A law, like values, is meant to sustain social order, not to solve social problems. That is the realm of management. A law grounded on disregard for unborn human life, a fundamental right and a time-honored Filipino value does not only disrupt the social building block of Filipino family life, but creates and aggravates social problems. This is the clash of the “logic of exchange” or what I would call the “logic of transactions” versus the “logic of gift.” If the law defines only the logic of transactions and ignores or brushes aside the human, humane and humanizing relationships that grow with unsolicited gift, then human society is at peril. George Orwell’s Big Brother is alive again.
Recently, no less than The Economist featured Pope Benedict’s call for the “logic of gift” to be enshrined in the economy alongside the “logic of exchange”—the heart of the social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate—by citing business research to prop up practical understanding and applications. It as if the encyclical were not practical enough when it categorically countered reproductive health and in-vitro fertilization through surrogates and other misuses of technology that displace charity in the face of the truth of human life and love. In any case, it was refreshing to know that businessmen who have been participants in some of these research have taken—knowingly or unknowingly—that corporate social responsibility is about ethical responsibility. I can almost hear them say, “We do this [perform socially responsible tasks] because it’s the right thing for our companies and our directors to do, not only because it contributes to value creation or getting desired results.” Caritas in Veritate reminds us that corporate social responsibility is firmly ethical, outside of short-term performance targets; “voluntary,” rather than mere response to increasing regulation, or a “deodorant” to irregular transactions.
It’s good to go to what John Breen, a law professor at Loyola University School of Law at Chicago, writing in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, underscored that the Pope’s critique of business is farther reaching. The Economist summarizes Breen’s article: “Even the idea that businesses exist to make money is flawed, in the eyes of the pontiff; a concentration on profit, rather than serving society [with profit as the happy benefit], leads to distorted risk-taking. Moreover, the very form of the corporation leads to an abdication of responsibility. Answering only to investors, managers fail to appreciate the larger moral implications of their answers. Benedict apparently falls squarely behind those who speak of a corporation having to answer to stakeholders, rather than just shareholders.”
Well, I wonder how much of the debate and drafts of RH and divorce bills and others to come soon, and their media and social-marketing blitz are linked to this Breen-and-Benedict view of business: distorted in their risk-taking, they will abdicate the social—the moral—responsibility of what they support and sponsor. The logic of exchange: you scratch my back, I scratch yours. We forget the logic of gift is in healing the source of the terrible (seven-year?) itch.