Pope Francis’ message to The World Economic Forum
As a Christian and Economist, it is always interesting to see anything that relate those two fields, often perceived as opposite, but in my view undoubtedly related.
in addition to many other areas of human activity, and we must recognize the fundamental role that modern business activity has had in bringing about these changes, by stimulating and developing the immense resources of human intelligence.
We all have a role in the World, and we definitely can serve God by serving people. And this is not something like: “I work for free because I am Christian”. As a matter of fact, if you state this, it means you don’t know human nature, and you definitely don’t know yourself. That is precisely where Economics play its important role: Understanding human nature, how people make decisions, how they (and by day I mean we) decide to allocate our scarce resources. Working for free will change your incentives, and you are not going to work as hard, you are not going to achieve as much as you would have. You would have no incentive to push yourself to the limit, and break this before called limit, develop new technology, be more efficient.
But humanity alone fails, when the incentives available in the world are responded to in a merely selfish motivation, we generate an unequal society where some have too much, and many have too little.
Those working in these sectors have a precise responsibility towards others, particularly those who are most frail, weak and vulnerable. It is intolerable that thousands of people continue to die every day from hunger, even though substantial quantities of food are available, and often simply wasted.
This is also not perceived in Economics as a desirable equilibrium, but how to change this into something desirable, how to achieve the Pareto-Optimum intersection? Here is where Religion plays such an important role. Religion (or the simple belief in a superior being, Architect of the Universe) is able to change human nature, shape people into their better selves. Making other people’s welfare important to someone, rather than his welfare alone, this changes payoffs, this has the power to change best-responses, this has the power to drive humanity into a better equilibrium.
In fact, by being successful economists, business people, politicians, etc. those people have the power to influence and shape society towards something new, and for that, I can only hope they have good moral values.
Business is – in fact – a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 203). Such men and women are able to serve more effectively the common good and to make the goods of this world more accessible to all. Nevertheless, the growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all “a transcendent vision of the person” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 11)
In Economics, we often realize that in order to take any strategic decision, people have to care somewhat about the future. The more future results matter, the more capable of achieving “the greater good” an economy is. As humans alone, the greatest time horizon you can care about is your own life, but if you can transcend your interests not only for you but for others, than you will be able to pursue an strategy that will allow welfare for centuries to come.
“without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space”