17 January 2014

World Economic Forum backs the Pope on economic inequality

Every year the World Economic Forum hosts a confab of the world's elite at the Swiss resort of Davos to discuss the state of the world. The Forum is funded by its 1,000 member companies, global enterprises who play a leading role in shaping the future of their industry or region. As this year's meeting rapidly approaches, the Forum has announced that the greatest threat to the global economy in the coming years is the gap between the rich and the poor.

On reading that, I immediately thought about the similarity of the pronouncement to the words of Pope Francis in his recent attack on the evils of unfettered capitalism. "Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world," said the Pope, "This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

These words earned him a torrent of abuse from the political right, including accusations that he was a Marxist. His response, "The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended," didn't help.

But what is the right to say now that an association of the world's leading capitalists appears to agree with him? With both the religious and corporate elites onside, it would seem that the argument about inequality is settled for conservatives, at least rational ones. The prevailing inequality in the world is a grave threat both morally and economically. Case closed.

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