Monthly Archives: November 2016

Comments on the “Laudato Si”encyclical.

Translation from EFN’s blog of the web site www.ecolo.org

Link in french : http://aepn.blogspot.fr/2015/11/commentaires-sur-lencyclique-laudato-si.html

Link source : Laudato SI

Preamble

Note first that many of the recommendations of the encyclical are very relevant, especially encouraging sobriety and humility in a world of wealth and an amazing complexity. The reference to humanism (§141) and the general idea of “saving the common house” can only bring together all people of good will. The ideal of simplicity and exaltation of the virtues of community life recall what we know of the Essenes, the model back to the original purity.

That said, despite the sympathy I have for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, I do not entirely share his opinion on several important issues. So I took my pen and I give you my thoughts below.

The guiding ideas

Throughout the text appear two very distinct attitudes:

• The collective takes precedence over the individual. In my view, the Christian doctrine fully integrates these two aspects of human activity and there is no need to oppose them (§208 : overcome individualism). When I read: “The ecological citizenship (is) the best of the human being. “I think, and charity ? the solidarity is first individually to the nearest neighbor ? Isn’t it ? An example will better light thing: the request of citizens towards municipal officials that “community” is committed to welcoming immigrants in distress seems little in comparison to the Action parishioners who host home said immigrants awaiting permanent solutions.

 

• We must safeguard, preserve what exists rather than take the lead, innovate and create. The encyclical does not take risks to promote a better world; it refers to a frozen world. A particular point surprise: known energy resources are limited (which is debatable) so you have to share them and book which must return to the poor. This immediately provides a moral requirement, it is true. What the hell ! seeking new sources, new ways of storage and we will loosen constraints. In this regard, speeches in the eighteenth century about the depletion of timber from forests are instructive. Except that to take advantage of the mistakes of the past must not be suspected of principle technical progress to be destructive and to convey a materialist worldview.

Rejection of the liberal system

It is obvious to the vast majority of people that the free market economy can not function without control, without regulatory bodies; they exist even in the face of the authorities to ensure that effective competition is maintained. European bodies involved in this field steadily and firmly. Nothing to hear the protests of the interested one can realize that the method works.

At the international level, there remains room for improvement. However, existing international treaties or under negotiation run in the right direction. There is no doubt still abuse. This is not a reason to condemn the system without mentioning the means implemented to correct the defects and the results already achieved. Its advantages and benefits are ignored. At the same time the negative effects of such economy that result papal teachings are hidden as if not talking made them disappear.

A few examples will show the state of mind:

The search for a reduction in production costs is considered an improper purpose (§141). But these costs consist for the most part of human labor and what could be more desirable to produce the same things with less human labor? The spirit of enterprise, initiative and human ingenuity always find employment in tasks that are not production. And whether the company can sustain some of its members without work, where’s the harm? Today there is a problem to adapt to new forms of work: it is not by fixing .the structures, institutions and methods of production that will solve it.

The use of carbon credits is rejected (§132) because it would allow speculation. At this rate, what about the money? Should we return to a barter economy? Needless to say the carbon market would require, too, regulation and supervision.

Finally, add that in the encyclical, the trial of the developed countries with liberal market economy is only instructed to the prosecution.

The anathema on financial activities

They are considered parasitic activities, bad in itself. Yet today they are required to finance the economy. We must therefore accept them, this does not mean to let them do anything. In fact these activities are among the most regulated and many of the excesses observed are due to a failure of the supervisory authorities whose leaders are appointed by the political power and remain under its control. This is where the problem is. It is therefore essential that citizens, political parties and the MPs seriously inform and determine according to their political and economic options the desirable degree of control and the level of autonomy of the regulatory authorities. A very controversial issue, particularly in France, deserves more attention: the separation of market activities and commercial activities. In no event of losses on the markets should not compromise customer deposits and business operation, this without the taxpayer is called to the rescue. The situation in this area is not satisfactory for the wrong reasons. But we must recognize that in recent crises, despite a few broken pots, governments have implemented quickly and effectively the measures it took to avoid the dramatic collapse of the system. Like what the worst is not always certain; progress (suspect concept, I know) has been made since the great depression of the thirties, especially in terms of international cooperation.

In financial matters, the question must be put aside, that of interest rates. We must, in my opinion, distinguish loans personal basis which we can, or rather we should apply the evangelical principles and those under the financing of the economy; to them it is legitimate to apply the laws of the market, a market that itself obeys the imperatives of the economy of the steering provided by those responsible for public finances in view of the common good.

