‘New economic model needed’ – Jesuit theologian

March 9, 2010 in General, News

gohmanresa_01“What would have to change in the economy if we valued employment over economic growth?” Just one of the questions to be addressed by Jesuit theologian Gerry O’Hanlon SJ and policy analyst Nat O’Connor, from the independent think-tank TASC, at a seminar on ‘A New Economic Model for Irish Society’, Thursday 11 March at 8pm in Manresa Centre for Spirituality, Clontarf, Dublin 3. These and other issues will be debated in front of an open audience. The event is a follow-on to the Manresa winter seminar, when over a hundred people gathered to examine what a social justice/Christian response to the current economic crisis might entail. Dearbhail McDonald, legal editor of the Irish Independent, will chair the event. All are welcome. Read the full press release below.“Over 200,000 people are unemployed and over twice that number are on the live register. Yet the jobs crisis has not received the same level of immediate state reaction as the crisis in the banks. What would have to change in the economy if we valued employment over ‘economic growth’?” asks  Nat O’Connor.

According to Gerry O’Hanlon SJ, the government and political class are understandably working hard to restore stability and economic growth, “but they seem to think that they can keep the same old neo-liberal economic model that got us into this mess in the first place. They can’t. It can never be ‘business as usual’ again.”  Instead he wants them to consider:

  • A cap – or higher rate of tax – on higher-end salaries and bonuses in the banking and financial trading sectors
  • To lobby globally for a Tobin/Robin Hood tax on international currency and financial transactions
  • To reform corporate governance so that practices like cross-directorships and loans to Directors and CEOs in the banking sector are regulated- and more ordinarily vetoed altogether – so as to avoid conflicts of interest
  • To look for ways of including environmental and other social costs in the price of goods and services

The theologian and author of The Recession and God says we need a new debate to take place that is more radical than anything we’ve had before around banking, financial markets, the economy, politics and religion which might lead to a different, more integrated and just economic model.

Nat O’Connor, policy analyst with TASC (an independent think-tank dedicated to combating Ireland’s high level of economic inequality) believes that the country is in an unprecedented economic mess but proper debate about how to tackle it can only take place if people are aware and informed and often this is not the case.  “A lot of the commentary has suggested (explicitly in many cases) that ‘there is no other way’… The Government has ‘no choice’ but to cut public pay and social welfare. But politics is the art of the possible, and there are always choices that can be made.”  O’Connor believes that challenging the received wisdom can open up ways for new decisions that can benefit the whole of society not just those with the most powerful voices.

O’ Connor says the same is true regarding the issue of taxation and our general acceptance of the status quo thinking surrounding it. “The collapse in State tax revenue was in large part due to overreliance on construction and financial services. The ESRI states that ‘past policy mistakes make things much worse in Ireland than they would otherwise have been’, (Recovery Scenarios for Ireland, p. 1). What is different about Ireland’s tax system compared to other countries? What values inform it? How could it be changed?”

‘The Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising…it counts the destruction of the redwood…it does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials…it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile’ – Robert Kennedy, 1968.

In the light of the current economic crisis which is affecting all of us, not just in Ireland but globally, you are invited to participate in an evening of conversation at Manresa about an alternative way forward that would build on past experience and learn from past mistakes. Can we marry a new vision of human progress, inspired by authentic values, with concrete economic models without a simple return to ‘business as usual’? Can we learn from the current recession to develop a healthier notion of economic success?  Can we initiate a conversation among ourselves around banking, financial markets, the economy, culture and values, politics and religion which might lead to a different, more holistic economic model?

In this talk Fr. Gerry O’Hanlon, S.J., and Dr. Nat  O’Connor will present a different economic and theological analysis, and a different vision than is currently in place. Drawing on the rich resources of the Christian tradition, Gerry will argue for the need for a new, more socially responsible economic paradigm, based on a vision of the common good. He will urge that we use this time of crisis as an opportunity to commit ourselves to the search for a more sustainable future.  Convinced of the relevance of theological thought for practical living he will show how Christian wisdom can inform the debate and bring healing and vitality to a damaged society.  Dr. Nat O’Connor will argue that challenging the received wisdom can open up ways for new decisions that can benefit the whole of society, not just those with the most powerful voices.

For further information contact:

Cormac  McConnell
Communications Manager Manresa