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The welfare state, ethics and economics - discussed in Krakow

"Building a commercial society. Culture and the path to prosperity".A conference was held on 19 May 2010 in Krakow, where ethics, economics, the welfare state, society and papal teachings were discussed by: Fr. Robert A. Sirico, prof. Leszek Balcerowicz, Dr. Mart Laar, Fr. Maciej Zięba, prof. John Kłos, Mr. Andrzej Baranski and John O'Sullivan. The conference was organized by the Acton Institute from the USA and PAFERE Foundation.

The meeting started with the letter addressed to participants from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, achbishop of Cracow and former secretary to the Pope, John Poul II. After a brief introduction by Fr. Robert Sirico, where he emphasized the social phenomena of post-communist countries, Professor Leszek Balcerowicz spoke. His lecture on "Economics and ethics in the welfare state" was devoted to the broad concept of the "welfare state" and how it is applied and enforced in different countries. The speaker criticized the principles of the modern welfare state, stressing that reforms in different countries should go toward reducing the redistribution of national wealth.

"In western countries, there are mere myths. One of them is suggests that if there is no welfare state, people won't have access to an education, health care, won't have old age pensions, etc. .. This is obviously a myth "- said Dr. Balcerowicz.  "In many countries, social welfare serves only the rich. Privileges such as pensions, are for people connected to the public administration"- he added. Concluding his lecture Balcerowicz mentioned the social impact of the dangers of the welfare state. "Above all, the welfare state destroys the greatest strength of society, which leads to real wealth, namely the motivation to work. Why should the work be done if there is money available without having to work...? This is immoral. It is not accidental that Greece has an employment rate of below 10 percent. This is an excellent example of a very bad welfare state. Systems such as the one in Greece do not encourage people to save money and accumulate wealth. Without such savings, in turn, there is no investment, and without them one cannot grow quickly, "- said the professor.

 Another speaker, Dr. Mart Laar, the former Prime Minister of Estonia and the Member of Parliament, focused on considerations of the transformation from communism to a free market economy. "It should be emphasized that without the influence of Pope John Paul II, this process would be impossible. His role and message was very important. Estonia, as is known, is a Lutheran country, however, John Paul II was viewed as our pope "- stressed at the former Prime Minister of Estonia. "The message of the Pope "touched" the heart of communism. The Pope spoke>> Do not be afraid! <<, And we all know that communism was based on terror and fear "- he added. Mart Laar recalled then how he approached the reforms of the Estonian economy. "The country was destroyed, ravaged by hyperinflation, the economy in 92 percent was dependent on Russia - if there was no supply of electricity from Russia we had no street lights. But beyond the economy, the former totalitarian regime also destroyed the souls of men. People were ministers of the state, deprived of a sense of responsibility for themselves, and could not make decisions ... The situation seemed hopeless. And then people chose to - I do not know why - some young people to choose me to power. When I became Prime Minister I was 32 years old, and most of my office was younger than me "- Mart Laar recalled. Land reform began in the spirit of the German "ordo-liberalizm" and the ideas of Milton Friedman. I introduced a flat tax. This resulted in the desired effect.

Mart Laar also mentioned the dangers faced by countries that have achieved economic success. "Now - said - when we have economic wealth, the distribution problem begins. Politicians begin to think in categories, how to leverage political gain on the wealth growth. This process has already begun and Estonia was affected." Former Estonian Prime Minister stressed, referring to the case of Greece, that the economic problems of one country should not be asking another country for money to solve the issues of the first. "We have to work alone. We must return to a normal way in which to be creative again, even if it is difficult and politically dangerous. In Estonia, this has been done. The welfare state model is not sustainable. The end the welfare state does not mean the end of social welfare. It may be better organized outside the current system. And this is the message of what we want to convey. We have experienced communism and we know what freedom means. And for free peoples, the welfare state cannot bring any good "- marking the end of his speech.

Father Maciej Zięba talked about misunderstandings between ethics and economics. Many theories are devoted to the analysis of the concept of "economy" and its evolution over the centuries. "Trade has not always enjoyed this prestige. In ancient times, the world of trade was the domain of plebeians, slaves, and ... women. It was not the nature of aristocratic culture. Males, by contrast, had to devote themselves to philosophy, feasting or war craft, and not dabble in physical labor, especially trade." Fr Zięba continued: "The economy was associated with greed, evil, and the exploitation of human naivety. Becoming wealthy was seen as unethical, brutal ..." As the speaker pointed out, these stereotypes have taken over the early Christians' minds, after all, brought up in this culture. Hence, they unilaterally interpret the gospel and all its parable of the rich and getting rich.

In the remainder of the lecture, Fr Zięba characterized how over the centuries the relationship between ethics and economics developed. He criticized the welfare state as an inappropriate way of solving the problems of those who do not succeed in the market. "Ethics is an element necessary for the existence of a free market. It is an element necessary for the existence of trust and predictability of behavior, and so the rationality of action. The last financial crisis and the present one in Greece are the best proof. The point is that in today's world, we manage to combine social efficiency and ethics "- Fr Zięba ended.

A discussion with the audience followed this part of the conference. (During this part the panel of speakers enjoyed controversial questions coming from the audience.)

