Memorial lecture musings

One of the ideas that struck me from the lecture last Wednesday was the analysis that scarcity was not the fundamental problem of humanity. I’ve long been dissatisfied with capitalism as the model for our society because its values and goals seem so at odds with the values I believe would make a better society. So to say that scarcity is not the problem is to undermine the philosophy of capitalism, which is predicated on scarcity to create demand and therefore increase productivity and growth. Jim Wallis, in “Rediscovering Values” which I am just reading, says that we do not live with scarcity but with God’s abundance. Wells said that scarcity or otherwise is not even relevant – whether we have much or little, fundamentally poverty is in our isolation, and the solution lies in relationships.

At another point in the lecture, Wells talked about the difference between contract and covenant, where contracts have their place, but you don’t want to make a contract with someone to hold your hand when you die. Rather, you want that person to be someone you love. In this analysis, relationships can’t be bundled up and commodified. I interpret Wells’ analysis to suggest that capitalism and its search for wealth and economic growth will not alleviate poverty. Rather, community and relationships will. And, in a happy tie-in with my own research, these are two of the intrinsic goals and self transcendent values identified by Common Cause as being associated with engagement with issues such as climate change and global poverty.

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