Eduardo Valencia Vasquez (Pontifical Catholic University, Ecuador)

Thanks to "marketing techniques" modern societies identify 'economy' with 'market'. But it has not always been so. There is evidence that in the beginnings and once the Homo Sapiens had overcome its nomadic phase, he grouped inside sedentary communities, through which he started to develop, not individually anymore, but rather as part of a community, as part of a family. Within this million-year period, during which the hominid "has knowledge" (sapiens), that is, since he has "awareness" and "thinks", only during the last five thousand years did he develop his authentic human faculties: the "loving" protection of parents towards their offspring; the loyalty among members for the purpose of "affirming" a family; the harmonious relationship of its members; the development of the dialogue as a tool for solving problems and quarrels; the programming and sharing of "communitarian work"; the fair "sharing" of the fruits of labor; the acceptance of parental authority and its obedience. In summary, it was within the family where the first superior hominids started to "understand" and "feel" that they could "transcend".
Transcending implied the "understanding" (or awareness) that they could be more efficient than other members of their species when they worked together, rather than when they strive to do it separately; but above all -and this is what is more relevant- they could "feel" that group difficulties and hardships were more bearable when they acted in solidarity rather than when they acted on their own. Symbolically, it was in the environment of the home, around the bonfires they lit at night to protect themselves from the cold, when the family members felt that work with a common objective brought more "happiness" to "everyone". Thus, it was feasible to work, produce, consume and distribute things among the community in a harmonic fashion, which entailed happiness. Those rules established inside the home or "dwelling" were obeyed, and this is how they "got used to" showing respect to each other. They turned it into the true "ethos" of their community. Hence, those norms became their authentic "habitat", their true "home". From such practices one can perfectly maintain that the first families were ruled by "ethical" and "moral" rules of conduct which brought about happiness.
When one analyzes the etymology of these concepts, many interesting and revealing aspects about human development are found. The word ethics comes from the Greek word "ethos" which means "habit", customs, character. The word moral originates from the Latin expression "mos moris" which means "dwelling". From this, it can be inferred that "ethical or moral conduct is the set of all those habits or customs which are learned inside the dwelling". Or, seen from another perspective, "all that which is practiced and learned inside the home becomes a habit, a custom". And, more importantly: all those habits which are practiced inside the home produce happiness, and thus, it can be deduced, that they are "good" habits, given that only that which is good produces happiness inside those who are "truly"
human. Now, Homo Sapiens is not only aware that he exists, but also that his existence is a happy one, and consequently, that he is at a superior stage of evolution. The ethical conduct, cultivated and practiced within a community is what leads him to turn himself into a "Homo trascendentalis".
Here is where the key to solving man's dilemma lies: in simply understanding what makes him transcendental, truly human. For man differentiates himself from the rest of the hominids because he "feels", thus surpassing his own conscience. The human being can be called as such only when he is able to complement the "logos" with the "pathos", the "eros and the agape".
If there really exist authentic desires of change in humankind, then humanity must strengthen its most outstanding values in order to nurture from the authentic sap which enables the human being to truly become one. But in order for that to take place, some have still to overcome the evolutive stage, which continues to simply maintain them as superior hominids. In other words, in order for change to come about, it is not even necessary to invent a new social, political or economical theory- like the one many are desperately searching- instead, the human being has to become aware that he currently possesses all those capacities needed to become an authentic human being. In order for this to happen, he "must become aware" that he must overcome the "Homo Sapiens" stage and consolidate the "Homo transcendentalis" stage.
Examining the etymology of the word 'economy', we find that it derives from the roots "oikos" and "nomos", which mean the way of organizing the home. Hence, the aim is to solve those problems that exist in the house, inside the dwelling, at home. Who will do this? Well, all family members making use of the best possible means: by adequately programming "everyone's work"; by fairly distributing the fruits of their labor; by accepting those rules proceeding from parental authority, both competent and compassionate; by resolving quarrels through a dialogue which takes everyone's rights into account. By coming close to the concept of democracy practiced within the family, just as the Greeks understood it.
What has been presented explains the asseveration that the market was not the original place where the first organized human beings solved their economic problems. The entire organizational system of early communities originated in the family and in its need to solve problems in the environment and amongst their fellow beings, in a communitary fashion. The values they practiced are what gave meaning and cohesion to their lives. Economics and ethics were born under the same roof. Adam Smith was well aware that an adequate organization of the home could not be separated from ethics. He was well aware of the fact that there existed many desires to disrupt the economic system, and that is why he was of the opinion that the economics had to be addressed as an axiological science, as a political economy. The following statements quoted from Smith express much more than any other adverse modern concept: "This disposition to admire and almost idolize the rich and powerful, and look down upon or ignore the poor and modest, though necessary to set up and maintain a distinction in ranks and social order, is at the same time the largest and most widely spread cause of corruption of our moral sentiments"
It is quite surprising that this statement, transcendental as it is, implies a serious contradiction: it identifies in modern societies the cause of corruption, but at the same time, it argues that it must be accepted, that we have to coexist with it in order to keep the system of injustice working. From this contradiction, we can clearly realize why the economy is full of sophisms that undermine the existence of this science. It is of outmost importance to interpret the authentic meaning of a true "science with moral sentiments". Therefore, what remains to be done is to complete that which Smith did not wish to do or was unable to do; to incorporate the sentiments as the central axis of a person's motivations, no longer of the individual. Leornardo Boff cannot explain this better: Only now, after values and feelings have been in exile for thousands of years, does man at last distinguish the necessity to recuperate them as the axis of people's motivations. This is absolutely necessary if we desire to achieve a better humanism. From this point of view, feelings must not be viewed only as an exogenous attitude, complementary to human action, but principally as an essential part of human behavior which dictates the way people behave when they are on their own, amongst others and in the environment. As part of philosophical anthropology, the feeling is part of the essence of human beings, and as such, it cannot be considered as something external or complementary. A feeling arises from each being in all human acts, including of course, the economic ones. In other words, a feeling is superior in nature to simple sensation, around which, all the "scientific" economic framework has been built. Without the concept of feeling, this theory falls into a pseudo-scientific category. It is reductionist because it excludes the principal element that identifies the human being. Unfortunately, positivist economics, which set forth the theories of demand and supply, set itself limits by identifying only those sensations arising from the maximization of psychological benefit at the moment of consumption and production as the only "true" motivation of the individual.
The existence of other motivations was not even considered, although, as already seen, in modern times, theories developed by eminent psychologists such as Maslow, Goleman and MacClelland, have all significantly contributed in clarifying that the purely material satisfaction of needs was just one of the early phases of human motivation in its initial stage. If these theories had been considered in the development of the economic thought, then it would have been feasible to promote more righteous societies which do not only strive to satisfy material needs, as is currently the case. If there is something that clearly identifies those so-called "developed" societies, is the fact that there is no limit as to how far their inhabitants can go in order to quench all their "material desires". The last reason why violence exists in today's world is because: human beings are enticed to compete in order to reach the highest point in the scale of human desires, in other words, in finding the best way to satisfy them. This way, the human being completely distances himself from the other extreme, from what is truly his final destination. As such, competition, turns into the antithesis of that which is essential and authentic in man: solidarity. Thus, the more man is called to compete in the market, the more people compete with each other to exacerbate violence. The human being has lost its dignity, has become dehumanized. In order for economics to be considered truly scientific, it must, in the first place, be relocated as part of philosophical and moral sciences, instead of as part of the positive sciences.
Secondly, it must incorporate the "sentiment" as an essential part of human behavior, ruling over passions and greed and their psychological reflection: sensations. Therefore, the feeling must become that which truly characterizes human actions in their economic behavior, in a twofold fashion: in an ex ante way, as a category superior to that of sensations; and in an ex post way in order to correct all the abuses derived from social imbalance.

