Pope Benedict XVI on Economic Situation- Not for Faint of Heart Libs or Conservatives

Well- here is a challenge for those Catholics who like to say they are orthodox AND political conservatives- even as the Pope calls us “to liberate ourselves from ideologies, which often oversimplify reality in artificial ways..”.

If you don’t like social security systems, and you don’t like trade union organizations, and you like deregulation of the labour market for the benefit of corporate outsourcing, and you believe that Man should conform to the “free market”- not the economy to Man- well you may need to go to the Vatican and line up for your spanking- or better yet- just repent of your ideological ways, and read the Church social doctrine with an open mind and an open heart- here’s the Pope’s view of things which stands consistently with what the Church has been teaching and advising ever since the first papal social encyclical back in the late 1800’s. From “Caritas in Veritate” the latest papal social encyclical from the Church paragraph #25:

“25. From the social point of view, systems of protection and welfare, already present in many countries in Paul VI’s day, are finding it hard and could find it even harder in the future to pursue their goals of true social justice in today’s profoundly changed environment. The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.

The mobility of labour, associated with a climate of deregulation, is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects, because it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange. Nevertheless, uncertainty over working conditions caused by mobility and deregulation, when it becomes endemic, tends to create new forms of psychological instability, giving rise to difficulty in forging coherent life-plans, including that of marriage. This leads to situations of human decline, to say nothing of the waste of social resources. In comparison with the casualties of industrial society in the past, unemployment today provokes new forms of economic marginalization, and the current crisis can only make this situation worse. Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life”[61].

Does anyone really believe that the Catholic Church can understand human sexuality and biology well enough to apply moral teachings to such things as homosexuality and embryonic stem cell research- but is really too thick to comprehend economics and the moral application of basic principles to market and labor theory and practice? Doesn’t Scripture provide enough evidence that simply following our desires in any realm- be it sexual or economic is not enough- not nearly enough for a good end to result?? Every transaction of a sexual or economic kind has something more than mechanical operation at play when human beings are on the producing and receiving end of the deal. God created human sexuality for our good, God is also the God of economics, and He desires that the good of Man be “the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.” Goodness usually requires some effort, some will to do right by others, not just blindly follow your impulses in bars or malls- hedonism and consumerism go hand-in-glove- and they only appear harmless if you look past the abortion clinics, broken homes, and sweat shop factories and harsh manual labor in harvests of shame. And, of course, we all do as we fix our attentions on smart and sexy advertisements for products and politicians. Well- I’m awake thanks in large measure to the Catholic social doctrine and social teachings, which serve our Lord purposes in giving us a glaring light to see the world in which we live. See the abortions? See the sweat shops and the human trafficking of poor and vulnerable people? Follow the trail of easy sex and cheap stuff- take courage and step away from the predictable Left or Right.

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31 Responses to Pope Benedict XVI on Economic Situation- Not for Faint of Heart Libs or Conservatives

  1. American Knight says:

    Tim,

    State Socialism (collectivism) and State Capitalism (Big Business) are not unlike each other. Chesterton said, “Big Business and State Socialism are very much alike, especially Big Business.”

    Capitalism as we see it, even as some propose it, is not necessarily a natural free market. In fact, a natural free market is nothing more than free acting individuals engaged in the voluntary exchange of their private property. This used to be the case in these United States, imperfectly, temporarily and despite the efforts of Big Business at controlling the economy beginning before the Republic and continuing through the Constitutional Convention with Hamilton and the like, culminating in the monster from Jekyll Island in 1910. The Communist/Capitalist International masters placed the spark in their Frankenstein monster in 1914 by the abdication of Congress.

    Will we ever have a perfect system? No. Should we try? Of course. No where does the Pope (although some of his ghost writers might) indicate that a natural market of free individuals and private property is a bad thing.

    The problem is not that the free market has been tried and found lacking, it is that the free market hasn’t been tried.

    Does the government have a role in a free market? Yes, it does, but not the role our government is engaged in. Does big business have a place in a free market? Perhaps, but it would be very hard to have such a thing as big business. If you notice most of the big business industrialists hated one thing more than anything else – competition. A natural free market is full of competition. It is the use of government by Big Business that stifles competition.

    Notice that Karl Marx and Western Capitalists have always favored a central bank. Why? Because both systems, Managed Capitalism and Communism seek the same result. The control of all people and all resources for the benefit of the enlightened, chosen few.

    Maybe we should try a little authentic freedom and private property, and use the police power to curb vice – family disintegration, murder, porn, prostitution, Sodomy, fraud, theft, mind-altering drugs, etc.

    That might seem like a novel idea, but it seems natural doesn’t it?

  2. Karl says:

    Some of us have seen and suffer under the debacle of how the Catholic Church applies its teachings(which we accept and understand) in practical matters like divorce, remarriage and annulments. Do not be too quick to swallow what the teacher does, even when the teaching seems clear.

    I am a former Catholic due to the pastoral and canonical misappropriations
    of authentic Catholic teachings. When I have personally experienced, in both the past and present tenses, such abuse in one application, it is quite rational to expect more blunders and worse, elsewhere.

    I continue to pray for and love the Catholic Church, from a distance, knowing well the injustices its functionaries refuse to address, at all levels in the hierarchy.

  3. Tim Shipe says:

    I will pick up the thread later on- family duties beckon- feel free to passionately debate- I’m not ignoring anyone or denying their argument any validity by not responding for a while 🙂

  4. Art Deco says:

    These very general remarks are not utile for the adjudication of any dispute over policy you are likely to encounter in the United States (much less Europe). Objectivists and hyper-libertarians (and Milton Friedman and Friedrich v. Hayek were not in either category) are a small minority in this country. Short of that, the principal advocate for reconstructing the political economy which prevailed prior to 1929 was Ron Paul, who is regarded rather indulgently by ‘social justice’ types. Dr. Paul corralled the support of about 5% of the Republican primary electorate two years ago.

    While we are at it, is it really your contention that advocates of enterprise unionism (modal in Japan) and Chilean-style social security are in need of a reprimand from the Holy Father?

  5. Joe Hargrave says:

    I don’t see in this paragraph some sort of demand for a blank check to be handed over to the welfare state.

    I see a frank acknowledgement of the fact that the welfare state dominated by trade unions is a failed model.

    And I see a call for developing alternatives and “new forms.”

    In para. 57, he writes,

    “By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state…

    In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together.”

    Unfortunately this tyrannical power IS coming into being – and we must resist it, not give it more power. Moreover we see that the “all encompassing welfare state” is something to be avoided.

    The answer is Distributism, as it has been promulgated by the Papacy since Rerum Novarum. Distributism transcends the need for a welfare state and labor unions.

  6. Joe Hargrave says:

    Oh, and…

    “Well- I’m awake thanks in large measure to the Catholic social doctrine and social teachings, which serve our Lord purposes in giving us a glaring light to see the world in which we live.”

    That’s great. So no one put a gun to your head, right?

    Let’s not advocate putting a gun to the heads of others in pursuit of these ideals. The Church’s teaching is often misunderstood by both sides for one simple reason – she does her darnedest to recognize ALL legitimate claims and responsibilities.

    For instance, the state has a responsibility to look out for the poor – but individuals have an inviolable right to private property. Little is said about what to do when the people in power decide that one of these responsibilities overrules one of these rights, or vice versa. The Church would say they shouldn’t conflict. Most politicians try to make sure that they do.

    So you can’t wield CST like a blunt instrument at the skulls of your opponents. I could find a dozen similar conflicts of interests, legitimate rights, moral obligations, etc.

    Ultimately we need to use our God-given reason in the rational pursuit of just political ends. This is a job for the citizens and their representatives – the Church herself has always maintained that her role is advisory, to speak to our conscience, to guide our decision making. It is not a list of laws that Catholics are bound to obey. Read Immortale Dei sometime – Leo XIII insisted that no Catholic should ever be disparaged for disagreeing with the Papacy on most purely political issues (leaving aside the non-negotiable moral issues).

    They certainly don’t need to “line up for a spanking.”

    http://joeahargrave.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/tea-time-with-pope-leo-xiii/

  7. Joe Hargrave says:

    And yes I know, I used to do the things I’m criticizing now. Live and learn.

    I think really delving into Leo XIII helped me understand these issues even more.

  8. T. Shaw says:

    When we pray the “Hail Holy Queen” we aver that we are poor banished children of Eve mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. And, our Hope is in Jesus and Salvation, not in this world.

    If all “Catholic” that a Martian ever heard or read was from the USCCB or Vatican bureaucrats, evidently: holiness and salvation are (prioroties) poor number six and far seventh to human dignity, peace, social justice, self esteem, and making this life worth living for the lustful, wrathful, envious, gluttonous, slothful, etc. (five out of seven ain’t bad, can’t think of the other two).

    Does the entire encyclical endorse godless, statist collectivism and central planning?

    Does the entire encyclical justify the class envy and hatred that are the bases of democrat party power; Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Chavez in Venezuela, Obama in America?

    My absolute, Christian duty is to do personal (my money that I earned, not other people’s money or property that the abortionist government confiscated from working stiffs who the demagogues vilify as EVIL) corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Supporting socialism or career politicians’ destructive perpetual re-election schemes is not among these.

    My first economic duty is to my wife and children; and then (hopefully) grandchildren. Then, my father, brothers, sister and their wives and children. You, Obama or Pope B have nothing to say regarding whether whatever residual income I have is – UNFAIR – too much and should be confiscated/taxed.

    If I earned what I worked for and didn’t steal or dishonestly hinder someone else to earn it, my conscience is clear.

    What deregulation? Please use less than 5,000 words to not answer.

    The welfare, cradle-to-grave state has ruined the economies of Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy, etc. The salutary effects of liberalism, socialism can be enjoyed in countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. All of which have caused equality of destitution and BONUS!! violent denials of human basic rights.

    By the way, if you think I’m evil because I oppose socialist nightmares, you can go to the devil.

    Ever hear of Tobit (OT)? It’s better to put your bread (alms) on the grave of a good man than to give it to an evil man. Think about it. I know! The OT is homophobic and Abraham owned slaves.

    Evil liberals nauseate me. But it’s a penance I bear with patience.

  9. Jasper says:

    As a conservative, I will give dems/libs increase social security systems, trade unions and increased regulation of the market if you agree to make abortion illegal.

    A deal?

  10. Teresa says:

    There needs to be a balance in our society between a pure free-market economy and socialism. I believe that if a combination of the philosophy of distributism (have to study this further) and capitalism (not crony capitalism) were applied in the U.S. then that would satisfy a healthy and fair economic balance between the wealthy or “rich” and the poor.

  11. […] I agree with my co-blogger Tim that ideology involves an oversimplification of reality, and that this is less than ideal, I […]

  12. Elaine Krewer says:

    Economic and political doctrines, which apply in the temporal world, do not need to be as fixed in stone, so to speak, as religious doctrines which concern our relationship to God, Who does not change, and to our life in eternity. When I say “economic and political doctrines” I refer not to the principles of Catholic social teaching as such, but to the secular systems that Catholic teaching is applied to (capitalism/socialism, liberalism/conservatism, etc.)

    Economic situations change over time, so what “worked” in one century doesn’t always work in another, and what works in one country or society doesn’t necessarily work everywhere. Also, since all human beings are subject to original sin, all institutions are subject to corruption if not kept in line with some kind of checks or balances. NO economic or political system is EVER 100 percent right for everyone all the time.

    Since the Catholic Church, by definition, is universal — encompassing all people and all times — the Church can lay out general principles but cannot place an imprimatur on any particular economic or political system.

  13. Tim Shipe says:

    Since I am not in an ideological box the way I figure it- to apply all the good principles of CST to nations who choose to make trade pacts- you would need to have something like the following: Society needs at minimum 4 vested stakeholders to be in on negotiations for the legal and agreed-upon global trade pacts- workers associations, corporate executives, government regulators, and human rights/religious reps/environment/science experts- that’s how the real world works in a fallen human condition- we are not all saints, we also need very transparent media coverage of all negotiations to make sure everyone is representing honestly.