 After the recess, the first speaker was Dr. John Kłos from the Catholic University of Lublin. He compared the free market economy to a desert, where a man who came from the world of planned economic issues, looks into the wilderness, an area which he would prefer to call the area of economic freedom and entrepreneurship. "This is something unknown to him. How is he supposed to know? He must find the appropriate language. There is a gap, which separates him from the new, different environment. He must be "tamed" to these new surroundings, this new reality. On the threshold, from one world to the new one, there is a certain semantic tension. If this tension is overcome the new language would be born. " Next prof. Kłos said: "The free market is such a santygma - word combination, which is something that we accept as obvious as static, as a uniform. But it's not true! It is a free market, indeed. Freedom is something different then the market." Then, the speaker focused on ways of solving the problems of tension between the various elements of reality, for example, between what is personal and what is social. He cited an example of amalgam, which already drew attention to Adam Smith, and then appealed to the teaching of John Paul II: "The social order will be more stable the more it won't contradict the benefits of the individual interests versus those of society as a whole. The Pope said that, where self-interest is violently removed, the system enters the heavy bureaucratic control. Of course, self-interest can get twisted, because I am not looking for such vocabulary in this semantic tension ... But now the question arises: Can we fix the mechanisms of state, namely the sanctions and orders, or do you have more influence on the human individual, that he is looking for a semantic solution to this tension? ". Professor Kłos gave another example of producers of liquors ... "To be able to produce a tincture and legalize it must go through a bureaucratic path by six ministries, therefore, through many of the rooms, which are home to the faculties, departments. The activities of tinctures producers ensures six ministries ... Someone who made the tincture>> from the heart <<, he could pour it>> to the heart <<another person must go through the drudgery of six government ministries"- said Prof. Kłos poetically.

Doctor Kłos drew attention to the specific understanding of the free market by people of the former communist system. They often see the free market as another government ministry, in which decisions are taken. "They think like this: earlier in the ministry was>> their's <<, and now there is>> ours <<. Therefore, "the individual" will now be worse off than "us". It is a static understanding of the market. The free market is anything but dynamic. For me this is a kind of meeting. In an atmosphere of freedom, man makes the market open by his actions. The State is like an embarrassing roommate that likes to live beyond his/her means. This often forces people to move out of the cell because it is no longer able to endure beyond this life. Man then becomes a petitioner, a client state. The Pope says: state intervention must be limited because the individual, the family, society, are from his previous ... State exists in order to protect the rights of the people, not in order to suppress them. I'm an optimist "- ended his speech prof. Kłos.

After Dr. Kłos spoke Mr. Andrew Barański, CEO of Herbewo International, member of the Program Council of PAFERE. He spoke about the prospects of the Polish economy over the next few decades from the perspective of a private entrepreneur. The speaker paid special attention to the bureaucratic constraints faced by Polish entrepreneurs. He cited examples of 'stupidity '- as he put it - Laws on the employment of firefighters in every company. "It may seem ridiculous, but the penalty for breaking this law, for example, an accountant who is active at home, reaches up to the tens of thousands zł. These are the same type of penalties as in the bloody dictatorships to expropriate the property of the people. " And he said: "Often, companies where one third of people work just to fulfill the tasks, which imposes its laws the legislature. The cause of the red tape - as pointed out by - among others is the "legal diarrhea." Multiplies the law to govern us, and still believes in that this will help somewhat. Other causes are the activities of lobbyists, often emerging corruption, development of trade associations, the myth that democracy is replaced by freedom, the media, which have no educational values, the myth of universal education - universities abound that graduates seem to do anything useless. "

 In the remainder of the time, Mr. Baranski's lecture focused on opportunities for Polish people: "We have a clean environment, free from soil lead, we have unregulated rivers, we have enormous potential in terms of bio-gas production. If only the state bureaucracy does not interfere - we have enormous opportunities for development and growth. The strength emerging from such a development could be a real Polish business class. I know many people who lead ethical lives, who have been raised in the "Church family." Ethics in business simply pays off. These entrepreneurs do not want any help from anyone, neither the European Union or from other institutions, from the offices. Also, these type of people do not want to be dependent on that sort of a system - not true entrepreneurs. Those who compromised their ethical codes bitterly pay for it. " At the end, the  President of Herbewo International said: "The question is whether the Polish innovation, entrepreneurship and enthusiasm can and will win over the corruption of bureaucracy?  Will it be the spirit of bureaucracy or entrepreneurship? Honesty, faith, our religion, innovation gives us hope that our nation has fallen from power and that it will be more developed than even the Greeks. "

The last speaker was John O'Sullivan is a British Conservative political commentator, founder of the New Atlantic Initiative. He spoke on "Morals and culture in the process of achieving prosperity." The speaker warned against building a utopian society. He quoted one of the classics, which stated that you need to build a society where no one has to be good. "Obviously it is a utopia. Rekindling good qualities in the people by means of social engineering cannot end well. However, attempts to regulate various domains in life are increasing. "

Speaking about the welfare state, the speaker stated that the release from poverty is something other than a redistribution of wealth. Often we are dealing with hypocrisy at various levels, that does not help the poor, and those who give often do not do it with heart and love. 'Earn as you can, save what you can and give what you can - this principle is largely correct. If we serve God and Mammon, remember to put God first "- John O'Sullivan said.

The crowning event was the Novak Award to, Fr. Kestutis Kevalas. The award was presented by Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute.

Pawel Sztąberek

translation: Kris Zawitkowski

photo. Pawel Tobola-Pertkiewicz

See photo report from the conference ...

More photos...


Soon, our website will post the video from this conference. Welcome!

Polish version...

Data dodania: 2010-06-05 13:37:56
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