This holds true for everyone; for the consumer, when freely choosing to consume that which is strictly necessary; for the producer, in order to "efficiently" produce, from both the private and social point of view, that which is strictly necessary for people to lead a dignified life; for the public employee, in order to clearly define priorities deriving from the social assessment of the community and in order to guarantee that the rights to goods and services are fairly distributed. Within this context, both freedom and equity, must conjointly be the principles that underlie people's actions wherever they take place. Hence, human beings must always act as "people" under any circumstance, and in order to be defined as such, they must strive for freedom and solidarity, within society and at every moment. One must make every possible effort to improve the quality of the human being.

In sum: the new axiology must not only be depicted as a renovated thought of essential human values, but also as personal practice within society, that is, to go from individual ethics to "public" ethics. From this perspective, we are all responsible for what happens to the rest. The concept of alteridad implies that we must all be publicly held accountable for all our actions. For example, those bankers who manage people's savings are called to practice "public ethics", that is, to be scrupulously and transparently responsible for those "public" resources entrusted upon them. From this perspective, beaurocrats are not the only ones who are responsible for that which belongs to the "public", but rather all those who have been entrusted with people and resources. And so, the chain becomes endless: school teachers, entrepreneurs, rectors, doctors, judges, etc. They must all be held accountable before society for managing the rights of others. It is about time that those citizens who consistently wash their hands by blaming "others" for those ethical disruptions which have deepened corruption and violence in modern societies, bravely accept their own responsibility, for we are "all" responsible for the state the world is in.
(end of article)
=====     Copyright ®1997-2007 Jesuit Social Center All Rights Reserved     =====