    Now I’m not sure if the Distributist model offers a way to deal with trade between nations- the ideal of libertarians would be that everything is left to individuals and perhaps businesses/corps small and large to simply work out contracts- that would be binding by some authorities in both participating countries? But, of course with the Fall comes the problems which subsidiarity cannot solve without a big dose of solidarity and public authorities who attempt to ensure the universal common good by providing a just juridical framework- as the Church consistently urges for. Now contracts that underpay and leave desperate people barely keeping their heads above water- are not contracts the Church would say are any more binding than unjust laws themselves. Therein lies the rub as usual- we need the rule of law, we cannot have unjust laws, we need freedom of enterprise, we cannot allow unjust exploitation of vulnerable people- all of this cannot be solved by simplistic ideological presuppositions- therefore I would suggest getting all the necessary stakeholders together under one tent, with a transparent media presence, and get the legal framework ironed out to protect the people that the economy is made to serve, and to place consideration for the long-term health of God’s creation here on earth on the agenda.

    I don’t think the American system is bad- it just requires a better caliber leadership which reminds me of Scott Hahn’s comments that the best gift we can give to America is our Catholic faith- and that would include the social doctrine that conservative and liberal Catholic just can’t fully accept- too much of that dreaded cafeteria Catholicism.

  14. Joe Hargrave says:

    4? You’ve got enough slashes in there that it adds up to more than 4 🙂

    “contracts that underpay and leave desperate people barely keeping their heads above water- are not contracts the Church would say are any more binding than unjust laws themselves”

    I’m afraid that this is where I agree with libertarians in principle. What is it you plan to do to address this? Form a bureaucratic commission to inspect every business and determine what it ought to play and what it could pay versus what it does?

    Also, who ever argued that such contracts were “binding”? Currently, you’re free to leave any employer who you don’t think pays enough. America doesn’t have slave labor – yet.

    “we cannot have unjust laws”

    What laws are you referring to?

    “we need freedom of enterprise, we cannot allow unjust exploitation of vulnerable people”

    Start by cracking down on those who employ illegal immigrants.

    Vulnerable people often go into trades that are already illegal anyway – like prostitution and drugs. But you were all about blaming the victims before, when it came to addressing the “demand” for illegal drugs. The users are the ones who deserve compassion; the suppliers are the ones who ought to be destroyed.

    “with a transparent media presence”

    I don’t see that happening. But I’d support it if it did.

    “too much of that dreaded cafeteria Catholicism”

    I’m sorry but this is simply wrong. It isn’t “cafeteria Catholicism” to disagree with a point of CST.

    “But in matters merely political, as, for instance, the best form of government, and this or that system of administration, a difference of opinion is lawful. Those, therefore, whose piety is in other respects known, and whose minds are ready to accept in all obedience the decrees of the apostolic see, cannot in justice be accounted as bad men because they disagree as to subjects We have mentioned; and still graver wrong will be done them, if – as We have more than once perceived with regret – they are accused of violating, or of wavering in, the Catholic faith.” (Immortale Dei, 48)

    That’s just how it is. I should have known it sooner, but I know it now. It warrants a rhetorical adjustment.

  15. Joe Hargrave says:

    Though I do want to make clear that things COULD be much better than they are – but I want to seem the addressed by people who are convinced that it is the right thing to do, not by people who are being herded into position by the threat of coercive violence.

  16. Tim Shipe says:

    One more thought- my own self-critique on how I aim to transcend the various ideologies is to keep filling my intellect with the official Church thinking for starters- to not use them only for proof-texting like some Christians do with Scripture itself. I also try to take in the big picture of such things as the role of political authority as taught by the Church so as not to get caught in the socialist or anti-government groupthink. I don’t idealize trade unions- I’ve had my own negative run-ins with them as a candidate- but I see them as one piece of the puzzle like the corporations themselves- like with government and all authorities and power entities they require constant checking and re-checking on their status- is the leadership corrupted? If so how to reform it? Check the governing/operating principles of the gov, the union, the corporation, the media, the environment reps, the human rights groups and so forth. We have seen that even our Church needs constant reform and transparency in the child abuse scandals- now that doesn’t prove to me that the Church is inherently evil and an institutional dead-end- and all we need is perfect individual freedom to clean up our world- no way- Scripture teaches us a lot about authority- authority in families, in civil society and the Church- we need to respect that all authority is ultimately derived from God Himself, and so we need to go a bit easy on trying to bring all the authorities around us crashing down.

