Saturday, January 30, 2010

So maybe we can't change the world

This week I had a really inspiring and humbling meeting with Ugo Mattei, the founder of the IUC and a renowned critic of modern theories of law and economics.

I met with Mattei to ask about his vision for making the world more fair and to find out what he thinks we can do to help. We had watched a movie about the impact of privatization in Argentina and Mattei spoke about how the law needs to be changed from having economics at the center, with profit growth as the ultimate achievement, to a new system that is more sustainable in the long term. I asked, but how can we change the laws when the people who make law are those that profit from them? He responded that what we really need is social change, not a quick fix as so many Americans are used to expect.

As we talked I went on about how I wanted to make a difference and what I thought I should study and then paused to wonder whether I really could have any impact anyway. He stopped me there and made a point that has both lifted a sense of burden and encouraged me to continue on in my quest. He said, but we can't walk down this path only with the intention to make a difference. We have to just focus on doing our own work well and then perhaps one day if a change comes we will be ready to take advantage of it.

My mom summarized this idea well, using a Buddhist philosophy. We have to live our lives taking responsibility for our actions, all the while letting go of the results. We can't be attached to the end product because then we may be disappointed or we may become lost along the way because our focus is distracted.

So now I feel somehow confident in my plans to continue studying globalization. I no longer feel like I need to know how I will make a difference, but by simply keeping my eyes and ears open I will be ready when my chance arrives.


Alex from Africa said...

Hi Ryan!
I like your thoughts here. And even if I find that your quest for a more fair world is absolutely noble, I d'like to raise a question.

Being in Africa for 5 months, and living in a poor neighbourhood of the biggest city of Cameroon, some thoughts have come into my mind too.

You assume that everybody will follow and obey the Law. Therefore by changing it we can have an effect on the social and economic life of these people. But you seem to forget that it isn't quite the case everywhere around the world. There are people that trust more other people than the Law (probably for good reasons), and obviously don't care at all about the Law. And, surprisingly, those people are generally the one who live in the most unfair part of the world...

Well, my point was just to say that when you try to make the Law more fair (which is a very good and necessary thing) you forget all the places where one cannot count on the Law...


Ryan Alison Foley said...

Thank you for your comment! I agree with you very much - there are many places where the law is not followed. Or even more, who is to say what is a "fair" law? I think it is something that each country or even community needs to decide for themselves, and for certain we cannot rely on legal transplants from the western legal and economic tradition to create fairness around the world.