I am writing this message today from Mexico City, where my hotel room looks out over busy streets packed with buyers and sellers. Does this commercial activity have any connection to the churches nearby? In the minds of many religious leaders, the only connection is that Jesus threw the money changers out of the Temple. To adopt that view, however, is to overlook the revolutionary (in the best sense) change that has come to Mexico and the entire world through the market economy.
It is superficial to assume that mutually beneficial trade is a mask for some form of human exploitation. If I were to follow one of the people I see from my hotel to his home tonight, it might not be unrealistic to hear him say, “Look at the great buy I got on shoes,” or “Look what that new factory down the street is producing,” or “Look what these vendors imported from abroad,” or “Look how much money we have left to buy food or save for an education.”
Commercial activity can be a form of social service. It provides not only for the rich but also for the middle class and the poor. It creates opportunities for people to better their lot in life, which means better diets and more access to health care. Working in the commercial sector can be consistent with the Gospel’s concern for human well-being.
Of course, the term globalization raises hackles on all sides of the political debate. Yet economic globalization means only that people of the world are increasingly cooperating in their economic lives to the mutual betterment of all.
The relationship between economic freedom and prosperity should be beyond dispute. Sadly, it is not. Many people of faith are profoundly confused on this topic, and part of the goal of the Acton Institute is to draw attention to the moral benefits of expanding trade and enterprise. Thanks to your support, the voice of the Acton Institute has made a huge difference in the ongoing debate.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico