On the eve of the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, today’s headline stands out: “Richest 1% bag two-thirds of $42 trillion in new wealth.”   

“Where billionaires tell millionaires what the middle class feels” (JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon): the 2023 World Economic Forum meets in Davos. Yahoo Finance

That means the richest people in the world acquired 2/3 of all the world’s wealth since 2020.  Oxfam’s “Survival of the Richest” report points out that the $42 trillion was almost twice as much money as the amount obtained by the bottom 99% of the world’s population. 

What to do?  A 5% tax on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year, enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty.*

MLK Jr. warned us of the dangers of an unchecked capitalism this way:

The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor—both black and white, both here and abroad.

While governments have pledged millions to tackle modern slavery, they simultaneously criminalize refugees from brutal regimes, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. VICE News

And this is how M. D. Chenu alerted us to the perils of a distorted capitalist economics that he sees as a structural, not just a personal problem of greed.

If “capitalism” is simply a system based on profit so that the whole economic system is regulated by profit, then Christianity would demand the elimination of profit altogether. . . . We must understand that it is not excesses or abuses of various kinds which render this whole system undesirable and immoral. 

It is the structure itself. Chenu gives this example:

Suppose that an enterprise begins with a capital of a million (francs) and after ten years has increased to five million: if these five million belong to the capital as such the fault is due not to the avarice of individuals but to the evil of the system.

Degrowth advocates challenge the global economic principle that more is always better; instead, offering a model that prioritizes social and ecological wellbeing. CNBC International

System, not just individuals, can create greed and economic destruction.  What are the consequences for society as a whole?  The fault of such a system is that the benefits are not used for the service of the common good.

This service is the necessary justification of every productive enterprise, because work always has a double role: it must first provide a personal benefit but it must ultimately be orientated toward community needs.

A system based on profits alone requires people to stand up and “demand the elimination of profit altogether.”  The common good and community needs are key moral tests of any economic system, both King and Chenu remind us.


https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2023/1/16/richest-1-percent-bag-two-thirds-of-42-trillion-in-new-wealth-oxfam

See also: https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2023/jan/16/oxfam-calls-for-new-taxes-on-super-rich-pocket-dollar-26tn-start-of-pandemic-davos

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 331.

See also Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 221-253

See also: Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “The Protectors of Our Industries.” 1883 Puck cartoon showing 19th-century tycoons seated on bags of “millions”, on a large raft, and being carried by workers of various trades. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you experience this conflict between fairness and justice and current versions of capitalism?  Are the poor and middle class and Main Street being regularly violated by Wall Street?  What would a more “moral” economic system look like?

Recommended Reading

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations

As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations.  Study and practice these teachings.  Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.


Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation

Facebook
Twitter
Email

Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations

Categories

Categories

Archives

Archives

Receive our daily meditations

13 thoughts on “MLK Jr. and M. D. Chenu Critique Today’s Economics”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You tell us today that : “the richest people in the world acquired 2/3 of all the world’s wealth since 2020. Oxfam’s “Survival of the Richest” report points out that the $42 trillion was almost twice as much money as the amount obtained by the bottom 99% of the world’s population. What to do? A 5% tax on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year, enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty.” Sounds like a plan I’m for !!! You point out that Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor—both black and white, both here and abroad.” And M. D. Chenu says, “If ‘capitalism’ is simply a system based on profit so that the whole economic system is regulated by profit, then Christianity would demand the elimination of profit altogether. . . ” Then you say, “System, not just individuals, can create greed and economic destruction. Then this question: “What are the consequences for society as a whole?” Chenu concludes that: “The fault of such a system is that the benefits are not used for the service of the common good.” And that in turns reminds us of Aquinas and the importance of the “common good.” You ask us today: “What would a more “moral” economic system look like?” With a flat tax that the wealthy cannot weasel out of !!!

