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Lord Brian Griffiths of Goldman Sachs on Globalization

Interview With Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International

By Viktoria Somogyi

ROME, NOV. 17, 2006 (Zenit) - A prominent Anglican supporter of "Centesimus Annus" insists that "we haven't realized the potential the Church has to tackle poverty."

Lord Brian Griffiths, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, recently participated as a key lecturer in an Acton Institute conference in Rome on "Globalization and Poverty." The title of his speech was "'Centesimus Annus, Globalization and International Development."

Born in 1941 in Wales and educated at the London School of Economics, Griffiths was a lecturer in economics at that institution from 1965-76.

He served as a director of the Bank of England from 1985-1986. He also served as head of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit and as Special Adviser to Margaret Thatcher from 1985 to 1990.

He shared his ideas with us about Pope John Paul II's 1991 encyclical.

Q: What does "Centesimus Annus" have to say about globalization and international development?

Grffiths: Coming 100 years after "Rerum Novarum," the new development in "CA" was the collapse of communism. Today's conference is about the major new developments since 1991: first, the extent of globalization, and second, the concern of so many countries with the scandal of world poverty as shown by the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000. So what I am trying to do today is to relate the teaching of "CA" to these two new developments.

Q: Is globalization a new phenomenon?

Griffiths: Globalization has expanded enormously since the 1970s, when Deng Xiaoping opened China to the world economy. Since then, there has been dramatic success in China, as there now is in India. The amount of foreign investment going into China is more than the whole of foreign aid given to the developing countries.

But globalization is not a new phenomenon. You saw a lot of globalization in the 19th century and probably the "belle époque" of globalization was 25 years before World War I.

Q: What are the significant concerns over globalization?

Griffiths: There are many, but people presenting these concerns come from various ideological backgrounds.

I would say one concern is that institutions like IMF [International Monetary Fund] or the World Bank have imposed their worldview too much on developing countries and especially poor countries not in a position to resist them.

Secondly there is a concern that globalization is leading to environmental problems for which there is no real control.

Thirdly -- and this is something that John Paul II emphasized -- some people feel globalization has become a vehicle for a very libertarian and non-Christian culture.

I would say that the major criticisms of globalization come from people who lose, as there are winners and losers of globalization. The demonstrations during the G-8 meeting in Genoa and those against the IMF and the World Bank were held by people who are ideological Marxists.

But there are also members of the American trade unions who fear they will lose jobs, that jobs are moving to China. There are people who represent farming lobbies who also lose out to globalization.

In Britain, people are worried about jobs in the service industry moving from London to India. These jobs are in the back offices of accounting firms, investment banks, reading X-rays, etc. These can be easily done overnight in India and the results sent back the next day conveniently.

Q: What does Christian social teaching has to say about the issues of globalization and world poverty?

Griffiths: "Centesimus Annus" laid a very good foundation because its main thrust was to analyze why Marxist economies in Eastern Europe failed and why market economies were more successful. It said the key difference was between two approaches to life and views of the human person.

A Marxist sees the human person as just an atom in a society, totally materialistic, culturally determined, the product of evolution. Whereas a Christian sees the individual as created in the image of God, needing freedom to express himself and develop himself, which therefore requires private property rights, the freedom of a market and so on, but obviously within the context of justice.

The success of globalization depends on a Christian view of the human person rather than a Marxist view on the human person.

The Christian faith is directly relevant to issues of world poverty. When Jesus started his ministry in the synagogue, he said, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach the good news to the poor." As Christians, we have taken that very seriously and the Catholic Church has expressed it as a preferential option for the poor. If anything, we haven't realized the ...

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