Weaving a new fabric for human flourishing

By Pascale Palmer
October 12, 2010

The present model of economic globalisation, with its emphasis on financial profit and the pursuit of individual, corporate and national self-interest based on market principles, has long assumed that the values of competition, self-interest and unlimited freedom eclipse all else.

In this scenario, those values deeply held by religious traditions, such as love, justice, equality, shared responsibility and solidarity are viewed as important only within the sphere of family and community. Indeed, we have been led to believe they have no place in policies regulating the behaviour of the market or international financial institutions.

The last ten years’ extraordinary economic growth has lifted many people in India and China out of poverty. But this same model has increased fuel and food instability, furthered inequality, damaged the environment and brought about the present economic crisis. Currently, for poor people to get a bit less poor, rich people have to get very much richer and in the process consume more and more natural and mineral resources.

As rich governments worldwide pick up the pieces of their broken economies, it is time to call upon them to fashion a new market model that generates growth while creating the social conditions in which people can flourish. We cannot continue as we have done for the last 30 years – we must call for change. Social scientists have shown us that beyond a certain level of economic income and security, people do not become any happier. In the UK as economic growth has risen, well-being has flat-lined, social capital has declined and inequality has increased.

Underpinning the work of faith-based aid agencies is the integrity and sanctity of every life, at whatever stage of development, of whatever social class, or gender, or race, or religion. Global systems such as economics and business, and politics, must serve people, not the other way around.

In a new report released on Wednesday by CAFOD in partnership with Tearfund and think-tank Theos, we hope to spur the debate on a fundamental break with the failed economic policies of the past and our modern reliance on misleading financial indicators of prosperity. The 'Wholly Living' report argues there is not only a need for change but a desire for a new democratic global green economy with human and environmental sustainability at its heart. This ongoing crisis has ripped open the global economic systems at their weakest points. If now is not the time to look beyond material indicators of well-being to an inclusive economic system that improves the quality of our relationships and embeds the practice of virtue in its intellectual and religious forms - then when?

CAFOD believes an economy restitched with the old, failed stalwarts of individualism and self-interest will continue to fail the people; we are calling for a new fabric which weaves into its global patterns the right social conditions for human flourishing.


(c) Pascale Palmer is CAFOD's Advocacy Media Officer. www.cafod.org.uk

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