Ethical Economics

Ethics are concerned with promoting mutually acceptable behavior between people and groups of people.

Economics are concerned with people and organizations obtaining and using scarce resources.

So ethical economics is the combination of the two: promoting acceptable behavior between those who are striving to obtain those resources.

It is often said that the words “Ethical” and “Economics” cannot be used together. But that implies that people must be too concerned with maximizing their own share of those resources to consider the effects of those actions on others. That we should in effect not have “loving our neighbor as ourselves” as a principle which we hold as the essential basis for looking for the development of the human race and ourselves within it.

-- http://www.ethical-economics.com/

Ethical Economics
By Fr. Roy Cimagala
The Bohol Chronicle

I think we need to be familiar with this concept and try to help build it up, making everyone as far as possible to get involved in the task. I think that as we progress and face more challenging times, we need to see to it that we are also doing our economics properly.

We just can't allow our economy to work by the principle of the so-called "invisible hand." That would be working by blind faith, tempting God and creating an environment that favors the privileged, the strong and the rich to take advantage.

We have to discard the idea that some mechanism inheres in the economy that would automatically make things right. That simply is not true.

While we have to respect personal freedom and right to private property, we also need to not only to have some regulations, but also to expand and tighten them, so that the whole system can function really well.

I was reading the other day the speech of the Vatican observer to the UN conference last June 26 on "The World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development," and this-ethical economics-was what at bottom he was driving at. I agree with the idea, though it sounds fantastic still at the moment.

Let's quote some words of his: "Underlying the current economic crisis is an ideology which places individuals and individual desires at the center of all economic decisions.

"The practice of economics has reflected this ideological focus and has sought to remove values and morality from economic discussions rather than seeking to integrate these concerns into creating a more effective and just financial system."

He concluded by saying that this attitude has created a society in which short-term economic and personal gains are made at the expense of other and have the effect of creating an individualism lacking recognition of the shared rights and responsibilities necessary to create a society respecting the dignity of all people.

He then called for integrating ethics into our economic activities. This is easier than done. Not only do we need to know the relevant ethical principles. We also have to know how to apply these principles, what adequate structure and support system would be needed to make the ethical dimension workable, etc.

A lot of pertinent education in all levels of society is needed to make everyone at least to be aware of this concern, if not to empower them to effectively participate in shaping and keeping our economic system alive and healthy.

What is desired is that more and more people develop a growing sensitivity to the requirements of the basic social principles of the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity in their different aspects and levels. Alas, I wonder what efforts are made to pursue this particular goal.

Besides, there are basic questions that need to be clarified yet. Like, how do we strike a healthy balance between profit and social responsibility, private property and universal destination of goods, individual initiatives and corporate activities, confidentiality and transparency, etc.

I could readily see that there can be no easy answers to these questions, nor rigid formulas to follow. What's needed is a continuing vigilance and a deepening formation of consciences, since we are actually appealing to the sense of freedom and responsibility of persons.

In the end, there is a clear spiritual and moral dimension in all these economic activities. And that's where the main problem lies, since at present we are still stalled by a formidable obstacle starting with people's attitude and mentality.

The obstacle has two sides: one is that those in business generally feel religion has no place in it, and two, that those in religion also generally feel the economy is not their business.

To be sure, there had been attempts to link the two, but so far, they generally succumb to a common fatal anomaly-that of thinking that business and economy can be run like faith and religion, that is, in terms of dogmas that do not respect a certain autonomy of our business activities.

These points are still wild, new frontiers that need to be cleared, developed and settled. And one basic and indispensable task is to spread the idea of ethical economics to pave the way for more concrete actions for our economy to work properly.

Fr. Roy Cimagala is the Chaplain of Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE) in Talamban, Cebu City. You can email him at:Email: roycimagala@boholchronicle.com