09 August 2009

"Caritas in Veritate" by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI has recently issued an encyclical (translating to "Charity in Truth") that emphasizes, among other things, ethics in business. The encyclical avers that outsourcing by business enterprises "weakens responsibility towards stakeholders such as workers, suppliers, consumers, natural environment and broader society in favor of shareholders". The Pope does not approve "outsourcing" because it shifts economic activity from one community to another!

Question 1 from a "moral perspective": I can understand someone responsible for a geographic constituency lamenting the loss of "economic activity" to a different geographic constituency. How can someone whose constituency covers the entire world lament loss of jobs from one region to another? Does the Pope care more for stakeholders in one economic region than another?

Question 2 from an "economic perspective": All trades (in goods and services) shift "economic activity" from buyer region to seller region. Outsourcing is just one more form of trade. Does the encyclical apply therefore to all trade? Does this mean it is "Christian" behavior for Indians to not buy American aircraft, Canadian tractors, French wine, German cars or see English movies? If the encyclical does not apply to all trade, is it because the Pope believes these purchases are being made because of superior quality of products/services and not because of value in use? Would the encyclical then exclude "outsourcing" attributable to superior quality of goods and services?

I often imagine what would Jesus Christ do if He were to talk with us today. I am sure, in this instance, he would recognize that outsourcing (a) enhances value to consumer (b) knits people together and (c) spreads wealth more evenly. He would have been happy about the latter two for He is compassionate to all mankind; not just the Asia He hailed from. He would not have had strong opinions about economic value to consumer because he probably would have thought that you should "render unto Caesar things that are Caesar's and render unto God things that are God's".

I sincerely hope it does not take the Church too long to modify its views on outsourcing. St Thomas (the apostle who landed in India twenty centuries back to spread His message) would yearn that for his constituency!

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