On November 29, Acton Institute and the Pontifical Gregorian University co-hosted a special one-day conference in Rome: “Globalization, Justice and the Economy: The Jesuit Contribution.” The popular event, the largest conference for Istituto Acton and the Pontifical Gregorian University, had nearly 400 attendees and was standing room only for many of the lectures. It was attended by a healthy mix of students, professors, diplomats, journalists and lay professionals from all over the globe. Istituto Acton has been hosting and planning academic events in Rome for 17 years.
The current era of globalization, with all its opportunities and challenges, is not the first time the Church has had to grapple with economic changes on a global scale. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, Catholic theologians explored the moral, political and economic implications of expanding commerce and trade routes across the globe – to India, China, Africa and, of course, the New World.
Many of these theologians and moralists were members of the recently founded Society of Jesus. Jesuits such as Juan de Mariana, Luis de Molina and Leonardus Lessius explored the ethics of contracts, trade, money and the state’s role in the economy. They also made important, though often overlooked, contributions to the development of economics and political economy.
The 2017 Novak Award winner, Wim Decock, presented the Calihan Lecture, “Knowing before Judging: Law and Economic Analysis in Early Modern Jesuit Ethics.” Following the conference, he was officially presented with the Novak Award and $15,000 in prize money. The Novak Award, honoring the late Michael Novak, recognizes scholars early in their academic career who demonstrate outstanding intellectual merit in advancing the understanding of theology’s connection to human dignity, the importance of the rule of law, limited government, religious liberty and freedom in economic life.
Other speakers at the November 29 conference included Rev. Dr. Diego Alonso-Lasheras of the Pontifical Gregorian University, Alejandro Chafuen of the Atlas Network and Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute. Gregg opened the conference with a lecture on the Renaissance’s commercial revolution. “One of the Commercial Revolution’s most important features,” Gregg noted, “was growth in the available amounts of capital. . . . This was accompanied by increased trading in money and credit, and accelerating demand for commercial loans. This internationalization of finance followed and facilitated the internationalization of European economies.”
In the next speech, Alonso-Lasheras described Luis de Molina’s three types of value (legal, just and natural) to explain the notion of a fair price. “The natural price,” he explained, “was the price of a good determined by the nature of the good itself, without the intervention of a human law or decree.” Chafuen lectured on the relationship between Christian anthropology and commercial exchange, focusing on the writings of Juan de Mariana, a 16th-century Spanish Jesuit priest.
The event was free and open to the public. The entire conference was livestreamed so viewers all over the world could join the event. You can watch a recording of the conference at acton.org/Rome2017.