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17 septembre 2007 1 17 /09 /septembre /2007 07:42
1.    Introduction
My profession is economics, consequently, a focus of my paper on „the defence of life“ is concerned just to the „economic antropology“ or to our „market experience“. A culture of market -or better- a spirit of consumerism- endangering the institution of family /and within our Western civilization/ even the future of life. The progress in modern reproductive medicine, pregenetic diagnosis, new methods of contraception or abortions etc., all this represent just capacities, capabilitis, potentials of today humankind; actual individual choices are deeply influenced by social structures of men and women /decisions „for contraception“, „for abortion“.../. My point is, that the spirit of consumer society is –step by step- desintegrating the hoseholds as economic agents, and destroying families as elementary cells of every society. I refer in this context to my regional report presented at the XII Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences /see Mlčoch 2006/ and other interventions at this conference entitled „Vanishing Youth? Solidarity with Children and Young People in an Age of Turbulence“/.  
    The etymology of Old Greek´s „Oikos nomikos“ shows that terms „economic of family“ /Schultz,T. /ed./ /Chicago 1974/, Becker,G.: „Treatise on the Family“?, Cambridge Mass.1991/.,  and even „institutional economics“ are pleonasms de facto. Oikosnomikos provided rules of sound governance of the household=family=firm. In our modern
„imperial economics“ we do not understand it this way: „firm“ and „family“ are methodologically separated from each other, and „rules“ and „calculations“ met again only recently. For millenia, in the Old and New Testaments and Psalm´s tradition sound rules of family life coincided with rules of governance and household management. This applies also for a pre-scientific period of economics. Only starting from Adam Smith´s Wealth of Nations onwards, we can trace a split between „family“ and „business“. Adam Smith  /and William Petty before him/ were seeking the source of wealth „outside family“, in the division of labor and cooperation, in the market. It is symptomatic for our times, that – as a result of the evolution of thinking in the euro-american civilisation – in many famous books about the „philosophy of freedom“, the „family“ as a „key ward“ is completely missing. The freedom is understood as a freedom of businesman, and the „prevailing tendency is still to treat the family as a dependent variable“ /Zamagni,S., p.9/.  Consequences of this way of thinking and „acting for  the best“ in this sense are disturbing.      

2.Occidental rationality:a critical frame of mind destroying the moral authority of family
In order to reveal millestones of this western thinking, allow me, please, to present here a sketch from the history of economics and sociology. According to Max Weber it was just occidental rationality and protestant ethics that provided an explanation for the fascinating social and economic dynamism of the market system. But, only few decades after Weber /1942/ Joseph Schumpeter wrote about capitalism´s tendency do decay. Apart from a crisis of corporate governance /in today language/ or perplexities in the operationalization of property rights he found another, even more important intrinsic force of this decay, i.e. desintegration of family.  
     The main desintegration force is just this occidental rationality, individualistic economic calculation of costs in private family life. The spouses cannot omit the personal burden of family´s ties in general, and of parenthood in particular, from the equation. The willingness to accept child is in conflict with the omnipresent spirit of utilitarism and the temptations of more and more diversified and attractive pleasures that the market offers. Morever, children do not present economic assets any more. Rather there are investment whose repayment period is too long. Schumpeter was aware that this „balance sheet“ of costs and profits/ joys of children is surely incomplete and  perhaps even principally wrong, but this awareness could not change his conclusion that „capitalism creates a critical frame of mind which, after having destroyed the moral authority of so many other institutions, in the end turns against its own“.    
    Another few decades after Schumpeter, Tibor Scitovsky came with his diagnosis of joyless economy and with an analysis of human desires „on the frontiers of economics“. At the same time Gary Becker provided a perfect economic analysis of the family in his „Treatise“, explaining what Scitovsky had described. In turn, Robert Esterlin pointed to a paradox that western families were richer but not happier on average. Joseph Schumpeter´s prophecy about the decay of the institution of family was presented as a description of American reality by Scitovsky and as a positive science by Becker, and even in the form of foolish rationality of economic man /Amartya Sen/. Ten years ago, professor of M.I.T. Lester C.Thurow, wrote in his „Future of Capitalism“: „Competitive individualism is growing at the expense of family´s solidarity. The „I“ consumption culture drives out the „We“ investment culture. ...Changes within capitalism are making the family and the market less and less compatible“ /Thurow, 1996, chapter „Economic viability of the family“ /pp.31-34/. Finally, Robert E.Lane /2000/ included family crisis into his list of „negative components“ of happiness in market democracies;  sub-chapter „The Triumph of the Market over the Family“ /p.113 ff:/  inspired me to the title of my own paper.       
   The word „Triumph“ appears in sub-titles of books: a triumph of American materialism /James Twitchell, 1999/, a triumph of capitalism in the West /de Soto, 2001/. But what triumph and at what price? The title of Twitchell´s book /“Lead us Into Temptation“/ is simply a blasphemy and an idolatry of consumption /“you are what you buy“!?/. The price for the slavery of consumption is „vanishing youth“, eroded family solidarity, lost of natural joy of children. Turbulences of our age are a consequence of our obsession with money. Ulrich Beck sees our age of turbulence as the risk society; on the other hand the ideology of consumerism is diffusing an illusion of riskless society with permanent growth of material consumption. Nevertheless the roots of these ideologies are not new: obsession with money is nihil novi sub sole. „People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs“ /St.Paul, 1 Timothy 6, 9-10/. What is really new in our times is the expansion of this line of thinking into nearly all spheres of life.     

