Joseph Stiglitz Calls to Abolish the Capitalist Church of Self-Interest

From Alternet:

Can the ideology of capitalism bend to a stronger ideology of justice and love?

By Lynn Parramore
September 20, 2012

Cash payment is not the sole nexus between man and man. ~Thomas Carlyle

Even after a terrible financial crisis exposed their folly, the High Priests of Old Time Economics still speak the cold, barren language of self-interest. Acting solely in your own interest, they preach, is the key to efficiency and human well-being.

Not Joseph Stiglitz. Wednesday night, the Nobel Prize-winner spoke to a packed chapel at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, which, along with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), a New York-based think tank, hosted the first conversation in a brand-new series meant to change the way we understand economic issues.  Union Theological Seminary president Dr. Serene Jones, INET Executive Director Robert Johnson, Professor Gary Dorrien of Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, and Betty Sue Flowers, Director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, joined Stiglitz to talk about the topic at hand: “Economics & Theology.”

Sound like a strange combination? In today’s atmosphere of fundamentalist religious fervor, it’s easy to forget the great traditions of progressive Christianity that have made economic justice a central focus. I was raised in the bosom of North Carolina’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, where the legendary liberal firebrand W.W. Finlator carried the message emphasized by Dr. Martin Luther King – namely that it was the duty of Christians to fight on behalf of the poor, to protect the workers, and to end discrimination in all forms.

“Every society grapples with moral issues,” said Johnson as he introduced Stiglitz. “And Joe might be our ‘Grappler-in-Chief.’”

The Grappler-in-Chief got interested in economics not because he was dazzled by mathematical equations, but because he wanted to find a way to solve the sociological problems he saw growing up in Gary, Indiana, where he noticed that discrimination stood in the way of America’s ideal of equal opportunity for all. His parents told him that the two most important things in life were to use your mind and see what you could do to serve others. And so he did both.

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