Swaminomics' Moral Blunder On Paponomics


# Chhotebhai Noronha


When I first read Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar's piece "The Pope's moral blunders on outsourcing" (STOI 2/8/09) I was furious with the Pope for blundering into an area that is not his core competence - economics. I was inclined to believe Aiyar's opening line that religion and business rarely mix well.


I belong to a Christian family that has been doing business for 150 years, hence am acutely conscious of how difficult it is to do business, while upholding religious or moral principles. On the other hand, being in the literary field, I also believe that it is important to go to the actual sources of information, to arrive at the truth. Accordingly I went to the Vatican website to see for myself the papal encyclical that Aiyar has quoted.


It was promulgated by the present Pope on 29/6/09, entitled "Caritas in Veritate". That is the Latin title, which in English would read, "Love in Truth". The title is misleading. It is infact a socio-economic treatise from a moral or spiritual perspective, in response to the current world economic crisis.


It was now my turn to be furious with Aiyar, for a blatant distortion of truth. I was shocked at how Aiyar has grossly misinterpreted the encyclical, and arrived at his own distorted conclusions. It seems to be a deliberate attempt at defaming and maligning the Pope, and thereby the billions of Catholics worldwide.


To begin with, Aiyar bases his arguments and conclusions on just one line from a 48 page encyclical. Even a dispassionate reading of that one line alone proves quite the contrary to what Aiyar has tried to deduce. Infact, Aiyar advances all his own opinions, and then quotes the Pope towards the end of his article. By then he has already prejudiced the reader into seeing the Pope's statement in the light of his (Aiyar's) own terribly subjective observations. Aiyar is entitled to his opinions, but he has no business to palm them off as the Pope's teachings. Let us examine some of them.


He alleges that the Pope criticises western countries for outsourcing business to developing countries. He opines that this has an ethnic slant that echoes the concerns of the western white labour aristocracy. He wonders why westerners don't protest outsourcing to other white countries like Poland, Latvia and Bulgaria. Why is the protest aimed only at black, brown and yellow nations, queries Aiyar? Colourful adjectives. But not from the Pope, who has made no such observations or insinuations. Aiyar goes on to say that the Pope has "parroted the bogus claims of the white labour aristocracy". How has Aiyar arrived at such bogus conclusions?


The "offending quote" used by Aiyar from para 40 of the encyclical states; "The so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company's sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders - namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society - in favour of the shareholders, who are not tied to a specific geographical area and who therefore enjoy extraordinary mobility". Aiyar's entire hypothesis is based on this one quote! It is infact the antithesis of what Aiyar labours to portray. If Aiyar were to read what the Pope had said before and after this particular quote he would have understood it in its correct perspective. The Pope expresses genuine concern for the stakeholders (black, brown and yellow workers included) and is infact urging restraint on the shareholders (the capitalists, who in the context of outsourcing would largely be the white Anglo Saxon). So Aiyar has got his colour fix all wrong.


This is what the Pope says in the next line; "Business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the stakeholders - the workers, the clients, the suppliers."  So the Pope is actually speaking up for the underprivileged, the colour of their skin notwithstanding.


As for the so-called white labour aristocracy, the Pope says; "National labour unions, which tend to limit themselves to defending the interests of their registered members, should turn their attention to those outside their membership, and in particular to workers in developing countries where social rights are often violated"  (Para 64). So Aiyarji, the Pope is actually advising the white labour aristocracy to expand their area of concern to all those black, brown and yellow workers, who may not be privileged aristocratic trade unionists!


Aiyar concludes his piece with another personal opinion, that it is a perversion of morality to penalise non-American workers in order to promote US jobs. I agree. So does the Pope. Aiyar ends by advising the Pope to have the courage to say so in his next encyclical. The Pope doesn't need Aiyar's advice, because he has said much more than Aiyar in support of the underprivileged and marginalized, in his present encyclical. Aiyar could perhaps take a leaf out of the papal encyclical for his next piece, and courageously admit that he was wrong about the Pope, just as he had earlier admitted that he was wrong in projecting Mayawati as India's next P.M. We are all human, and prone to error. What say Aiyarji?


# The writer is a former National President of The All India Catholic Union, that represents 17 million Indian Catholics in public life.


August 2009