Pope Francis wrote a letter to David Cameron, the former UK Prime Minister, during the G8 Meeting held on 17-18 June 2013. In the letter, the Holy Father states “the goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be, even in their mothers’s womb”. The Pope’s words bear special significance in light of the ongoing global billionaire’s race to go to space. Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson ‘inspired’ billions globally as they looked literally and figuratively looked down upon everyone and asked; can you see us? The powers that be refused or overlooked the widely circulated petition to let Jeff Bezos particularly, permanently reside in space. The public bile towards such extravagance in the face of a global pandemic and increasing inequalities indicate a flawed world order that does provide the minimum wherewithal for all human beings to live in dignity and freedom through self-sustenance.
Covid Billionaires and Paupers
The 2021 World Bank Report estimates as many as 150 million people sank into extreme poverty as a direct consequence of the covid pandemic globally. On the other hand, a Bloomberg reported how Jeff Bezos gained $13 billion in a single day. Well, these figures are astronomical and deeply disturbing. How can dignity and freedom be realizable under such extremes? Pope Francis, in the address to new Vatican Ambassadors on May 16, 2013, says “While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling…a new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules”. Money should serve the public not rule.
However, a powerful minority with money influences key social policies such as taxation, housing, climate protection, and ultimately, the ability of the majority to live a dignified and free life. The Guardian newspaper explains a single rocket launch emits 200-300 tons of carbon dioxide into the upper atmosphere shared by four passengers. Contextually, a single rocket launch releases one-fifth of carbon emissions from global aviation annually. Unsurprisingly, there are no regulations on rocket emissions.
Rethinking Capitalism to serve all
Free markets and capitalism epitomize America’s existence. That’s what makes America a land of opportunities. However, if an economic model concentrates capital in the hands of the minority, is it sustainable? Therein lies the complexities of capitalism. The Holy Father, during the Vigil of the Pentecost, held on May 18, 2013, explores this complexity by stating “this happens today: if the investments in the banks fall slightly… a tragedy… what can be done? But if people die of hunger, if they have nothing to eat, if they have poor health, it does not matter! This is our crisis today”. Such is the tragedy of our age!
The Holy Father’s words condemn the pervasive and corrosive nature of materialism at the heart of capitalism. The need to rethink capitalism arises from a need to put humanity at the heart of political and economic activities. The majority are not a means to an end. Moreover, these issues are not confined to America but rather globally. International peace, respect for human rights, and freedom start with creating an environment that caters to the needs of the populace. Hunger, abuse of rights, and diseases, among other scourges are not external to the global economy as the pandemic proved.
Humanity is the ultimate goal
Lastly, in the closing sections of the letter to David Cameron during the G8 Meeting in 2013, the Holy Father reminds the global leaders of “the primary importance of putting humanity, every single man and woman, at the center of all political and economic activity, both nationally and internationally, because man is the truest and deepest resource for politics and economics, as well as their ultimate end”. What a profound message to prick the indifference displayed towards the ever-widening global economic inequalities!