3. „The nature of household“: competition between family and the market

Robert Lane´s „triumph of the market over the family“ is a journalist licence, but it has close parallel in institutional economics. Ronald Cose /well known for his „Nature of the Firm“, 1937/ has explained that a „frontier“ between an „organization“ and the „market“ results from a competition as well; returns to scale and transaction costs, tied with the specificity of assets, matter in the evaluation of these alternatives. Coase´s ingenious idea forms the basis of the modern theory of „vertical  integration represented for example by O.E.Williamson. The winners in this competition on global markets are transnational corporations. Asymetry of information and the principal-agent problem explain the erosion of corporate governance, which results into a tendency to mega-mergers.
     However I would like to point to a different aspect of the same logic. My own contribution in neoinstitutional economics refers to a theory of vertical the desintegration of family as a parallel to the „Nature of Firm“. A competition between family as economic agent /S.Zamagni/ and „the market“ has completely opposite consequences: while corporations tend to mergers or takeovers,  the competition between „family“ and the „market“ – according to the same principle of Ronald Coase – makes household economy smaller. Markets have been, step by step, „cutting slices“ of informal economic activities of the family for centuries.    Household – an economic agent or unit – and the market - compete and  the market is winner and family a loser of this contest. Returns to scale in the textile, clothing and shoes industries 
eliminated „home made“ wear and shoes. Home made bread and pastries , food, beveridges of our mother and grandmothers belong to the lost world being replaced by ready made meals and semiproducts. Growing economic activities of women „out of the family“ led to a need, and, later, to the necessity of buying child-caring services at the market, namely nurseries from the early age. The latest evolutionary period of eroded family has brought even a market „production of children“ /Becker/: global labour markets provide the western „economically triumphant „ civilization with labour force which is lacking , via migration from other parts of the globe.  
    The vertical desintegration of family is especially „efficient“ for people with highly specific human capital assets. Considering the „opportunity costs“, children are too expensive, official „marriage contract“ too risky, hence childless and cohabitating couples are „more efficient“. The latest stage of the vertical desintegration of family is society of „singles“: family has become an „empty set“. This is the very triumph of the market over the family!?

