Monday, June 20, 2011

Examining Caritas in Veritate, part 4

Part 4 will focus on CV's re-examination of the role of the State, because of the changes that have occured since the time of Populorum Progressio. Beginning in pp.24, Pope Benedict XVI notes that PP assigned a central role to public authorities because the scope of societal issues was at that time still limited to within national borders. In other words, there wasn't widespread globalization or international integration. The past 5 decades have seen considerable integration of nations which the Pope expresses in this quote:
In our own day, the State finds itself having to address the limitations to its sovereignty imposed by the new context of international trade and finance, which is characterized by increasing mobility both of financial capital and means of production, material and immaterial. This new context has altered the political power of States.

In other words, the State is limited in its ability to legislate because of increasingly integrated international relations. The Pope then calls for a re-evaluation of the State's role and believes that once it is more clearly defined, political participation by the public will increase.

The first effect of globlaization Pope Benedict XVI addresses is the downsizing of social security systems worldwide in order to attract businesses to the country:
Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers' associations.

He believes the situation to be so grave that the rights "of associations that can defend workers' rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level."

He then notes that mobility of labor in the context of unemployment can be good, it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange; but it can also have negative effects, such as uncertainty over working conditions, psychological instability, situations of human decline, and waste of social resources.

He then reminds us of the evils of unemployment, a point I try to stress often because our nation has given up trying to decrease unemployment because of what have now been long-running fears of inflation and bankruptcy that simply haven't happened:
Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world's economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: "Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life."

He also notes that many poor countries are still suffering from food shortages and thus hunger despite the abundance of material resources we have to feed them:
Life in many poor countries is still extremely insecure as a consequence of food shortages, and the situation could become worse: hunger still reaps enormous numbers of victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man's table, contrary to the hopes expressed by Paul VI.

Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional.

Moreover, the elimination of world hunger has also, in the global era, become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet.

He then proposes a proper solution:
What is missing, in other words, is a network of economic institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food and water for nutritional needs, and also capable of addressing the primary needs and necessities ensuing from genuine food crises, whether due to natural causes or political irresponsibility, nationally and internationally.

The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. This can be done by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability over the long term as well. All this needs to be accomplished with the involvement of local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land.

Pope Benedict XVI will go on to address other international issues that are of great concern in our time and continue to re-evaluate the role of the State in providing solutions for these problems which I will examine in part 5 of this series.

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