Seton Hall University Holds International Economic Summit
"The modern problem of justice in economic affairs is the non-existence of an intelligent and responsible account of economics." (Bernard J. Lonergan, S.J.)
On June 19 and 20, 2009, international scholars, economists, business men and women gathered at a two-day economic summit titled "Forging A New Economic Paradigm" on the campus of Seton Hall University to examine the writings and theories of renowned philosopher and theologian Bernard J. Lonergan, S.J. (1904-1984).
From the writings of the Popes to the calls from every strata of the economic spectrum, from laid off workers to financiers, it is clear that, in the words of George Soros, a "new paradigm is needed." What is called for is a new way of thinking about the economy that has its basis in justice and the common good. The Seton Hall Economic Summit was an important step in this direction.
Featuring a wide array of renowned speakers and panelists, including Bloomberg Radio's Tom Keene and The Morey Organization's James Blake, the Summit consisted of two parts. Part 1 (June 19) consisted of talks and discussion of Lonergan's basic understanding of a functioning economy. In Part 2 (June 20), scholars and economists presented papers on new directions that must be taken.
A program of the Micah Business Leadership Project, the Summit was co-sponsored by the Center for Catholic Studies and the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute at Seton Hall University, both directed by Monsignor Richard M. Liddy, Ph.D.
Bernard Lonergan was a Canadian Jesuit who taught for many years at the Gregorian University in Rome. His lifetime of work included a penetrating account of how the economy "works" and consequently the ethical implications of economic activity at different phases of economic expansion and contraction. His For a New Political Economy was originally written in response to the Great Depression in order to help the devastated "widows and orphans." Later in his life, he returned to economics and wrote Macrodynamics: An Essay in Circulation Analysis on the circulation of money. Both works are published by the University of Toronto Press.
Lonergan felt that the fundamental issue in raising the standard of living was a correct understanding of economics. "We tend to step on the accelerator and the brake at the same time, creating the booms and busts that afflict the modern economy," he has said. But while moralists tend to blame greed as the primary cause, Lonergan believed the real cause is ignorance.
"When people do not understand what is happening and why, they cannot be expected to act intelligently. When intelligence is blank, the first law of nature takes over: self preservation. It is not primarily greed but frantic efforts at self preservation that turns recession into depression, and depression into crash."
Lonergan also believed that what the world needed in order to handle the modern economy was a wide-spread economic education so that persons could act ethically in their economic activity. He wrote: "We have to do a lot of thinking and a lot of education before we can hope that our exchange process will swing easily and gracefully from an expansion not a static phase instead of falling clumsily and painfully into a slump." The recent financial crisis makes Lonergan's work more necessary than ever.
Founded at Seton Hall University in 1997, the Center for Catholic Studies is rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition and is dedicated to fostering a dialogue between religion and all areas of contemporary culture, including science, the humanities and professional life. The Center sponsors an undergraduate degree program in Catholic Studies, offering a major, minor, certificate program and foreign study opportunities. In addition to presenting programs on faith and culture for students, faculty and the public, the Center includes the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute, the Micah Institute for Business and Economics, and the G. K. Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture, with its prestigious journal, The Chesterton Review. Please visit our Web site at academic.shu.edu/ccs.
For over 150 years, Seton Hall University has been a catalyst for leadership, developing the whole student, mind, heart and spirit. Seton Hall combines the resources of a large university with the personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Its attractive suburban campus is only 14 miles by train, bus or car to New York City, with the wealth of employment, internship, cultural and entertainment opportunities the city offers. Seton Hall is a Catholic university that embraces students of all races and religions, challenging each to better the world through integrity, compassion and a commitment to serving others. For more information, see www.shu.edu
CAPTION FOR PHOTO: Monsignor Richard M. Liddy (left), Director of the Center for Catholic Studies, takes a short break during "Forging a New Economic Paradigm" to pose for a photo with Thomas R. Keene (right), editor-at-large for Bloomberg News.