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Institute for Progressive Christianity Issues Ground-Breaking White Paper on Distributive Justice

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The Institute for Progressive Christianity (IPC) has released a ground breaking progressive Christian economics white paper from Frank Cocozzelli entitled "Reclaiming Capitalism Through Principles of Distributive Justice".  Cocozzelli offers an astute overview of why our economy is unraveling and pragmatic moral steps that must be taken to rebuild a thriving economy that benefits everyone.   He details how the great social justice traditions of Catholicism and mainline Protestantism have informed the development of liberal economics.  He chronicles the dismantling of key elements of New Deal era financial regulation that has contributed to the current economic crisis and how liberal Christian ideas of distributive justice economics can help solve our economic crises.

Cocozzelli offers a moral foundation connected to proven Christian ideas and accomplishments in the arena of economic justice in order to solve our current economic crisis. This approach stands in stark contrast to the neoconservative view that economics is "inherently amoral."

"Our liberalism," Cocozzelli writes, "is based on a profound moral vision, and rooted in the best of the Protestant and Catholic traditions that have stood the test of time as moral philosophies underpinning economics that works."

Cocozzelli reveals how the passage of The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 repealed a cornerstone New Deal economic firewall, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which prohibited banks from engaging in both less managed deposit-based investing and riskier securities-based investing.

"The dismantling of New Deal legislation designed to forever curb the excesses of reckless profit-driven business and banking practices played a significant role in the creation of the current economic crisis," Cocozzelli said.

Addressing matters of morality and the marketplace is a rich tradition that stands at the center of how Americans have resolved -- and sought to prevent -- the problems wrought by reckless profit-driven factions. Indeed, significant portions of New Deal economics coming out of the Great Depression were influenced by the then-ascendant Social Gospel of mainline Protestantism; Catholic notions of Distributive Justice; and religious Jewish intellectuals inspired by the tradition of tikkun olam ""making the world whole.

Accordingly, this White Paper argues for two main ideas: capitalism based upon reciprocity between contribution and benefits received, and legislation to curb and deflect the destructive effects of arbitrary economic power.  To support his premise, Cocozzelli  draws upon the works of 20th century economist (and Catholic priest) Monsignor John A. Ryan who emphasized six canons of Distributive Justice; and on the post World War II writings of Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

The principle of reciprocity espoused by Monsignor Ryan makes allowances for creativity, risk, productivity and special talents as well as a living wage. Ryan's contribution addresses monetary questions that require a sturdy government to enable fairness both in the distribution of profit and each individual's contribution to the common good. Niebuhr's approach is more institutional in nature; calling for a system that deflects and curbs the deleterious effects of greed "" all too often the harbinger of the abuses of arbitrary power -- provides one of the most realistic methods of ensuring a more just form of capitalism.

This astounding paper arrives at precisely the right moment in time to help bring a focused foundational moral approach to resolving the acute economic crisis that has overtaken us all.  President Obama and his economic advisers would be wise to carefully review this paper as they seek a re-working of our economy toward a more just system that fairly addresses the concerns of all citizens.  Bail-outs and bandaids might shore things up for the short term, but the long term recovery will require a systemic change such as the one Cocozzelli has brilliantly offered.  

Reclaiming Capitalism Through Principles of Distributive Justice may be viewed in its entirety at the web site of the Institute for Progressive Christianity:
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Gary Vance is an evangelical pastor/writer living in rural Tennessee. He is the author of "Wasn't Jesus a Liberal?" and other published essays.
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