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For Those Who Have Responsibility In Economic Matters

On this World Day of Prayer for the Pope’s intentions, we reflect on Pope Francis’ intention for April: “That economists may have the courage to reject any economy of exclusion and know how to open new paths.”

On TV and on the internet, we see daily headlines about the economy. I often feel confused and overwhelmed by these stories. What is the economy? Who is in charge? Am I powerless to change it? It can seem that the economy is a sort of giant dragon that needs to be fed—tax, regulations, innovations, new markets, and more. When it is fed, it’s happy, and grows fatter. If it isn’t, then it breathes fire, wipes out a few thousand jobs, and demands more food for tomorrow. Is this how the economy really works? Is this how it has to work?

Economists have an important role to play in the world today. Often they are college professors and researchers. They serve as advisors to businesses and government leaders. They identify and shape trends and new approaches. They impact everyone—7.5 billion of us—each day. They often feel pressure to make ‘short term gains’ to satisfy CEOs and stockholders. But these gains can be like cutting down an apple tree for quick lumber—at the cost of losing years of juicy fruits.

Part of the problem is our way of looking at the economy. Are record stocks and GDPs our constant goals? Can we ever tame the beast? Perhaps we need a new way to look at the situation. Maybe the economy is not a dragon but more like a garden—where everyone is called to work and everyone is invited to eat. Different laborers have different roles: weeding, plowing, harvesting, packing, overseeing.
Regarding the economy, Pope Francis writes, “Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us... Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.” [Laudato Si, #5]

The economy ought to serve humanity, instead of humanity serving the economy. Economists must be bold and creative to help us envision new ways of ‘growing’ the global garden. In prayer and action, we can support them in this holy, living enterprise.

Fr. Joseph Laramie, SJUSA Tertianship Program
Portland, Oregon

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