The Common Good
May 2004

Christian Responses to Globalization

by Vinoth Ramachandra | May 2004

Promoting Democracy.

Promoting Democracy. This is not democracy understood as majority rule or merely Western-style electoral politics, but as public accountability, transparency, and grassroots participation. Not only national governments but also powerful transnational actors such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO have to be challenged to become more participatory and truly accountable.

Given that the church is the only truly global community in the world, why cannot some lawyers and economists from the worldwide church offer their services free of charge to poor nations to, for example, secure fair terms of trade at WTO meetings?

Tackling Corruption. Corruption and tax evasion are two principal contributors to the poverty of the global South. Rich corporations and executives store their profits in offshore tax havens, even as they enjoy the public goods (such as parks, roads, airports, and universities) that local taxpayers make possible. Corruption in poor nations would not be possible without the tacit support, and often the active involvement, of rich corporations, banks, and governments in the North.

Why can’t Christian churches and NGOs put pressure on European and American banks to give back the billions of dollars they have received from corrupt Third World politicians and military generals—money stolen from the Third World poor? We should also demand that the Swiss banking system be reformed and that the status of offshore tax havens be withdrawn.

Protecting Market Morality. Political philosopher Raymond Plant pointed out that there is a moral underpinning to markets, often called "civic virtue"—moral attitudes of trust, promise-keeping, and truth-telling that are indispensable for contractual relations and the viable functioning of the economy. Plant wrote: "If…business relationships turn into a wholly buccaneering, enterprising sort, then there is at least some danger...that the moral assumptions on which the market exchange rests could, in fact, be eroded by a culture of self-interest." So, just as the authority of government can be increased by limiting its scope, "the legitimacy of markets may yet depend on keeping them in their proper place."

Genuine market freedom is surely one that is free for everyone, rather than one in which the powerful are free to seize the commanding heights of the economy and control politicians. The prerequisite of freedom is effective regulation that distinguishes between the protection of workers, consumers, and the ecosystem, and trade protectionism of "national interests."

Seeking Ecological Justice. Solutions to ecological problems such as global warming can only come from a sense of human empathy and solidarity that might temper the short-sighted greed of purely commercial society. A white child born in New York, Paris, or London will consume, pollute, and waste more in his or her lifetime than 50 children born in a developing country—while the latter children are the most likely to die from ensuing pollution and global warming. Christians, especially those in the rich nations and among the wealthier elites of poor nations, need to preach and demonstrate a gospel that has the power to liberate men and women from idolatry and greed, and to work with all who aspire for a more responsible use of the world’s resources.

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