Point 137. Business and trade associations and others...

Just as families associate themselves through mutual agreements in accordance with their needs, enterprises will act likewise in order to extend and improve their activities.

1. A very great liberty on this matter will be recognised to the heads of enterprise, whether it be to protect their industries, to improve quality, to provide adapted professional training, to protect the environment or to share services such as legal aid or computer development, etc. These organisations of free initiative, of great creativity, of practically unlimited expansion, seek of their own accord to maintain a spirit of fraternal community and service that is quite remarkable. They are therefore a factor of civilisation and of human equilibrium.

Nevertheless, it is not healthy for these associations to remain informal for a long time. They ought to be endowed with a clearly defined legal and public structure that determines the rights and duties of each member and provides for an independent arbitrating authority. It is the condition for their efficiency and durability in respecting the main principles that are at the basis of their constitution.

2. It is possible, however, that such strong organisations depart considerably from their original intention and break with that prudence that was their primary perfection. Profit, private interests and malignant coalitions can manage to dominate them and make them the instruments of their injustice, without the economic community finding in its natural tendency to harmony the means to remedy it.

That is why two precautions must be taken. First of all, as soon as an association has proved the indisputable influence it exerts and its effectiveness, local or national public authorities ought to grant it the status of a public organism that would subject it to respect for the common good and no longer only to the search for the interest of its members. This status will also have the advantage of giving its decisions a legal and not only contractual value.

Then, there must be a superior moderating authority that could intervene if necessary. This authority must be capable of watching over the honesty of corporative and professional agreements, of arbitrating in conflicts, of re-establishing any compromised equilibrium. Such an authority will therefore need an ecological science and an economic art that will require another form of “ prudence ”, no longer spontaneous but scientific, no longer internal but external, and this will be the harmonious work, just and intelligent, of an authority guided by reason.