Democracy and market economies go hand in hand but are risky and can be abused if they do not sustain human dignity and support the common good, according to a Vatican economic official. Joseph F. X. Zahra, a Maltese economist who is deputy coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy, spoke at a U.N. side event on Feb. 8 on “Market Economies: Insights and Warnings of Catholic Social Teaching.” Zahra said, ”An economic system is a theoretical piece of work unless we put people into it.” Its results depend on people and whether they are using or abusing the system. Economic systems are operated by people and should be based on principles of freedom and dignity, he said. The people administering the systems must focus on the long-term impacts of their decisions instead of the short-term rewards. According to Zahra, contemporary financial and economic systems, challenged by globalization, inequality, social liberalism and the financial meltdown of the last decade, should be reformed to be more virtuous and reinforce human dignity and human rights in the service of freedom.