The Economy of Gift Knocks at the Doors of Europe

The movements of “Together for Europe”are bringing ahead concrete proposals on the economic level:  a moratorium on advertising targeting children and on games involving gambling, a Tobin tax on finances, suitable laws for a socially responsible civil economy.

By Paolo De Maina

Published in on 13/05/2012

120512_Bruxelles_Bruni_ridTogether for Europe” could not be missing a session on the economy.  In fact, in the prestigious headquarters of the European Parliament, at Pace de Luxembourg -  in the hall after Alcide De Gasperi, the noble father and co-founder of what would become the European Union, - a group of experts, politicians, business people, youth and citizens met for a conference on:  “The Economy: a Matter of Gift.” Certainly the stakes are high: the current crazy course of the financially ill market has lost its direction for the Common Good.

Hendrik Opdebeeck, professor of philospohy and economy at the University of Anwar and a member of the Ethics Center, in opening the session, described in seven points the concept of responsibility and connected it to freedom, alterity, encounter with others, the responsibility of global institutions,the  limits of the market economy  and to globalization.

The recent French and Greek elections, with their different societal tensions, according to the professor, pose a question: Is it the case to give merit-based salaries, according to the vision of liberalism, or to give everyone their part in conformity to their needs, according to the socialistic model? In our current European society, the economic, social, legal and financial aspects risk being shaped by egocentrical and irresponsible organized structures, at the national, international and global levels. From this point of view, Europe in crisis should look to another important  future paradigm: that of responsibility.   

Luigino Bruni, associate professor of Economy at the University of Milan- Bicocca and the Sophia University Institute of Loppiano, offered a clear analysis, without mercy for the current crisis, but also with a proposal: the Economy of Communion. He highlighted that right from its birth, the economy found strength and inspiration  in charism, from Monastic Communities that knew how to create living laboratories from which emerged the initial categories and the first institutions to give life to a market economy. « And it is undeniable that also Christian humanisms,” he continued, “with their charitas and charis, played a decisive role.»  But more than  putting the economy on trial, it is the increasingly speculative finance sector that should be on the guilty bench. According to Bruni, we need  «to do something» and bring back from the margins to the public square those charisms that encourage reciprocity, gratuity-gift and the common good. How? By bringing the finance sector and the economy into the  public debate because «it’s too risky to leave them only in the hands of those who work in those sectors.» To begin again from the poor and to relaunch the idea of a new social pact, and to trust that the epochal changes can be a fruit also of a prophetic minority, as has already happened in the past. Finally, the young people: they are the ones who can bring a new turn to the economic and financial sector.  

From the proposals, they then passed on to the supportive projects that can be carried out at a European level: a moratorium on advertising that targets children, which has to be taken away from those who seek profits: a moratorium on gambling games, a Tobin Tax, or something along that line, so that risky financial endeavors  pay the right amount; finally, a strengthening, also through adequate legislative tools, of the social and civil economy in Europe.


In the presence of the Vice President of Europe, Laslo Surjan from Hungary, responsible for dialogue with the Churches, “best practices” for the economic sector were delineated: three businesses (one in Belgium and two in Croatia) shared how to convert these principles of gift into a commercial exchange where “investors”, share holders and workers, even though having different roles, have equal value.  Jan De Volder, from the Community of Saint Egidio in Belgium, shared on the”revolt by gratuity,” while  Claude Matz, from the Association for a United World (AMU) of Luxemburg, demonstrated the development projects sponsored and implemented throughout  these years. 

Steve Vanackere, federal vice-minister and Minister of the Economy in Belgium, concluded the session by highlighting some critical points in the proposals, in order to encourage a dialogue even more pertinent to current economic systems, and he dared the political establishment  to give «not only answers, but the right answers.» Then addressing Professor Bruni on the importance of a prophetic mionority, he underscored: «this audience is one

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