4.Foolish rationality of an „economic man“ calculating with the life and the death
Market has an  inner tendency to impose instrumental, utilitarian attitudes to relations among people-even within the family: between wifes and husbands, grandparents and children...This is not a criticism of market in general from my side; what I would like to stress is that it becomes a problem when market relations expand far beyond the moral limits of market. Utilitarism has to have its unsourmountable limits, otherwise it leads to a desacralization of values: there are moral imperratives, there are Commandments- Divine rules of coonduct. Without these moral limits, self-interest is profondly destructive. This too is nihil novi sub sole. Young Karl Marx discovered it in his very emotionally writtten Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts. It was just this animal greed that led young Marx to argue against capitalism as an advocatus diaboli and become a false prophet of a new Paradise of Communisme.    
    Our country and myself personally, we have our unfortunate historical experience with social experiments based on marxism. Nevertheless, after collapse of communism, contemporary promises of Paradise on Earth /“Paradise now!“/ are based in radical liberal economic thinking, rather than in the discredited philosophy of socialism and communism. I am not a philosopher, but it seems to me, that both radical liberalism and neo-marxism have to have common philosophical /and likely also theological/ roots. These roots return us back in the history of Western thinking. Both these fronts are hostile to Christianity, they are complementary and need each other, and they are ready to „collaborate“ against the Christian concept of family /as had been demonstrated in the scandalous case of a coup against professor Rocco Buttiglione in the EU Parliament/.  
     My profession of economist leads me to a duty to contribute to an explanation of dangers „from the right“, from imperial economics.  The „economic man“ and „economic woman“ in the „economics of family“ subjected the questions of fatherhood and motherhood to the rational calculation with parameters of the „efficiency of contraception“and  a„price for abortion“ /modern methods of contraception are „mini-abortions“ de facto/. Unwanted children killed in the wombs of their mothers are offerings to a god of mammon. A lesser willingness to house and take care of parents and elderly relatives /or pay for it/  could lead to a similar „rationality“ in the controversial question interpreted as a „right to euthanasia“.
    The former communist Czechoslovakia, with its 15 millions inhabitants, had about 100.000 inducced abortions a year. The Czechoslovak ratio of 1:1 approximately between born children and children killed in the wombs of their mothers has remained a nightmare, a horrifying testimony of the time. In the communist Romania and the republics of the former USSR the relative frequency of this horrendous crime /Compendium, article 233/ was even 3-4 times greater. The communist state, on the one hand, provided social provisions for children, payed the „maternal holiday“ /!?/ to mothers, subsidised clothing, shoes and food for choldren; on the other hand, the same state permited, organized and payed abortions. This was absurd conduct of a free man, who had taken his fate into his own hands...       
       „Socialist families“, massaged by the ideology of historical materialism, though remaining sceptical, succumbed to the temptations of practical materialism of the  everyday life. „Really existing socialism“ was a less succesfull version of western capitalist materialism. Now, fifteen years after the Velvet revolution, Czechs have succumbed to a self-deceptions of the market economy, and the situation in other post-socialist countries is similar. The former illusion of „Communist Paradise“ failed, being replaced by a new one, by an idolatry of the market and by an obsession by money, as an universal mean of fulfilling our desires. A philosophy of catching up our richer neighbours in the EU dominates, we are fascinated with growth of GDP and consumption. As a symptom of this obsession, Prague has a highest density of gambling centers and casinos in the Europe. The transition is used to be interpreted as a way from the system of central planning to a free market economy; in my point it is rather a way from one form of materialistic life philosophy to another one, from the Central Planning Happiness to a Self-Deception of the Market System. Both kinds of wandering are fascinated with a deluded search for paradise on earth. And in both cases, the family remains as a victim of this wandering. Family, as a dependent variable /S.Zamagni/.     

5.Demographic implosion: a price for the lost faith in the eternal life in joyless economy