    So, in short, I’m not anti-government, not anti-business, anti-military, anti-green, anti-media and so forth- I just try to take a realistic examination on the problem areas for all the stakeholders in our society and find where this or that reform, tweak, or complete overhaul is necessary- like being a car mechanic- you can’t be anti-engine, anti-brakes and the like- you just deal with the reality of what is broken down, what needs fixing, oiling, lubrication, replacing and on and on- this way you don’t get so extreme and ideological you become just another of the problems for the whole.

  17. Joe Hargrave says:

    “I’m not anti-government, not anti-business, anti-military, anti-green, anti-media and so forth”

    Neither am I – but when government oversteps its bounds, like anything else, it needs to be checked. Some Catholics seem fine with an expansion of government without limit.

  18. Blackadder says:

    I’m not sure if the Distributist model offers a way to deal with trade between nations- the ideal of libertarians would be that everything is left to individuals and perhaps businesses/corps small and large to simply work out contracts

    Well this isn’t just the view of libertarians. As I recall, something like 95% of economists surveyed thought virtually all trade barriers should be eliminated, and I guarantee you 95% of economists are not libertarians. Free trade is supported by progressive economists (like Paul Krugman) as well as conservative economists (like Greg Mankiw). Heck, one of the biggest supporters of the recent free trade deal with Chile was Chile’s Socialist President. So the issue here isn’t an ideological one in the traditional left/right sense.

    I think the problem here is not that people aren’t abiding by CST principles, but that you are making certain factual assumptions that aren’t really true. The assumptions may seem so obvious to you that you don’t even see them as assumptions, but I don’t think they hold up under scrutiny.

  19. Doreen says:

    I was walking through my very well-heeled town the other day and there were adverts for School Uniforms in the chain stores. One was advertising 3 items for £3 ($5, Tee-shirt, Jumper and Polo neck, this is £’sss less than when my children were young about 25 years ago. This in a town with an average house price of about £250,000 ($360,000). It made me think then how much the people are being paid to produce these goods and what kind of living standards apply in their lives.

    This state of affairs has come about because the countries involved are attracting investment by trying to give the most favourable conditions at the cost to their fellow countrymen. Quoting from the encyclical, “….The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. ”

    Meanwhile, in our developed countries companies are laying off workers or closing factories down because they can’t compete with competitors who are obliged to provide their employees with fundamental rights, rights which we in the West assume are ours by right.

    As it states in the encyclical, “……. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State.”

    As it states in the New Testament and which we’ve read this week, Luke 10:7, “The labourer is worthy of their keep.”

  20. Doreen says:

    Sorry it should have read,

    “Meanwhile, in our developed countries companies are laying off workers or closing factories down because they can’t compete with competitors who are not obliged to provide their employees with fundamental rights, rights which we in the West assume are ours by right.

  21. Blackadder says:

    Quoting from the encyclical, “….The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. ”

    It’s odd. Doreen and Tim read the above quote from Caritas in Veritate, and seem to conclude that it is a condemnation of outsourcing. When I read the same text, I see a description of a beneficial process. “[R]educing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development” are all good things.

  22. Tim Shipe says:

    Blackadder- keep reading for the context- I don’t read into this a glowing endorsement of outsourcing in all it’s effects:

    “Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.

    The mobility of labour, associated with a climate of deregulation, is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects, because it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange. Nevertheless, uncertainty over working conditions caused by mobility and deregulation, when it becomes endemic, tends to create new forms of psychological instability, giving rise to difficulty in forging coherent life-plans, including that of marriage. This leads to situations of human decline, to say nothing of the waste of social resources. In comparison with the casualties of industrial society in the past, unemployment today provokes new forms of economic marginalization, and the current crisis can only make this situation worse. Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life”[61].

