Monday, July 20, 2009

Love in Truth Part II: On Development

In the second section of Caritas In Veritate (Love in Truth) Benedict gives three requirements for true development: freedom, truth, and charity. This section forces the reader to think well beyond the notions of development that reign in economics and public policy.

First, his eloquent defense of freedom in development:

Integral human development presupposes the responsible freedom of the individual and of peoples: no structure can guarantee this development over and above human responsibility. The "types of messianism which give promises but create illusions"[38] always build their case on a denial of the transcendent dimension of development, in the conviction that it lies entirely at their disposal. This false security becomes a weakness, because it involves reducing man to subservience, to a mere means for development, while the humility of those who accept a vocation is transformed into true autonomy, because it sets them free. 

Here Benedict seems to be critiquing theories of development that are overly technocratic. It is probably not a stretch to say that China's experiment with forced communal agriculture falls under this category. It might also be fair to say that uncompromising capitalist reforms imposed on a population could also fall prey to this critique, if in the process people's freedom to preserve important traditions is sacrificed on the altar of lowering transaction costs.

Benedict's second requirement for development is respect for the truth of our vocation (to pursue development). This he explains in the following way:

the Christian vision has the particular characteristic of asserting and justifying the unconditional value of the human person and the meaning of his growth. The Christian vocation to development helps to promote the advancement of all men and of the whole man.

We cannot limit development to the traditional economic domain of increasing wealth and opportunity, nor can we be content to improve the lot of many at the expense of the few. Thus we cannot pursue development separate from a strong commitment to the value of each person, in their entirety, as God intended them to be.

The last requirement for development, charity, ties this discussion back to the previous section. Here he gives us the most beautiful passage thus far:

Underdevelopment has an even more important cause than lack of deep thought: it is "the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples"[52]. Will it ever be possible to obtain this brotherhood by human effort alone? As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity.

Benedict is calling us to fully engage both our heads and our hearts in our vocation, because our goal is not only to improve the material well-being of our fellow human beings, but to restore relationships.

This understanding of development is wonderful in its completeness and compassion, though the term "development" as it is commonly used in economics is much more limited. It may be fair to say that all of economics (or at least all of the interesting parts) fall under this definition of development, and this vision could provide a nice broad framework for Christian activity in economics.

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