Professor Manfred Spieker discovered /1994/ the deepest raison for the crisis of the welfare state in a lost faith in the eternal life in western societies. The same raison is a cause for the lost happiness in the family life and demographic implosion in our civilization. Tibor Scitovsky argued that economic growth in the West after the Second World War had been based not only on the accumulation of capital, but also on the growing economic activity of women. The same was true for the East Europe and the ideology of equality of women was even more „successfull“ there. Socialist Czechoslovakia proudly displayed the highest rate of women employment in the world! „Desire for economic independence..., greater sexual freedom..., new, cheaper, safer and more convenient mothods of contraception“ were for Scitovsky /1984/ main „driving forces“ in the USA; all this we were able to match in Eastern Europe – seemingly in completely different political, social and economic system.     
     In fact, really, we euro-american citizens, we are in the same boat. In spite of a different historical development in the USA and Europe /and in the West and East of Europe/, and, conseequently, different sysstems of accepted values, policies and social provisions, the main generational issues are very similar: „..in many countries it becomes apparent that children and younger generations appear as victims of adults and older generations under many social, economic and cultural aspects“ /quotation of one conclusion from the deep sociological analysis of Professor Pierpaolo Donati / see „Intergenerational Solidarity“, Malinvaud,E./ed./ 2000/.     
    In spite of the fact, that the purchasing power of consumers in the ten new EU member countries is substantially lower /let say 5 times lower than for example in Germany/ and – as to the candidates countries  and post USSR states – there is even 10 times lower standard of living, the demografic implosion is almost omnipresent. The majority of former communist countries in the Central and East Europe shows even a worse total fertility rates than the rich EU 15. Total fertility rates /children born per woman at the start of 3rd Millenium/ - Central and East Europe compared to the EU 15 - demonstrate this sombre state of things: 1,5 child a woman for the „West lung“ and 1,21 child a woman for the „East lung“ of Europe. Only Albania is an exception from this demographic implosion in Europe. /More details see  in Mlčoch /2006//.  

6.Message to our children and grandchildren: wealth is not the way to happiness

The post-socialist restoration of capitalism has revealed an  erosion of family. That rapid social and economic change of our times has its negative impact on population conduct, different from the past, but perhaps even more intensive. Induced abortions are typical example. New abortion legislation is liberal /and former regulations of the old regime ceased/, but public awareness of the dangers is better than before. Hence, the rates of induced abortions are falling down in the Central and East Europe. On the other hand, some new methods of contraception are mini-abortions de facto, though they are not recorded as such. What is sure is that fertility declines.      
   The critical analysis of the culture of consumerism - is at our disposal in the social doctrine of the church at least from the CA. A warning of the Holy Pope John Paul II. in this respect had been futile for my country. The practical materialism is deeply piercing to the practice of politics, labor union and culture, church included. This idolatry of consum is the main obstacle to the respect of christian moral principles and and defense of human life.        
What we really owe to our children and grandchildren is a clear message that wealth does not lead to happiness, that wealth can even bocome an obstacle for our very family happiness.

7.Ways out from the „steadmill of consumerism“: a return back to the joyful economy 
Professor Stefano Zamagni /Bologne University/ finds the individualism of our civilization as the obstacle to happiness. I incline to an Italian economic school of the „economy of communion“ represented by professors Benedetto Gui, Luigino Bruni, Stefano Zamagni and few others. „Spirituality“ of this new school is based on the Focolare Movement, and practical social experiments ´economia di communione´inspired by Chiara Lubich are at the very beginning – founded some 10-15 years ago. Nevertheless they lead even to the old franciscan ideas of an economy as place for the mutual assistence, reciprocity, solidarity and help. Within this ideal there is also a room for a respect to human life and  flourishing family happiness. 
     Today´s dichotomic social order /Zamagni/ is in the deep crisis. Nor ´imperial economy´ nor ´state solidarity´ provide a way out from this crisis. The hemisphere of liberty /Michael Novak/ urgently needs more virtues, and virtues are „produced“ within families. Our western world suffers by an overproduction of  ´goods´ and  ´positional goods´ and by a shortage of ´relational goods´ and ´relations of unity´. A new vision of family renewed in Crist is closely tied to the extension of a „broader family“ to business. The economy of communion is a good example of the spiritual initiative, this is an attempt to return to the original union family- household and firm-enterprise. Market competition, market cooperation and market solidarity have to be reconcilled.        
    I am convinced, that the demographic implosion and erosion of family has more  subjective and cultural than objective, economic causes. It is a conversion of hearts what we need, not obssesion with the growth of GDP. Since growth cannot increase subjective happiness in rich countries, we still have a chance to find happiness as an by-product of our care for our neighbours /S.Zamagni/ - and for our children and grandchildren. Even in the most atheistic post-socialist country in Europe – there is a minority of Christian families, which are ready to accept more babies and offer hope – in spite of the population decline. /See“Vision of the Development of the Czech Republic to 2015“, Potůček,M./ed./, Charles University 2001./ 

Prof.Lubomír Mlčoch
Charles University, Prague 

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