    1. Avatar

      Yes to a flat tax for the wealthy but….
      Many of the wealthy do have hearts of gold. They make ‘free will’ contributions of vast funds to projects for the common good….while many of the wealthy make a ‘free will’ choice to suck blindly at the teats of the Golden Calf…
      Unless there is a collective metanoia the ‘free will’ Kingdom of God will remain an ‘impossible dream’….and the nightmare of a desolate uninhabitable earth will be the last word….

  2. Avatar

    All governance of systems, be they political, judicial, religious, environmental, medical, and educational; function with a “it’s just business mentality, with the focus being on economic profitability and power. Meanwhile the soul of humanity has become bankrupt of morals and ethics, public common goodness, and partnering with that which gives life… through its interest in the economy of private greed and selfish domination, and exploiting the vulnerable, which includes not only human beings, but also the Earth herself and all the living creatures.

    Perhaps investing in reeducating at the grass roots level, that eventually grow into all these governing systems… what they have become bankrupt of… aught to be a requirement within the teaching and learning platforms of our public and private schools, colleges and universities… awakening the next generation to all that which the previous generations have lost and what results in this, so that the same mistakes made for centuries may be learnt from and perhaps not repeated.

    I see the importance of this new movement being initiated within some of Mathews books, along with others. Humanity doesn’t have time to be slow learners in retrieving its soul and unless we truly begin to do the neccessary inner hard work of reclaiming what we have lost, we will be responsible for the death and destruction of all that exists… for we are the salvation that we are seeking and searching for.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Today you write: “Perhaps investing in reeducating at the grass roots level, that eventually grow into all these governing systems…” Grass roots education would be good, but my experience with the poor is they know what the “system”–what the government can do to help and them take advantage of what it can offer. In California for example they can get food stamps, free medical through Medi-Cal. This is good but not enough. If people live in a homeless shelter or on the street, it is still hard for them (unless they have a disability) and get Social Security Insurance or (SSI), to even get enough money to rent a room somewhere. Now I think that the wealthy could use some reeducating on finance too, so I would rewrite your sentence above as: “Perhaps investing in reeducating the richest people in the world who have acquired 2/3 of all the world’s wealth since 2020.”

  3. Avatar

    Capitalism needs to have ‘a heart’ and many, not all, small, medium and large sized businesses and owners that are around for the long haul do. Supporting staff first then raises customer satisfaction. Increased capital retained and not spent by the owners will allow the business to hire more and expand. Many of us barter our skills for employment and having someone to hire us is a good thing.

    Now on to the next opportunity and threat in our midst today. Excerpt from a Comment posted elsewhere yesterday regarding ‘Artificial Intelligence’ as it is coined –

    “What is happening will only get worse to greater degrees when the onset of ‘AI or Artificial Intellect’ begins to displace millions of jobs and livelihoods. While ‘Intelligence’ is born of God and exists in every cell or atom, the ‘intellect’ shares in no divinity or heart on its own. It is a great misnomer to rely on ‘Intelligence’ where only ‘intellect without a heart’ exists. Is it not just like the powers to be, to misname invasive behaviours as in ‘freedom and patriot’ Acts and laws. While change and progress may bring us lifesaving medical devices, for example, the proper checks, balances and social safety nets need to be put into place as this ‘onslaught’ moves down the road. This is the role of Christ’s Heart, the source of the only ‘true and everlasting intelligence’, taking root in us. — BB.”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Bill, Today you write: “Capitalism needs to have ‘a heart’ and many, not all, small, medium and large sized businesses and owners that are around for the long haul do”–AMEN to that, and thanks for the info on artificial intelligence–I’m sure it will only worsen the problem of labor, because it will replace human workers.

