wealth. This solidarity is held to be central to the early Christian inspiration as well as to communitarian movements throughout modern history. It appears once more in the new social movements7 in Latin America - social unity and communion on the one hand, and the common use of common goods on the other.
The private appropriation of common goods upon which the market economy is based is not logically necessary in order to enjoy these goods, None the less, the economic doctrine of the Catholic Church since Aquinas suggests that private property may be the best way in practice to maintain economic production and social order. However, for Aquinas this situation is the result of human selfishness arising from original sin. In consequence liberation theologians argue that this sinful selfishness will be overcome as the 'new land* is approached. For instance, natural resources such as land and water are considered by economists as essentially public goods, and constitute the first step in the recovery of common ownership (the basis for peasant life in Latin America until the present century) dismantled by the civilisation of wealth. Moreover, the objective of Christian economics would not be to promote the private accumulation of wealth even after basic needs have been satisfied and personal development made possible.
According to liberation theology, capitalism has clearly been incapable of satisfying basic needs in Latin America, despite the fact that government and business leaders are professed Christians. Socialism in practice has not provided a satisfactory solution either: although advances have been made in basic needs provision - particularly in communist Cuba and in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas - socialist countries have been incapable of sustained technological creativity or of political freedom. None the less, the socialist ideal is more suitable than capitalism as an economic model for the 'new land5 - as the traditional social teaching of the Church tacitly admits.
Economics, life and structural sin
The relationship between theology and economics is thus seen by liberation theologians as reflecting the fundamental historical contradiction between death and life in Latin America/ This historical contradiction obviously has social, political, cultural, anthropological, ethical and spiritual dimensions as well; but economics is fundamental because it defines wealth and poverty, 'Life' in this context has a clear meaning: it is tangible human life expressed by work, land, house, food, health, education, family, participation, culture, environment, and even fiestaBasic needs thus go beyond essential physiological necessities because the realities of life are not merely
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