  23. Tim Shipe says:

    Is Free Trade unregulated Trade? I think the key to exploring such questions is to deal with the “strong juridical framework” idea that the CST consistently calls for- here is one such analysis:

    The following questions and answers are from an excellent introductory work on Catholic social teaching entitled Responses to 101 Questions on Catholic Social Teaching by Kenneth R. Himes O.F.M. This material is used with the kind permission of Paulist Press. For more details on this book and information on how to order it follow this link.

    21. Is the church’s teaching on capitalism one of approval or disapproval?

    This is one of those questions where the answer can only be given once it is clear what is meant by capitalism. John Paul II put the question to himself about whether capitalism is a model to be followed. He answered: “If by capitalism is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative…” (Centesimus Annus, #42). So clearly there is an understanding of capitalism that the church approves.

    On the other hand, John Paul also stated: “But if by capitalism is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative” (Ibid.). Very much in keeping with the legacy of CST, John Paul is wary of a capitalism which exalts freedom to the extent that justice, rights, the common good and human dignity are sacrificed. This is why he stipulates that economic freedom be understood in the context of a “strong juridical framework.” A false capitalism takes one part of human freedom, economic liberty, and makes of it the whole story.

    Within CST there is an appreciation for the utility and virtues of a market economy. But this fundamental acceptance of a free market economic model is always tempered by concerns that self-interest not override the common good, that unregulated freedom not lead to exploitation of others or of creation, that appreciation for material prosperity not create false understandings of human development and well-being.

    Perhaps a fair summary of the position of CST on capitalism is that it gets a conditional approval; it is not inherently wrong but false renderings of capitalist economics, which have existed in the past and continue in the present, must be opposed.

    One can comb through the documents of CST and find a list of ills in capitalism to be remedied. It is possible to arrange the list of papal concerns under four headings: (a) establishment by the state of a juridical framework to regulate market operations, (b) communal provision of basic goods/services for all, (c) promotion of personal and group morality, and, finally, (d) protection of voluntary associations and other elements of civil society (Daniel Finn, “John Paul II and the Moral Ecology of Markets” in Theological Studies, vol. 59 [1998] pp. 662-79).

    Juridical framework means that government must establish fair and wise regulations that permit markets to function optimally for human well-being while still respecting individual freedom. Second, any economy must see to it that no one is deprived of essential goods or services because of not having sufficient capital. However the economy operates, it must have in place a means whereby the community can guarantee that a person’s basic material needs are satisfied.

    One of the dangers in modern times is that market forces are being extended into areas of life where they do not belong. Just as the extension of government into all realms of social existence violates the principle of subsidiarity so, too, something similar can be said about economic markets. It is important that social groupings of family, church, neighborhood, fraternal and sororal clubs, recreational and educational organizations and the like should function by their own logic and ethos, not that of the market.

  24. Mike Petrik says:

    I agree, Blackadder.
    One of our more difficult challenges is addressing the needs of the distressed in a robust market economy. While a market economy certainly does increase standards of living over time (and is by far the best hope for the world’s poor), it does create displacement and dislocation. This is not new. Blacksmiths and buggy whip manufacturers felt it too. The comparative and relative roles of private charity and government in softening the blows are largely prudential questions. But softening the blows is a moral requirement when those blows lead to genuine distress. What is not sensible is trying to prevent displacement and dislocation by inhibiting the market from working. For instance there really is no good moral case for protecting American workers from workers in poorer countries who are willing to work harder for less pay in order to improve their standard of living to less than one-half that of an unemployed American.

  25. Blackadder says:

    Tim,

    As I read the Pope here, he is making a series of causal claims: A (the global market) led to B (outsourcing production) which led to C (favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market) which led to D (a downsizing of social security systems). I would agree that A led to B and B to C, but I see these as positive, not negative developments. If you look, for example, Hernando De Soto’s The Other Path or read about the so-called “license raj” in India, its clear that the fiscal and labor regulations of many countries desperately needed to be reformed. They were (and in many cases still are) stifling growth and development, and leading to unemployment.