Breach of the principles and virtues of representative democracy,

Whereas liberal economy to function properly and allow the poor as the rich benefit from its virtues should not be subject to unnecessary constraints but must obey strict rules guaranteeing the existence of competition and avoiding fraudulent excesses the question arises which will determine the rules and enforce them. Professional knowledge, of course, is necessary; it will not be enough by far, obviously. We will need also economists, sociologists, ethicists, psychologists etc. to propose solutions. But ultimately, the decision will rest with public authorities so policymakers. And this is where the discourse of our Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church, if you prefer, seems seriously inadequate. There is talk (§179) to put pressure on the institutions, the bodies consist of powerful but obliquely, as if Christians and people of good will in general had to be content with a marginal role! Why would they leave our brethren the field to only politicians who are looking for all the power. Far too many Christians especially among young people do not bother to vote. Why some of them could not aspire, personally, electoral mandates, they do not engage in the harsh political struggle. Jacques Delors is from this point of view an example to follow. Voters may be incompetent, their only job will be to elect one who shares their beliefs, following the principles of representative democracy.

Vis-à-vis future generations (§159)

Certainly we will forward their debts and we consumed a portion of natural resources; we will have made disturbances in the balance of the biosphere, even in the physicochemical state of the Earth. Should however consider that the balance of assets and liabilities that we will send them is necessarily against them? Nothing is less sure ! First, we have given life in abundance resulting in a much different situation than a Malthusian policy could produce them. Overpopulation is not a good thing, a contraction in world either. The men themselves are an asset. One has only to see the effects of demographic growth so sought after! We are not in a frozen world where useful activities that man can exercise would be predefined and limited. The world is expanding, ideas fuse, it’s not nothing. We deliver to our descendants a world somewhat dangerous but always full of new promises. Is not this exciting? Still, the main asset that we bequeath them is knowledge accumulated over generations and generations in all areas, ie which we generously made our contribution. Equipment, networks of all types may disappear, he will find out, the institutions and principles of democracy, freedom, solidarity, all of which do not go soi.et which despite gaps and shocking failures are still very much alive in the minds of humanists and are revered by most of our elected officials. Although often it is a hypocrisy, it is to be welcomed: it is, as the saying goes, the homage of vice to virtue. To us back on rules and frozen concepts, we risk letting out all the news that will correct the mistakes we have made.

Attitude towards the poor men, particular groups or nations

It is a duty to help those who live in poverty. That said, knowing that not everything can be done in a day, what is the best way to achieve this? Clearly, often for subsistence, it is not the food shortage; it is the means to send them to those in need. There appear the shortcomings of potential recipient countries, weak governance, competence and probity. We saw the property offered by rich nations to the poor captured by corrupt administrations and / or villainous mafias, diverted through food, sit despotic power. This is not a reason to give up but you have to see things realistically without interfering in local governance and its political implications. We can not say that the encyclical focuses on that subject.

The right approach, in my opinion, is to consider that all the poor manage to become rich when citizens will be able to choose effective leaders irrespective of religious or ideological question. Therefore education and training are essential. Welcome students in our universities and fund schools on site, universities too, is more important than building development plans. Grant scholarships to deserving students, dare I say, is better than to invite the children of leaders who, upon graduation, will leave to work in the US or represent their country in any of these international bodies whose missions are prestigious and questionable usefulness.

Natural morality and Nature

Do we really follow the advice of Our Holy Father and consider the nature basically good in the beginning, was perverted by irresponsible men? Such a conception obviously refers to the earthly paradise and all that follows. Is this sufficient to validate the thing? To subscribe, it would overshadow all the struggles, all the competition between living species and even between individuals of the same species long before the appearance of man on earth. Man is the product of these struggles. It would still be foolish to deny the altruistic tendencies that exist particularly in higher mammals, starting with the dedication of parents towards their offspring, necessary for the survival of the species. Probably the development of these behaviors altruistic beyond it is the family needed him, the development of social life and the ability to cooperate, which, among others, make the success of the human species. It is therefore reasonable to think that human nature coexist side of a selfish impulses that can be expressed in violent and despotic manner and the other altruistic tendencies leading to help the weak, educate the poor, to the reign of justice and peace.

In this perspective, Christ would come to give men the taste and the desire to develop his innate abilities to altruism. If nature was fundamentally and exclusively good, what need would be a redeemer? When the encyclical says that there is a natural morality, does this not the trace left throughout the West by centuries of sincere Christian faith vehicle an ideal of love and charity? This ideal, though often ignored, not least indirectly inspired all constitutions which are the founding texts of modern democracies. Thus, the church assigns more readily a naturalness to it that moral is ultimately a reflection of his own convictions.

Philanthropy and charity: the ways of development of countries with natural resources

Today, charity drifted philanthropy. Unfortunately, religious principles, whatever they are, can not inspire effective policy to optimize the well being of everyone. Obviously, defining the optimum well-being is something very difficult since, according to the most credible polls, the happiness of an individual depends largely on comparisons he can do with the situation of other persons or classes of people to the point that in a totally egalitarian society, happiness could be only a mirage and motivation to improve the common lot completely absent. The way forward was mentioned a little earlier: it would put poor people in a position to defend their interests and exploit their natural resources. In this regard, the case of the oil rent is instructive to take advantage of a deposit, it is necessary that there is a market (not magic) and investments in exploration and development exploitation. Without collective structures at the local level able to invest and thus to take risks, the use of private foreign contractors in the present case, provides a natural solution. After launching the operation, the rent sharing is needed willy-nilly, if pension ago. The resources obtained as well, provided they are in the hands of individuals or organizations not advised taking for their benefit that a reasonable share, allowing countries from holding wealth in the rough to legitimately defend their interests and finance a profitable economic development for all citizens. Must still a strong power, accepted by the population allows everyone to act rationally in a stable political context socio or at least predictable. The example of some Maghreb countries and the Arab and Persian Middle East shows that this scheme can work. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; but these are not necessarily the countries that have made the first investments that are responsible.

