Over the weekend in Brazil, Pope Benedict offered a stern warning to drug traffickers: “God will call upon you to account for your acts… Human dignity cannot be trampled in this way.”
These sorts of statements seemed to characterize the Pope’s recent visit to Brazil: a complex and layered interplay between ethics, morality, the Church and economics.
Pope Benedict similarly offered harsh words against both capitalism and Marxism, declaring that both have left “a sad legacy of economic and ecological destruction” and “a widening gap between rich and poor.”
But the Pope was relatively short on solutions. Certainly, he advocated a faith-based approach — there seems little doubt that his visit was in no small part aimed at firing up the large but waning ranks of Catholics in Latin America – but even a socio-economic system driven by the promise of a heavenly reward requires a long run view (eternal, you might say) and this is clearly not our strength as humans.
I spend a significant amount of time chatting with my students about these things: Why does ideology – capitalist or Marxist, Catholic or Muslim – stray so far from its noble and elegant beginnings in empirical applications? Why does short run optimality not always add up to long run bliss?
In the end, Pope Benedict came to the same conclusion that academics, policy makers and activists have advocated for decades, if not longer: a well-functioning society needs well-functioning structures. Of course, such simple statements cache the complexity below: historical legacies, political realities, religious biases, cultural practices, economic incentives.
But I would argue that everything delicious and good emerges from the messiness of human interactions. Indeed, the very purpose of this blogspace is to provide a positive and productive forum for the messiness to occur, and I eagerly anticipate discussions and conversations.
Future posts will certainly be more targeted, but I like to start any new project with the big picture in mind.
Un fuerte abrazo a todos.
Links to articles on the Pope’s visit to Brazil: