The president of the Vatican bank has said that more than a renewal of capitalism led by economic experts and industrialists, what the global economy needs most are good priests to renew man.
Reviewing a book called “The Disease of the West” by Italian economist Marco Panara in today’s L’Osservatore Romano, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi says that the “real disease” of the West is “the nihilism that has uprooted man from any absolute truth and led him to become a materialist, pursuing a satisfaction that is ever more materialistic.”
“The disease of Western man,” adds Gotti Tedeschi, “is his distance from God and the tendency to drown his anxieties in consumerism.”
Although he mostly praises the book, he differs with Panara’s conclusion that capitalism needs to be renewed. “The instruments described in [Panara’s] book - technology, finance, outsourcing - are all good but do not work if they are misused,” says Gotti Tedeschi. “And that happens when you forget that they are tools in the hands of man, who must not only know how to use them, but must be able to give them a meaning, a purpose.”
He warns of a political crash if this isn’t heeded, one that could even “put democracy at risk”. To avoid falling into that trap he says it is not enough to renew capitalism, as Panara claims. “Instead, you must renew man, as proposed by Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. And to do that, it takes good priests more than good economists or good industrialists.”
The Italian president of the Vatican bank makes several other interesting points in his review –- headlined “The damage of only materialistic growth, the West and the loss of work”—which aren’t often seen in the secular press.
He points out that in a world that renounces natural growth (falling birthrates and therefore real growth of GDP), the only way forward is to consume more and try to increase buying power, “which instead decreases as taxes grow in order to pay the costs of an ageing population.”
“To increase purchasing power one can seek to increase productivity,” Gotti Tedeschi explains, “but it is easier to reduce prices of goods, producing them where labor is cheaper - that is, outsourcing production to countries with low costs and re-importing the goods at prices much lower than those produced at home.”
But Gotti Tedeschi points out the strange trend this has caused: producing countries that “are not consuming” and consuming countries (those in the West) “that are not producing.” Jobs are being lost, he points out, particularly in manual labor, as there is an ever increasing push towards efficiency (greater use of technology, privatization, liberalization of markets) in the West to compete with low-cost production in the East.
But he welcomes Panara’s reminder of the other economic mistakes of the past 50 years – the errors of “statism, protectionism, welfarism, and then from consumerism, until the excesses of consumerism, to unsustainable debt.”
He adds that strategies to compensate for the current economic crisis and loss of labor “haven’t been pursued by the West,” perhaps because it’s happened so fast, but also – in Gotti Tedeschi’s view – because of a need to rediscover meaning and purpose in the economy.