Prosperity and Justice for All: Why solidarity and fraternity are key to an efficient, ethical economy
Part of book or chapter of book
- Publisher: Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Faced with the ‘economy of exclusion’ that brackets fraternity out of the picture, the only genuine alternative is to bind higher purposes such as individual virtue and public honour to institutions and practices that can provide prosperity and flourishing for the many. In this essay, I argue that solidarity is key to an economy that is both more ethical and more productive. Both solidarity and fraternity rest on the idea of social reciprocity: for example, balancing individual rights with mutual obligations; brokering collaboration out of conflicts of interest by appealing to the common good that serves both personal interest and social benefit. In this manner, fraternity and solidarity can foster the interpersonal trust and cooperation on which a vibrant economy and flourishing society depend.\ud \ud The prevailing system is based upon a double impersonalism of commercial contract between strangers, and individual entitlement in relation to the bureaucratic machine. By making social reciprocity the ultimate principle that governs both the economic and the political realm, solidarity can avoid the two extremes characterising contemporary capitalism: contract without gift, plus the unilateral and poisoned gift from nowhere that is rationalised state welfare. The alternative, which this essay defends, seeks to fuse contract with gift. In theory and practice, binding contract to gift means mutualising the market, pluralising the state and re-embedding both in the relations that constitute society. Far from being utopian, solidarity so defined is indispensable to an economy that promotes greater innovation, higher productivity and more stable growth, which in turn can sustain rising employment and superior pay.\ud \ud Section one explores how the meaning of solidarity and fraternity has evolved since the French Revolution elevated ‘fraternity’ alongside ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ into a foundational value of modern politics. Section two focuses on Catholic social teaching and the ways in which it renews and extends the ancient and Christian tradition of ‘solidarism’. Section three turns to the application of solidarity to the market, while section four examines how it can transform the state. Both sections 3 and 4 try to combine concepts with novel policy ideas. The conclusion briefly summarises my argument and the key policy recommendations.