Anyway, once the poor populations reached a sufficient level of development, they know very well defend their property, if they wish keep their way of life and promote their culture. In an intermediate phase can be useful, even necessary, to provide them with aid in order to empower them to preserve their culture, yet the vision of the countries likely to intervene on what to do is not necessarily those countries that need help. So however great admiration we have for the works under foreign cultures, it is preferable that each judge himself of the merits of its heritage.

Catastrophism widespread

To believe the encyclical, the world would run to ruin: the poor are condemned to live in poverty and only anxious to eat, they would lose their cultural roots, nations would rise against each other to capture the natural resources , starting with water. Natural areas would be devastated, life in general and particularly human life would be threatened due to a share of the extinction of many species and other genetic manipulations to be reckless to make a profit or to achieve challenging goals ethics or even to satisfy a desire for power that would transform the scholars demiurges. And this catastrophic vision of the future is presented as if it were a revelation. In reality, these concerns are not new; men individually, political, public and private, national and international organizations, and scholars in their majority questioned the consequences of technological progress. That we should mobilize and coordinate all these energies to protect against risks that actually are not deniable, either! And papal initiative should be welcomed as an exceptionally powerful support to safeguarding immutable ethical principles. And yet, after greeting the benefits obtained through science and technology, our Holy Father retains much distrust of scientific and technical research (§105, §109, §136), while civil society appears as she did has ever done before the desire to control any negative consequences of progress: an increasing number of standards and regulations clearly show the permanent concern of the legislature and the public authorities to regulate the consequences of innovations and, most importantly, the precautionary principle, a principle enshrined in the constitution with all due solemnity, is a major advance, based on an innovative approach to how far were treated risk that technical innovations are likely to result. Why the encyclical did she say anything? Reasonably applied this principle should enable the control of future developments that all yearn, without giving the expected benefits of scientific progress.

Finally, how can we be as restrictive when it is known, and these are just two examples that one billion men, and no doubt many more were fired from misery by the progress of agriculture and means transportation and child mortality fell by almost half between 1990 and 2013 (UNICEF report released on 16/09/15) due to advances in medicine and hygiene? All this is disturbing and shows, in my view, a lack of confidence vis-à-vis the man and what he might do in the future.

Rhetoric appearance of text

The sincere convictions of the author, the relevance of certain arguments and sympathy that personally inspires the reader can push to take out a little fast with the views developed in the encyclical. Nevertheless, we must be aware that the views expressed are without debate and that the legitimate objections of those even good Christians, who are of a different opinion are almost always ignored. The rhetoric of our Holy Father, perfectly controlled, is very much there.

The technical methods include

• Lending to extravagant opinions opponents to discredit them (§144 and §196).

• Use pejorative terms to describe the attitudes, practices, systems that we fight “instrumental reason” (§219), “magic market design”, “irrational confidence in progress (§19)”, “paradigm dominant technocratic “(§81),” iron logic “(§108) etc. The next step is the demonization on purely ideological grounds and finally the debate without conviction. This led very ably without anathema too loud, without overtly vindictive.

• Give special meaning to a general phenomenon: the fact that the regulation is not applied, which is observed in all areas, would the sign in offending a particular hostility to environmental concerns. Always and everywhere the economic actors seeking to turn the laws and regulations for control and regulatory authorities to do their job, politicians to demand that investigations are made and the penalties imposed and enforced.

• The vocabulary to impress: for example, the word self-referentiality (§208); in the context where it is used egocentrism would have been more appropriate and understandable to the uninitiated.

Methodological problem in practical action

Certainly the issues of environment and social justice have links; it’s not as far as actions to improve the situation in each of these areas must be packed together: if one expects that democratic countries have abandoned the liberal economy for s’ engage in measures to limit global warming, the situation is not going to improve.

 

Conclusion

The prophetic accents of the Pope in the question time on the relevance of our economically advanced societies development models can provide the comforting feeling that someone finally has a compass. That the Pope and the ambition to play the role of inspirational guide seems quite natural. And you have to admire his boldness and communicative strength of his convictions. However, it appears that conversion to which he invites us must be accompanied by the rejection of the liberal market economy. This is a heavy option that deserves a specific debate. Especially since, to my knowledge, the definition of compatible economic system with the teaching of Scripture is an open question and that the founding principles of ecology do not imply, either, to discard a particular system.

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Author: Jean-Pierre Sarrau