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The Common Good and the Market

The following extract from the CORI Justice ‘Policy Briefing’ published in advance of the Government’s second Budget for 2009 has been published in the May/June 2009 edition of ‘Spirituality’.

There are deeper values issues to be considered as Ireland reviews the series of crises it is currently facing. Much of these crises are rooted in a philosophy of individualism that does not value community or connectedness and sees the individual as the primary unit of social reality.

This philosophical approach sees the person principally in economic terms and considers the market to be the key place for advancement and development.
Such a view of the person leads to endless struggle in the ‘rat race’ of achievement which in turn produces endless anxiety, about the market and about oneself. The individual constantly feels threatened, insecure, in danger. The standard response is to gather more, to have more, so as to be in control of both the present and the future.

The contrast with the Gospel and with the Catholic Social Thought (CST) tradition is striking. A recent book on CST is entitled ‘Rediscovering Abundance’. It analyses wealth and income across the world and concludes that there is an abundance of resources but that the distribution of these resources is problematic.

This analysis is not new. St Basil, a fourth century theologian and monastic wrote: “If one had taken what is necessary to cover one’s needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.”

While much of economics starts with a focus on scarcity, biblical faith is rooted in the generosity of God’s abundance and in recognising the need to share with brothers and sisters across the world.

An alternative to the present dominant view of the world and how it should function is required. We need to move from a world that is built on individualism, anxiety and greed to a world that is built on the reality of abundance, the need for generosity, the dignity of the person and the centrality of the common good.

  • ‘Spirituality’ is published by Dominican Publications
  • ‘Rediscovering Abundance: Interdisciplinary Essays on Wealth, Income and their Distribution in the Catholic Social Tradition’ – Helen Alford OP, Charles M.A. Clark, S.A. Cortright and Michael Naughton (eds), Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006.