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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 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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