In a recent video release, President Obama turns his attention to economic growth, and here specifically to green energy. Far be it from me to be critical of investing in clean energy alternatives to oil (though he did mention natural gas in there, which is by no means “clean”), but I was deeply concerned by the way he framed this with respect to other nations. For him, jobs are apparently a limited and scarce resource, and so an uptick in jobs in one place will mean that there will be a stagnation or loss of jobs in another place. So the fact that jobs are being created in other countries by investment in green technology is not a good thing – who cares if they are keeping their people from poverty, or securing a positive ecological future? – it’s a threat to our well being. The solution, he says, is to “out innovate and out compete” other countries. “I don’t want other countries to win the competition for these technologies and these jobs, I want America to win that competition, I want America to win the future.” And we can do this, as divine providence has shown, “because America has the most entrepreneurial, most industrious, most determined people on earth.” Wow. Can we at least get a Barna survey to show that is true?
Among the many, many problems underlying these kinds of statements is the social ‘ontology’ that understands countries as competitors for a limited common good. Or rather, it destroys anything like an idea of a common good, there is only our good, my good, which can only be had at their expense, your expense. The us/them mentality is only strengthened by the American exceptionalism in the statements.
The Church does not believe that one must nor ought to secure one’s good at the expense of another. Neither does she believe that it is the necessary way of the world to be at perpetual war with one another, in economics no less than in meeting the needs of stability and peace. Part of the role the Church has to play in international politics is a very strong critique of the racial and/or ideological barriers set up by the organization of modern politics into nation states, because we believe that as the Church, any of those kinds of “local” distinctions are irrelevant in Christ. Unfortunately, we’ve played the major role in the formation of these states, and far too often we are divided internally, and have forced others to be divided by these artificial barriers, by, frankly, sinful barriers, barriers that mock the Gospel. It’s not that we need to tear down “that wall,” but we need to tear down all walls.