Monday, July 22, 2013

Capitalism with a Heart

Capitalism is the economic framework of our modern society, and no one can deny its success in achieving for most of us a flourishing and  abundant life. However, the desire for ever increasing profits and the acceptance of the "survival of the fittest" idea gave birth to heartless competition, the motivating force for the flowering of capitalism, states an editorial in the Peace Weekly.

But the editorial also points out that not everything we have created, in efforts to improve our lives, is perfect. And as we enter the 21st century, we are seeing the problems associated with this particular economic creation: the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the natural environment getting worse. No longer is it possible to be an innocent bystander, says the editorial.

The Church sees the reason for this sad state of affairs in the lack of interest in the common good and in failing to adhere to high moral standards within the  capitalistic system, particularly by our large commercial enterprises. They are controlled, says the editorial, only by a desire not to break laws in making profits. This has been a rather insignificant change in their behavior from the past.

We have movements in society promoting social enterprises and consumer accountability, attempts to provide some warmth to offset the harsh realities of capitalism. Consumer accountability examines the products we buy for their relationship to the environment, for fair wages for workers, and for their public benefits. A social enterprise is defined as a company concerned with employing from all strata of society, interested in the environment and in conserving energy, and interested not only in profits but in the workers and the environment.

Hopefully, social enterprises and consumer accountability will be the beginning small stepping stone to greater changes in society. Attempting to enter the enormous capitalistic marketplace motivated mainly by the common good and morality motif may at this time be imprudent.  Nevertheless, says the editorial, social enterprises and consumer accountability, as formulas to change the world, are efforts that a Christian may not avoid. The effort to have all live well and search for the common good is a basic Christian call.

There is much that can be done but the editorial recommends we begin with buying the products that have been selected as coming from socially interested enterprises. The Caritas Social Enterprise Support Center has been inaugurated for this purpose.

As Christians, we listen to what our Lord has taught. When it comes to consumer products, this should also be true. An accompanying article on the front page of the Peace Weekly suggests that we consider the possibility of boycotting products that are  produced by companies that ignore these goals. The boycotts are not intended to put these companies out of business but to influence them to change.

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