The Church of Scotland is calling for the poor to be prioritised by the makers of economic policy.
A commission of experts brought together by the Kirk has drafted a report which demonstrates a number of economic reasons for those in poverty to be put first.
The panel is chaired by Professor Charles Munn OBE, former Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland.
Prof Munn and the other 12 Commissioners, who include business people, theologians and politicians, were asked to undertake a special inquiry into economic thinking.
Their report says that there is a vital need to reduce inequality in society, as there is compelling evidence that more equal societies are healthier, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger social cohesion.
These factors are all linked to other social issues, with greater social cohesion being seen as an effective way to cut down crime, better health means less resources used in health care, and a greater sense of well-being is often linked to greater productivity.
But the report goes beyond the practical considerations, to note that the shame of poverty is the ‘greatest moral issue of our time.’
Prof Munn said: “The Special Commission has spent the last two years consulting widely, exploring the fundamental ethical and moral questions underlying economic activity.
“The credit crunch has been a wake-up call. We cannot just go back to business as usual, and the need to take a proper look at what we are doing with economics has become more rather than less relevant. The question of economics is never far from the top of the agenda.
“Some in our society are making huge financial gains, while for too many this winter the stark choice is whether to heat or to eat, as they cannot afford to every day.”
The experts also draw out the issue of sustainability, noting that in a globalised society it is vital to understand and act upon environmental issues. Hot topics like climate change and resource depletion are likely to become even hotter as their economic impact becomes clearer.
The report, which is at an interim stage, will be presented to MSPs at Holyrood by the Right Reverend David Arnott, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The politicians will have an opportunity to comment before the report is finalised in May.
Rev Arnott said: “Economics is not, and can never be, a morally neutral or ethics free zone. Humanity does not exist for the market but the market for humanity.
“Any morally legitimate vision of economics and economic activity, whether domestic or international, must be a vision of social economics, embedded in a vision of society which respects and values the needs and contributions of all its members”.
February 21st, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross