Saturday 12th October, 2013
9:00am to 9:45am
The world is in trouble. On many fronts – from climate change to resource depletion, from banking crises to sovereign debt crises, from deficient education to poverty in the midst of plenty, from energy security to food security, from fragile states to weapons proliferation, and more – we are not successfully engaging with the challenges of the 21st century. Our economies are not overcoming the scourge of poverty, the inadequate provision of collective goods (such as public education, environmental services, fish stocks and rain forests), our societies are increasingly fragmented, and our governance structures are inadequate to the problems we face.
We have probably gone this far as we can in creating win-win situations among self-centered, materialistic, rational, individualistic agents. The resulting cooperation is insufficient to overcome the growing problems we face economically, environmentally, socially and politically. The time has come to gain a profounder understanding of human potential for care and to explore the resulting opportunities for human cooperation. The time has come to recognize that humanity is responsive not just to the “voice of reason,” but also to the “voice of care.” The latter encompasses a wide family of phenomena, including the ability to share others' thoughts and feelings, compassion (feeling the suffering of others and wishing to alleviate it), loving-kindness (feeling the happiness of others and rejoicing in it) and altruism.
The voice of care can fundamentally change our incentive to provide collective goods. While selfish individuals have no incentive to make adequate contributions, caring people will contribute more, since they are concerned not only with the benefits flowing to themselves personally, but also with the benefits to others. Furthermore, whereas the voice of reason alone provides no compelling rationale why selfish individuals should eliminate poverty in the midst of plenty, the voice of care can do so.
President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. Professor of Economics at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel
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