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Monday, May 14, 2007

Social Justice: Another Look

"...there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God..." Deuteronomy 15:4-5

Awhile back I heard Ron Sider from Evangelicals for Social Action speak at Anderson University.  I have read him and used the organization as a resource for various times in the past several years and also receive ESA's weekly e-newsletter called the E-Pistle.  I highly recommend looking into it if you want to learn more about Biblical Social Justice.  I don't like everything they say nor do I read every article, but overall worth the time to get their e-mail!

Anyway, when I heard Ron speak they gave out free copies of their magazine called Prism.  Same as the newsletter they occasionally have really good articles/issues. The March/April 2007 issue happened to be one of the really good issues.  So I'm going to highlight some of the articles for your indulgence over the next days!

First, Globalization and the Poor: Reflections of a Christian Economist by Bruce Wydick

Wydick begins by outlining three Globalization and Biblical Principles.  These are:

  1. God cares about the poor and about the response of the rich to the poor among them.

  2. Interdependence between people is a community ideal.

  3. God is not a patriot

With those premises he moves on to discuss fairness and exploitation and how the discussion about globalization has only reflected the interests of the wealthy. By no means an isolationist, Wydick sees the need for a global economy and supports such as long as it does produce benefits for everyone.

Some good quotes:

Here is how trade affects the poor across the world today: Trade typically hurts poor workers in rich countries like the United States, and helps poor workers in developing countries. This would seem to then create an ethically ambiguous effect of trade based on biblical principle #1, but this is where biblical principle #3 comes into play. As Christians, we cannot oppose economic globalization because we favor the well-being of our workers over workers in other countries.
As such "Buy America" campaigns are inconsistent with a Biblical view of justice. On the contrary, because workers in other countries are poorer than even the poorest of our displaced workers, we should welcome new opportunities that arise for workers in the developing countries, while supporting a strong social safety net and generous re-training and educational programs for our own displaced workers at home.  We should also advocate for the humane treatment of workers everywhere through political pressure and being wise about the products we buy.  Low wages in developing countries do not have to equal human degradation.

Wydick concludes the article talking about barriers to Fair Trade around the world.  One stark example, which I've discussed before is agricultural subsidies:

One of the more appalling examples is the $4 billion in agricultural subsidies 25,000 U.S. cotton farmers receive to grow $3 billion worth of cotton. According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee, an international consulting organization, these U.S. cotton subsidies have caused a 26% decline in world cotton prices.

The massive subsidy greatly depresses world prices for cotton, helping to keep 15 million cotton farmers mired in poverty from some of the poorest countries in West Africa, including Benin, Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso. Notice that if farming costs for cotton farmers in these countries are, say, one-half of revenues, this means that U.S. cotton subsidies cut household income by more than half for these rural families! Such policies clearly contradict Biblical principles #1 and #2, but are supported by the "Bible Belt" states
of the Midwest.

I think I would agree with Wydick on this issue.  Globalization does not have to be a bad thing for anyone.  I've written before about US Policy that is killing millions of our brothers and sisters in the developing world.  It seems impossible that a congressional representative from the Midwest would have the desire to remove these subsidies, but it is something that needs to be addressed at some point.

  1. Support Fair Trade enterprises

  2. Support organizations that are working in the developing world, helping provide opportunities to lift people out of poverty.

  3. Pray!

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