Pope says economy must fight ‘throwaway culture’

Rome, Italy, Jul 15, 2014 / 10:58 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis had lunch with participants in an international economics seminar on Saturday, saying their efforts to bring the human being to the very center of the economy avoids a “throwaway culture.”
 
The Pope addressed reductionist views of mankind, saying that “this is the strongest time of anthropological reductionism.”
 
“It happens to man what happens to wine when it is transformed into brandy: it passes through an organizational still. It is not wine anymore. It is another thing. Perhaps more useful, more qualified… but it is not wine!” the Pope said July 12.
 
He continued: “it is the same for man: man passes through this still and he ends up – seriously speaking! – losing his humanity. He becomes a tool of the system… the social system, the economic system… a system where imbalances dominate!”
 
Pope Francis stressed that when man “loses his humanity,” it results in “a throwaway attitude.”

“What is not needed, it is thrown away, since man is not at the center (of things).” When something else is at this center, “man is at this other thing’s service,” the Pope warned.

His words came during the international seminar, “The Global Common Good: Towards a more inclusive economy,” held at the Vatican July 11-12.
 
The seminar was organized by the Second Section of the State Secretariat, which deals with international and diplomatic matters, as well as by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
 
The seminar took motivation from a working research paper drafted by the economists Luigino Bruni, Stefano Zamagni, André Habish and Leonardo Becchetti. The paper focused on three main reductionisms of the global economy: that which see the human person as an economic agent driven primarily by self-interest and egoism; that which sees the subjects of economic activity, both private and public enterprise, as always oriented toward the production of goods and the maximization of profits; and that which considers “value” merely as a flow of goods and services.

The Pope praised the seminar for its studies and reflections, as well as its refusal to let the human person be “thrown away.”
 
“Children are thrown away, because the birth rate, at least here in Europe, is very well known; old people are thrown away, because they are not useful. And now a whole generation of young people is being thrown away, and this is very grave,” the pontiff said.
 
He mentioned that there are 75 million unemployed young people under 25 years old. He described their generation as the “neither-nor” generation, since “they neither study, since they have no opportunity to do it; nor do they work, because there is no job for them.”
 
“This is another waste. What else will be thrown away? Let’s stop in time, please!”

During the two days of seminars, representatives of multinational companies, banks, and civil society met to push a new inclusive economic moment. The final statements of the seminar will be published soon.

One seminar participant told CNA July 14 that the event emphasized the goal of pushing the G-20 global economy group toward a reform of the banking system and to introduce an international tax on transnational financial transfers. It aimed to find new ways to fight unemployment, especially youth unemployment, while also working to promote ambitious and inclusive goals for sustainable development.
 
Many of the participants stressed the need to fight so-called “tax havens.”
 
Representatives of countries who are not part of the G-20 advocated a more inclusive body for world economic governance.
 
That goal was echoed by Bishop Mario Toso, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

His opening remarks stressed the need for a “polyarchic,” governing of society with “a broad long term horizon, guided and harmonized by public institutions and inspired by those fundamental values in order to overcome social and anthropological reductionism.”
 
Among the seminars’ most active speakers were: Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank; the Bank of England’s governor Mark Carney; the former general director of World Trade Organization Pascal Lamy; University of Cambridge economics professor Partha Dasgupta; Winnie Byaniyma, executive director of Oxfam international; Huguette Labelle, chair of the board of Transparency International; Indian activist Vandana Shiva; and José Angel Gurria, general secretary of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Another active participant was Juan Grabois, an Argentine lawyer who worked with the leaders of the “cartoneros” waste pickers movement in Buenos Aires to obtain legal recognition for them. Grabois had Pope Francis’ support when the Pope was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

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