  4. Avatar
    Kenneth Larry Matheny

    I believe a more moral economic system would look something like a property-owning democracy as described by the political philosopher John Rawls. Rawls discussed concluded that American capitalism was not just. He suggested that democratic socialism or a property-owning democracy could attain justice. I believe socialism, if understood as public ownership of productive property, is probably not workable. But a property-owning democracy, in which ownership of productive property is spread out across society into as many hands as possible, based on employee ownership, while retaining markets and competition, could create the just society Rawls wrote so much about. Inequality would be tolerated only to the degree it is necessary for efficiency. Capitalism is beyond reform. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in The Twenty-first Century strongly suggests that inequality will get much, much worse in our century. I believe the American political philosopher John Rawls pointed the way to be a more just society.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Kenneth, Today you write that: “the political philosopher John Rawls discussed and concluded that American capitalism was not just.” You also point out: “Thomas Piketty’s Capital in The Twenty-first Century which strongly suggests that inequality will get much, much worse in our century.” So far, it seems pretty bleak, but then you end with: “I believe the American political philosopher John Rawls has pointed the way to be a more just society.” Thank you for this to think about and look into !!!

  5. Avatar

    It seems like the Degrowth system/movement started in the 1970s as described in today’s DM video answers the question of what a more “moral” economic system would look like to a large extent – a system based on the public good and welfare. This Degrowth system seems to be growing due to more awareness of the environmental destruction/crises, and the injustices/suffering of immigrants around the world caused by the underlying inhumane and destructive systemic roots/consequences of our old world capitalistic economic systems and materialistic values. May God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Truth~Peace~Justice~Healing~Transformation~Compassionate Service~Loving Diverse Oneness… continue growing in our hearts and lives with one another, and Sacred Mother Earth and All Her beautiful abundant graces and creatures….
    ????

  6. Avatar

    Good discussion. It is my feeling that the very name capitalism suggests the problem at the heart of the world. A system built around accumulated capital. We see that with the wealth the billionaires have accumulated. Richard Wolff has done a lot of great work around socialism. In his view it starts with the democratic work place. In China you have state capitalism with not much democracy although they have transformed the economic lives of their citizens they still lack democracy but they have more democracy at the local level than is commonly thought. But the state needs to get much stronger where it support unions and democratic work places. The real wolves are the multinationals that seek to divide and conquer and pillage the world. These must be broken up and democratized. Thanks for the discussion.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Edward, Thank you for your comment today, which in part was: “It is my feeling that the very name capitalism suggests the problem at the heart of the world. A system built around accumulated capital”–and I would add, why not built around the people, instead of the selfish few? I’m not saying that we aren’t all selfish to some degree–but it makes a huge big difference when wealthy people like the Koch Brothers say: “I will not let the fossil fuel industry go until I know I will start losing money, so that I can make all of the money I can in the mean time, despite knowing what it is doing to the environment.” And I know they give to charities, but that is for tax write offs (capital) for themselves, but they continue to do what they want to do so that THEY can make money despite the affects it will have on the earth and our children, and our children’s children…

  7. Avatar

    The theft of wealth from the poor, working class to the obscenely rich and their army of multinational corporations is a violation of global justice. People of every country need to stand together if there’s to be any change. We will not have rights for anyone, anywhere as long as corporations can find desperate workers in a different country to exploit, like locusts moving on to new fields to devour.
    We also need to stop falling for the diversionary tactics of being pitted against each other over artificially-inflated grievances which are fed to us so that we fight among ourselves rather than unite and seize back our rightful compensation for our labor and control the resources of our communities.
    We also need to pay more attention — stop being diverted from the theft happening right in front of us (“look at the pretty birdie!”) by our being “given” gadgetry’s entertainment and the hypnotized compulsion of endless consumption of the latest, newest, biggest. We give them their power by being willing consumers.
    And we have to actually care about the abuses of the system that go unchecked and unpunished, which allow laws to be disregarded and then discarded, such as those against discrimination. The abuse of the “least” is the symptom of a spreading rot that’s invariably much worse than surface symptoms.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Melinda, Today you write: “The theft of wealth from the poor, working class to the obscenely rich and their army of multinational corporations is a violation of global justice.” Two books that I would like to bring to your attention on multinational corporations are: David Korten’s, When Corporations Rule the World and my, A Curmudgeon’s Commentary on the Book of Revelation in which I have the Beast as being multinational corporations…

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: