Tuesday, January 21, 2014


The issue of “relational goods”

In fifth place is argued that as our income increases, or precisely because we strive to have more and more things, the consumption of so-called “relational goods” is reduced. Indeed, in an effort to make us richer,  our friends and the time we dedicate to our family are reduced. A perfect example of this we can find it in Mr. Burns, sinister personage of the famous series “The Simpsons”, immensely rich and miserable who has no family, no friends, only his assistant, Mr. Smithers, whom is often undervalued and ignored by him.

But the problem is that it is not only our ambition but also the inevitable development of technology what condemns us to this situation since every step toward technological progress transforms our dependence on other human beings in dependence on machines. “The devaluation of the human world grows in direct proportion to the increase in value of the world of things”, said Marx concisely (1).

Technology begins to offer us substitutes for human relationships: children do not need parents to raise and educate them as they have to television, computer, internet and video games; families no longer need to come together to share a nice meal because the microwave oven allows everyone to warm your own food and eat separately, the person who wants to have children does not need to meet and fall in love with a special someone, or build a nice family and get married, simply he may resort to artificial insemination or a “surrogate mother”.

But the most tragic thing is that we have realized too late that the love and human warmth so necessary for happiness, are not products that can be manufactured by a company or created by technology and it is very difficult to find the return path.

The problem of moral and spiritual degradation

Finally, and even more serious from a transcendent point of view, economic progress (in the way in which we live it) by their very dynamic tends to undermine the moral and spiritual conditions in which man can achieve his happiness. For how could a system based on boundless ambition, envy, selfishness, emulation and competition create a society of “good and happy men”? How could a “progress” which systematically encourage and justified as “rational” all these vices be the solution to the problems of man and be the way to a happiness necessarily linked to conditions of peace, love, solidarity and virtue? To pretend such thing would be like to believe that the best way to expel demons is to invoke Beelzebub, who is the prince of demons.

In this point is likely that someone thinks that I am demonizing economic progress. But that is not what I want to do. It makes no sense to oppose the economic development in itself because it can also become a powerful tool to deliver man from his material and moral poverty. But we must resist the current model of economic progress as being carried out today mainly in Western countries as it requires countless human sacrifices to the “god” of Development. It is time to understand that progress by itself, the mere economic efficiency, never bring peace and prosperity to man but rather can only do so if this progress is oriented. And this orientation must come from within us through a deep ethical and social consciousness.

So maybe we should not pay much attention to what Keynes had said about that, to reach the desired welfare, “we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight” (2). Rather we should seek a more human economic progress, based on qualitative things rather than quantitative things, and pay attention to messages as this one by John Paul II when he said: “It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being’, and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself. It is therefore necessary to create lifestyles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments”. (3)


1) Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Madrid, 1970, p. 105.
2) Quoted by E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, Orbis Press, Barcelona, ​​1983, p. 24.
3) John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 1991, nº 36.

You can contact the author of this article in: “Dante Abelardo Urbina Padilla” (Facebook) and dante.urbina1@gmail.com (email)