This Economy Kills: Healing the Human Environment in Pope Francis's Fratelli Tutti (Brothers & Sisters All) / Sister Helen Alford


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Shortly after Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March 2013, he released an exhortation, very similar to an encyclical, but addressed to a Christian audience. "Evangelii Guadium” or the "Joy of the Gospel,” begins by articulating the most pressing challenges for the contemporary Church. First on his list is the economy of exclusion. What does he mean by that? He writes:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. (Evangelii Gaudium)

Sister Helen Alford reflects on the economic implications of Pope Francis's Fratelli Tutti, including concerns about unrestrained free markets, the importance of allowing human life and dignity to frame our economic policy, what behavioral economics tells us about human relationality, and how we can understand the big picture of politics, economics, faith, and flourishing operating in Catholic social thought. Interview by Ryan McAnnally-Linz.

Show Notes

  • What is the goal of Fratelli Tutti? (And understanding it in light of 2015’s Laudato Si: Care of Our Common Home.)
  • Integral ecology: how we relate to each other in our nature environment (ecology) and human environment (economy)
  • Ecology and economy share a common root: oikos (home)
  • An economy that puts life and human dignity at the center, which also means respect for the environment
  • The economic donut principle: the inner ring is social minimum to take care of all people, the outer ring is the environmental ceiling for impact. We need to live within the donut!
  • "Fratelli tutti wants to see the economy as situated within a bigger vision of human development"
  • Economy is like the foundation of a house, it’s not built for its own sake, but to support the whole house and the people in it. The economy must serve the common good—for all of us, in an integrated way.
  • The primacy of politics: "We need a political order that’s going to give proper direction to the economy."
  • "We see how difficult it is to make a political system function today."
  • The economy is a good tool but a bad master. It must serve, not rule.
  • The problem with unrestrained free markets
  • Understanding the vision of human flourishing implied in the free market economy
  • "The Ultimatum Game": An experiment in behavioral economics
  • Relational beings in the economy; relationships really count in economic interactions
  • Beings in relation; understanding the humanity at the core of economics
  • How theology, biology, and economics all suggest cooperation and relationally is built into human beings.
  • Long term ideas that impact our concept of work and the human person
  • Rarum novarum and solidarity between workers and owners, and solidarity between workers together
  • Solidarity as a strategy for affirming dignity among all humanity
  • "The shape of human flourishing and how to reach it"—Charles Taylor on Fratelli Tutti
  • "Let us dream as a single human family.” Pope Francis
  • What is Pope Francis’s vision for a full and flourishing life?
  • Human rights, human development and resources, moral and spiritual goods
  • Increasing diversity, having dialogue with each other and living together in real encounter, loving each other within diversity

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