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Economics Professor Talks Globalization with Pope Benedict XVI


Dominick Salvatore greets Pope Benedict XVI during a personal audience.

Dominick Salvatore has a way of getting people to listen to him. This past summer, even the Pope was willing to lend him an ear.

Salvatore is a Distinguished Professor of Economics, director of Fordham’s Graduate Program in Economics and quite possibly the University’s most prolific author. He recently returned from a sabbatical that took him to the Vatican, where he gave a presentation on “Globalization, Growth, Poverty and World Governance” and received a personal audience the following day with Pope Benedict XVI.

The Pontiff was eager to hear his ideas about globalization, one of the least understood and most contentious subjects affecting the world.

“What they were primarily interested in is really the fault of governance,” Salvatore said. “The economy of the world is globalizing, but there is no political system to make it work better. The poor nations that have globalized have grown rapidly and faster than the rich nations, thus reducing differences. It is the poor countries that did not globalize that did not grow, and became relatively poorer.”

It’s an idea that Salvatore promoted at lectures and seminars during a summer-long swing that took him through Austria, Italy, Germany, Singapore and Vancouver, Canada. His invitation to the Vatican came after he impressed Vatican officials at the United Nations in November 2006 with a lecture titled “Information Technology and Growth in LDCs.” That talk addressed the widening technological chasm that has emerged between advanced and developing countries.

“They are poor, and they’re technologically so backward that we need to do something to help them catch up,” he said.

Joining him at his May 18 audience with the Pope were three scholars with similar expertise, including a former trade minister from Germany who has studied the effects of how tariffs hold back developing countries and a Gregorian University professor who discussed how globalization has the power to destroy cultures.

Salvatore’s overriding message, which he has honed over his 35-year career at Fordham, was that institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund need to be strengthened so they can provide protection to poor nations the way that the Environmental Protection Agency keeps American companies from dumping waste in poor U.S. neighborhoods.

“The Pope said the ideas are very interesting, and a little different from the teachings of the Catholic Church, which relies primarily on helping the poor. And the feeling among some of the Cardinals is, ‘Help them, but to help them help themselves is even better,’” Salvatore said. “Globalization is important because it increases productivity; it increases efficiency; we cannot run away from it; and it is not unethical or ethical. It only looks at efficiency.”

But Salvatore, who also edited the ninth edition of his leading textbook International Economics while on sabbatical, cautioned that real change needs to come from countries such as the United States.

“The World Bank is controlled mostly by the rich countries and the IMF. So if the IMF demands certain things of developing countries, it’s because the countries that they represent are asking them to do this,” he said.


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