http://atimes.com/atimes/images/spengler-logo-hat.gif Pope Benedict XVI argued when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that an unethical economy will destroy itself, and that economics cannot determine whether any activity is ethical or not. If the present economic crisis helps the West to reflect on its moral weakness, the cost well may be worth it.
Underlying the crisis is the Western world’s repudiation of life, through a hedonism that puts consumption or “self-realization” ahead of child-rearing. The developed world is shifting from a demographic profile in which the very young (children four years and under) outnumbered the elderly (65 and older), to a profile with 10 times as many retirees as children aged four or younger. Economics simply never has had to confront a situation in which the next generation simply failed turn up.
The future pope’s 1985 paper insists that it is mere moralizing, not morality, to dismiss what economics has learned about the market mechanism. But economics cannot find a remedy for the imagination of an evil heart, or a foolish one, for that matter. Ethics founded on religion are the precondition for long-term economic success, if for no other reason than economies depend on family formation. If the present economic crisis helps the West to reflect on its moral weakness, the cost well may be worth it.