterprise, if we want civil society to consider the enterprise and economy as partners for the common good. If all enterprises remember this need to become more and to evolve into an economy for the person, we then welcome the anniversary of the EoC.




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