On Oct. 23, before a capacity-audience at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the Acton Institute and Italian publishing house Fede e Cultura launched Robert G. Kennedy’s Il bene che fanno gli affari (original title “The Good That Business Does,” Acton, 2006, Christian Social Thought Series).
The pontifical university’s research center, Markets, Culture and Ethics, acted as co-sponsor with its vice academic director Dr. Juan Andres Mercado moderating the evening’s dialogue between the author and his two discussants – Salvatore Rebecchini, a commissioner from the Italian Antitrust Authority, and Giovanni Scanagatta, general secretary of Italy’s Union of Christian Entrepreneurs and Managers.
Kennedy told those in attendance that his book’s thesis was guided by a timeless principle of Catholic Social Teaching, namely, that all persons are born in the image of God, and therefore are called to be creative, rational and volitional agents of goodness in all their activities, including those of a commercial nature. He, however, said that the genesis of the book was to challenge the “perception of many who wonder how business can be justified” and therefore wanted to answer “this question of legitimacy.”
One opinion we hear about business, he said, is as “old as Plato and Aristotle, [namely] that it is sort of necessary evil.” He said many people see a need to have business in society for some useful reasons, like the pastors who denounce money-making and commerce in sermons, yet “ask [wealthy parishioners] for donations for the organ” after worship services.
He said the good of wealth creation is often overlooked: “It was commonly believed in the ancient world and throughout the Middle Ages –- and I think this has distorted the Church’s view of business — that business can only ‘distribute’ [and not ‘create’] wealth.”
“It is as if the merchant is transferring wealth from one group of people to himself,” Kennedy said. Yet today’s economic experts agree business is capable of creating “new wealth which leads to the prosperity of the whole community.” The global market, he said, has literally lifted “billions out of extreme poverty,” referring to China, India and some African nations as good examples of increased prosperity due to increased business.
Listen to Robert Kennedy’s interview on Vatican Radio.