    I confess that I’m not sure how the Pope gets from C to D. How, for example, is a deregulated labor market supposed to lead to cuts in social spending? It’s true that there have been countries that have been forced to cut social spending, but this has been the result of them spending and borrowing too much in the past, not because they reformed their fiscal or labor regulations. Greece, for example, is currently facing a substantial austerity in government spending. This isn’t because Greece has deregulated its labor market or adopted favorable fiscal regimes (Greece is actually the European country that has done the least of these sort of reforms). It’s because they owe too much money.

    Indeed, if you look at the countries that end up having to cut social spending, it’s usually countries that haven’t reformed their labor and fiscal regulations, rather than those that have. More developed countries tend to spend more on social programs, not less, for the simple reason that they have a larger tax base to draw from. To the extent, then, that adopting more favorable fiscal regimes and deregulation of labor markets can spur economic development, this will tend to make social programs more secure, not less.

  26. Blackadder says:

    One can comb through the documents of CST and find a list of ills in capitalism to be remedied. It is possible to arrange the list of papal concerns under four headings: (a) establishment by the state of a juridical framework to regulate market operations, (b) communal provision of basic goods/services for all, (c) promotion of personal and group morality, and, finally, (d) protection of voluntary associations and other elements of civil society

    I would say that of this list, (a), (c), and (d) are admirable goals that I wholeheartedly support. Communal provision of basic goods/services, however, is a horrible idea. I say that not because I think there is something inherently immoral about communal provision. It’s just that it doesn’t tend to work very well. For example, communal provision of food (and if food is not a basic good then what is?) has generally led to mass starvation. I don’t think the Church wants us to starve, nor do I think that it wants people to receive inferior provision of basic goods or services simply so that they may be provided communally. If there are statements by various Churchmen expressing support for communal provision of basic goods or services, I can only assume this is because the prelate in question believes (wrongly, in my view) that communal provision would do a better job of providing that good to those who need it than alternative methods. If the factual premise underlying the recommendation is undercut, then so is the recommendation itself.

  27. American Knight says:

    We have to keep something in mind, which is often hard to see. There is an evil hand in just about every sphere of influence. For example, the Tea Parties are standing against what government is doing because it has overstepped the limits of the Constitution – illegally. The G20 protesters are standing against government for the same reason. The difference is one is prone to violence and the other seeks to work within the bounds of our present (although damaged) framework. One wants a restoration of Constitutional government, the other wants anarchy or totalitarianism.

    We often get caught up in identifying the problem and then ascribing a pre-conceived notion of the identifiers proposed solution. Government is out of control – libertarians, liberals and conservatives agree on that point. However, we automatically assume the libertarian is going to advocate for allowing everyone, except government to have free reign. We assume the conservative is going to insist that government mandate morality and leave big business to provide goods and services. We assume the liberal wants the government to dictate the re-distribution of wealth. This is true to some extent – the ideology has a pre-conceived notion – rational human beings do not, or at least, should not.

    For example, being anti-media is foolish – we need and want the media. Being anti-controlled media is a good thing – the press should be free, especially political press. However, conservative ideology often assumes that Fox News is telling the truth and MSNBC is the propaganda arm of the DNC. Liberals assume that corporate-controlled media favors Republicans because they are good for the evil businesses, of which media is one. Both views are wrong. Fox News does lie, quite often. MSNBC is loaded with lefty-sentimentalists who favor New Left Democrats. Disliking both is not being anti-media, or press – it is simply a rational and healthy suspicion of selfish influence in reporting. Open debate cannot occur when we allow psychological programming by essentially the same interests to lead us into a false dialectic of choice. A choice in which if you choose left or right, Coke or Pepsi, yes or no – the result is the same – the benefit of the programmer at your expense. We are called to seek Truth, not be spoon-fed someone else’s version of it.

