Is there a relationship between globalization, poverty, business and Catholic Social Teaching? This was the question that Stefano Zamagni of the University of Bologna and John Hopkins University, SAIS Europe tackled in his plenary speech on February 26, 2014, the first day of the 9th International Conference on Catholic Social Thought (CST) and Business Education, which was held at De La Salle University. Zamagni reflected on the relationship between globalization and poverty, approaches to cope with poverty, role of business on the scandal of poverty and offered some practical suggestions based on the CST.
Globalization is characterized by the tendency to destructure productive activities, or to delocalize activities, both for the manufacturing and service sectors and by a substantial increase in aggregate wealth leading to increased global inequality and a decrease in absolute poverty. Consequently, globalization means that a significant number of the population can be affected by events happening elsewhere and can lead to a new form of competition called “positional competition” where the winner takes all and the loser loses everything. Globalization affects poverty, particularly in developing countries, when the poor in countries with a lot of unskilled labor do not typically gain from trade expansion; it generates both winners and losers among the poor and this creates social instability in so for as it destroys social capital; and the poor segments of population obtain the largest benefits from globalization when national governments endeavour to implement welfare policies aimed at improving the capabilities of life of their citizens, rather than their conditions of life.
To cope with poverty and the negative consequences of globalization, businesses need to be socially responsible. This implies that they have to recognize that there are passions, ideals and human relationships that are not saleable goods and that should not be reduced to commodities. A socially responsible business believes in the principle of equal dignity of all the subjects involved in a business activity. The socially-responsible business knows the right place at which to draw the line in the process of transforming relationships, human passions and relational goods into instruments.
Hence, good businesses are those that give value to ideals, passions and to gratuitousness as it help increase personal and collective freedom of people. Virtue cannot be produced or bought, but from virtue all wealth is created. So, how can Catholic Social Thought contribute to a more inclusive economy? Zamagni believes that everyone can help make the rules and build the institutions, to select the aims and decide the priorities by which the economy is governed. It is a market where the parties can choose freely; is self-legitimizing and not subject to moral constraints.
This 9th CST Conference was an initiative of De La Salle University, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, and Ateneo de Manila University in collaboration with the Marquette University, Saint John’s University, and University of St. Thomas. Day 1 of the conference was held at DLSU, Day 2 in Ateneo while Day 3 was spent at the Enchanted Farm of Gawad Kalinga in Bulacan. (Cresilda Caning)