I am impressed at the sheer variety of people from different walks of life, religious traditions and different countries. A banker from Detroit, a Korean-American ethicist from California, a Cuban-American Professor from Austin, a Puerto Rican entrepreneur from Fort Myers, a Ph.D student and professor from Italy, an economist from Chile, these are but of a few people I have befriended while attending this conference. Having grown up with a signficant dose of Liberation Theology, Gustavo Guiterrez, Jon Sobrino, Paulo Friere, Maryknoll Press, etc. I know have a list of books and authors to catch up to: The Road to Serfdom, Economics in One Lesson by F.A. Hayek, , Catholic Social Teaching and the Market Economy by The Institute of Economic Affairs, Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder. Hailing the virtues of free market economy I listen carefully sometimes feeling I was on the wrong side of history when I witnessed the dismantling of "Welfare as we knew it" in 1996 with the introduction of TANF. Nevertheless, while I witnessed as a social worker the failure of many urban programs and good intentioned initiatives. I still am suspect of ideologies either from the left or the right; I still think that many of the consequences of globalization are being mitigated. The outstanding reality of Acton is that it presupposes disagreement yet expects civil and courteous disagreement. Possessing a "university" forum provides an excellent venue to struggle with these realities.
Yesterday I was able to attend a conference on Globalization: A Theological-Historical Reflection. In his lecture Dr. Samuel Gregg spoke of two different positions on globalization: 1) Those that hold that it is extremely negative, that it is a "race to the bottom" and further marginalizes the poor and 2) Those who view it very positively as "lifting all boats." While he says that economic realities of globalization are most important that as Christians we need to lift the other dynamics of globalization such as the moral realities of this phenomenon.
I also attended a conference on Economics and Human Action, one on Economic Myths about the Market. I was excited to see Dr. Jay Richards who was a teacher’s assistant while I studied at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Richards provided some material from his forthcoming book addressing 8 apparent economic myths; his conference was informative and practical providing excellent anecdotal information that underscored his points.
The evening ended with a lecture from George Gilder of the Discovery Institute. Gilder is the author of the famous book, Wealth and Poverty. He argued that governments with lower or declining tax rates increase their government spending and grow six times as fast. On the notion that capitalists were greedy, he said that a “greedy capitalist is probably a capitalist on the way to failure.” He Towards the end of his speech he became bolder and said, “Democracy without capitalism is meaningless.”
At my hotel room, my Ipod is situated in its JVC speakers and I listen to some of Sade’s tunes, “When Am I Going to Make a Living?” “Feel No Pain,” and “Pearls”. I ponder her lyrics through economic hermeneutics and wrestle with these paradigms and their corresponding morality. Does “the woman in Somalia” overcome poverty through the intervention of Government foreign aid mediated by an international “peace keeping” forces or does she get help when selling her “grain” perhaps through some micro-enterprise loan to feed her children? Is the life and world “she didn’t choose” a result of a lack of a entrepreneural spirit or of geo-political and economic forces which are far beyond her control? Yes, these issues are very complex indeed and I’ll have a whole lot of wrestling to do.