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Lord Brian Griffiths of Goldman Sachs on Globalization

11/17/2006 - 6:30 AM PST

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potential the Church has to tackle poverty.

You know in Africa the Christian Church is an amazing institution. In 1960 there were 60 million people who called themselves Christian in sub-Saharan Africa; today there are nearly 400 million. If you think of the potential of those people in terms of their own economic development, it is tremendous. The challenge to us in the West is find ways we can help them develop.

Q: What role has faith played in your work?

Griffiths: I am a member of the Church of England, but I have to say that Roman Catholic social thought, as it has developed from 1891, has had a great impact on me personally.

When I was advising Margaret Thatcher it was a frame of reference, a way of thinking about social, economic and political problems which I think is really very profound.

And I would say that the great danger today is that the whole debate on globalization is seen almost entirely in secular terms. The terms of the debate and the way it is conducted, it is all about money, it's all about foreign aid, it's about trade liberalization. It's that kind of debate.

But we know as Christians that the heart of life is fundamentally spiritual. The challenge is how can we as Christians express our concerns as Jesus did for the poor, but also how can we ensure that we are not simply doing the same thing as government departments, international agencies.

How do we really bring that Christian spirit to bear in the way that we do things? In "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict XVI makes it very clear that the Church is an expression of something unique because it is the spirit of Christ. I have found that over 40 years that this is most relevant to our current economic challenges.

Q: After the failure of communism, why is capitalism still criticized so much, even in Eastern Europe? What are people missing or deliberately ignoring?

Griffiths: First of all, I don't like the word "capitalism" because it is an ideology and it comes with a lot of baggage. I prefer the expression "market economy."

The market economy is far from perfect because companies want to be monopolies, and sometimes you get enormous imbalances in the market economy, in income distribution. People can become very successful, they can make a lot of money and some of them have no regard for others, so we can't justify all outcomes in the market economy.

But if you compare the market economy with all its faults to a Marxist system, there is no question in my mind that it is infinitely better for anyone.

If you ask, "Why don't people in Eastern Europe recognize the failings of socialism?" I think it is because people have very short memories. There are young people who know nothing of communism. Someone who was 5 years old in 1989 is today 22 or 23, so they didn't really experience communism.

People can be very naive and idealistic about socialism. They think socialism is about justice; in fact, Marxism was about power. When people have political power, they use it for their own interests and the result is a disaster for the rest of us.

Somewhere in the Bible it is said that the god of this world has blinded the minds of people. There are seriously intelligent people who, in my judgment, can't think straight in this area. When you confront them with the past, they always say that was a special case, if we did it again in a slightly different way today, the outcome would be different.

Referring again to Pope John Paul II, what they lack is a Christian vision of the human person, created in the image of God, but nevertheless very willful and fallen -- whereas they think of the human person as somebody who can be perfected. This is the ultimate fallacy of socialism. When people get power, what they do is abuse it, misuse it.

I think socialism and Marxism is a religion for them. They will not accept the evidence because they deny the reality of sin; they still feel human beings can be made perfect.


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Globalization, Goldman Sachs, Griffiths, Solidarity, Somogyi

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