    The key is to seek virtue and vote for it at the ballot and with our wallets. There is no perfect system constructed by man, we need to seek more perfect and vigilantly guard it – always.

    I see PBXVI telling us precisely that – Charity (Love) in Truth (Jesus).

    Are all politicos in favor of ‘free trade’? No. Just as Mormons and Catholics don’t believe in the Trinity. The terms are the same, the meaning is totally different. Collectivists think Free Trade is a managed trade, that benefits one group at the expense of others – that’s not free. Free trade is a good idea and so are tariffs – provided they are evenly and justly applied. After all, wouldn’t you rather have taxes paid by the sellers who want access to the market in which you are a buyer, rather than paying taxes out of your income? The Constitution declares a free trade agreement between the various states of the Union – in less than 50 words! NAFTA is over 900 pages long! How is that free? We are so easily confused by terminology.

    The same is true with the word Capitalism. First, that is a pejorative term coined by Karl Marx! We throw it around meaning different things and then we are confused as to why no one got our point.

    The issue is one of private property and government property. Collectivists want government to own everything for the betterment of all. Capitalists want corporations to own everything for the betterment of all. Both ideas ignore the human person. Humans should own private property (not with absolute rights, some restrictions are valid. God gave us absolute freedom and 10 restrictions on that in order to make it authentic freedom, just 10!).

    A community of individuals may own private property together, so can individuals who form a corporation and so can individuals who form a government. The issue is to what extent should each sphere have a right to the private property for the common good. Government must own military equipment, but it should never own the homes we live in. Business should own the means of production, but not the people who produce. Individuals must own their labor so they can work toward their sanctity. Subsidiarity, as the Pope tells us, is the fundamental ordering that allows for the most freedom.

    Our present state is in such turmoil because we essentially have no private property, no character and a superstructure of mass psychological conditioning that benefits a very, very godless few at the expense of the rest of us. Subsidiarity dictates that we invert that pyramid and empower the larges number, not the fewest. We live in the Matrix and the Pope is telling us that we need Love and Truth – not sentimental emotions or man-made ideologies – in order to break free. However, the Pope DOES NOT TELL us what to do – save for faith and morals – the practical application of those truths is our work. The Church cannot and should not do it for us – otherwise how are we to attain sanctity. St. Josemaria Escriva teaches that we are sanctified through our work, great and small, remunerated or not – ordering our lives together is our work and we need to stop abdicating that responsibility to ideologues and that includes, maybe especially, the ones who promote ideology through Catholic Social Teaching.

    The One Who came to set the captives free of the present darkness (the Matrix) cannot deceive or be deceived – sadly we can – so stop it.

    Take the red pill, Neo. In other words: Receive the Red Cup of Salvation, Catholic!

  28. Phillip says:

    I think CST has focused greatly on the free market and totalitarian ideologies. There is support for the former (though conditioned) and none for the latter.

    I think a new social encyclical is needed to address the distinct problems of the welfare state as exemplified by Greece, Spain etc. that are as damaging to the common good as the unregulated free market.

    I don’t think there has been an impetus to do this a they have worked up to now. But when the private sector is not strong enough to support the public, and the public sector, which has been overextended for years, can no longer find financing, the result is devastating. Include in this the vested interests of unions and public workers acting for their own good and not the common good, further harm in incurred.

    Not that CST hasn’t condemned unions and states that look to their own good and not the common good, it has (though I don’t have the citations at this time.) But I think sometimes ideologies, even those that are undetected, keep us from recognizing that the public sector and unions can be as threatening to the common good and individuals and unrestrained markets.

  29. Phillip says:

    That should read “…as unrestrained markets.”

  30. restrainedradical says:

    Blackadder, I think international trade puts pressure on domestic firms to cut benefits. Maybe that’s what the pope is getting it. That too is usually a good thing but there are negative effects that should be mitigated. Also, I take “communal provision of basic goods/services for all” to mean welfare like a negative income tax or school vouchers.

  31. […] in Veritate 25, By the Numbers My co-blogger Tim recently highlighted the following statement from Pope Benedict’s latest social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate: […]

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