Addressing the problem of inequality

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Sunday, August 3, 2014


DURING the martial law years I sympathized with the revolutionary movement of the NPA. We learned there that the three basic problems of society are US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. We called them the three basic evils.

Though much of this may be true, I have learned over the years that you have to take this with a grain of salt. During the early nineties, after the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union the movement wanted to re-affirm again these basic evils but then there came a split within the movement between the so-called re-affirmists (RA) and the rejectionists (RJ).

I didn’t join either of the two and I had lost my sympathy with the movement for various other reasons. US imperialism is no longer what it used to be in the old days and it has changed very much under President Obama.

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China is now the new imperialist power in the world and you have to watch this as an evil. Look what is happening in the China Sea and there are plenty of ‘China made’ products that are pure imitations of an inferior quality, which are flooding our markets. Feudalism and capitalism still exist but we must modify them in the context of our present market system.

In one of my former columns, I have argued that there is a tremendous gap between the rich and the poor in the world. The President of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ms. Christine Lagarde, has said jokingly that the 85 richest people in the world could fit into a double-decker tourist bus.

They control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world population. Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium criticized the “trickle-down” economic theory, which argues that the wealth of those at higher income levels filters down on those of lower income. That is clearly not true and our free market system must be put under control. Ms. Lagarde speaks of an “Inclusive Capitalism.”

The business world must look at itself as a vocation, an activity with high ethical standards. The business man is not just in business to make profits. He must not just invest in economic capital but also in social capital.

That means, he has a social responsibility toward the buying public, especially towards the poor. That is what Lagarde calls ‘inclusive capitalism’ which is different from bureaucrat capitalism. It is there where individual virtue and collective prosperity can flourish.

Some American bishops criticized Pope Francis’ leadership style. They suggested that the Pope’s critique of today’s economic arrangements had more to do with crony capitalism in developing countries, like Argentina, Eastern Europe or Africa. But an American Jesuit from Georgetown University commented that it was the “no-holds-barred American capitalism” that caused the worst recession since the 1920s.

Capitalism in itself is not an evil. It becomes an evil if it is used only to make profits and often at the expense of the poor. A friend of mine in the movement said once: Jesus Christ was the first Communist, because He taught his disciples that they shouldn’t have any private property and sell everything they have and give it to the poor.

The monastic orders during the Middle Ages adopted this policy among themselves. Their ideal was: sint vobis omnia communia. You must have everything in common with each other. This should be the disposition of every follower of Christ. Share everything you have with each other, especially with the poor and those in need. Then the problem of inequality is no more. The three basic evils have been eliminated from society.

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 04, 2014.

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