Social aspects of the economy encompass an ever-widening range of business and political values

From Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009):

In the context of this discussion, it is helpful to observe that business enterprise involves a wide range of values, becoming wider all the time. The continuing hegemony of the binary model of market-plus-State has accustomed us to think only in terms of the private business leader of a capitalistic bent on the one hand, and the State director on the other. In reality, business has to be understood in an articulated way. There are a number of reasons, of a meta-economic kind, for saying this. Business activity has a human significance, prior to its professional one.98 It is present in all work, understood as a personal action, an “actus personae,”99 which is why every worker should have the chance to make his contribution knowing that in some way “he is working ‘for himself.’”100 With good reason, Paul VI taught that “everyone who works is a creator.”101 It is in response to the needs and the dignity of the worker, as well as the needs of society, that there exist various types of business enterprise, over and above the simple distinction between “private” and “public”. Each of them requires and expresses a specific business capacity. In order to construct an economy that will soon be in a position to serve the national and global common good, it is appropriate to take account of this broader significance of business activity. It favours cross-fertilization between different types of business activity, with shifting of competences from the “non-profit” world to the “profit” world and vice versa, from the public world to that of civil society, from advanced economies to developing countries.

Political authority also involves a wide range of values, which must not be overlooked in the process of constructing a new order of economic productivity, socially responsible and human in scale. As well as cultivating differentiated forms of business activity on the global plane, we must also promote a dispersed political authority, effective on different levels. The integrated economy of the present day does not make the role of States redundant, but rather it commits governments to greater collaboration with one another. Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State. In terms of the resolution of the current crisis, the State’s role seems destined to grow, as it regains many of its competences. In some nations, moreover, the construction or reconstruction of the State remains a key factor in their development. The focus of international aid, within a solidarity-based plan to resolve today’s economic problems, should rather be on consolidating constitutional, juridical and administrative systems in countries that do not yet fully enjoy these goods. Alongside economic aid, there needs to be aid directed towards reinforcing the guarantees proper to the State of law: a system of public order and effective imprisonment that respects human rights, truly democratic institutions. The State does not need to have identical characteristics everywhere: the support aimed at strengthening weak constitutional systems can easily be accompanied by the development of other political players, of a cultural, social, territorial or religious nature, alongside the State. The articulation of political authority at the local, national and international levels is one of the best ways of giving direction to the process of economic globalization. It is also the way to ensure that it does not actually undermine the foundations of democracy.

98 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 32: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 83 (1991), 832-833; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 25: AAS 59 (1967), 269-270.
99 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens, 24: AAS 73 (1981), 637-638.
100 Ibid., 15: loc. cit., 616-618.
101 Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 27: loc. cit., 271.

Caritas in Veritate 41

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