Free Markets, Free People

Pontiff Pontificates On Economics … Badly

When it comes to economics, the Pope should stick to poping. While it’s not uncommon for the papacy to issue decrees and opinions vaguely in line with common socialist principles (e.g. love thy neighbor, etc.), it is somewhat rare for the Pope to outright call for one-world government:

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a “world political authority” to oversee the economy and work for the “common good.”

He criticized the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity.”

He also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty,” Benedict wrote in his new encyclical, which the Vatican released on Tuesday.

I wonder what happened to leave to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? Or how about that whole concept of “free will”; you know the very basis and foundation of our religious “faith” (which, of course, can only come from choice and not from force)? That seems to be under indictment with Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical.

Leaving aside world governance for the moment, the Pope really goes off the rails when he gets into economic policy. For example, at one point he decries “globalization” and “outsourcing” as little more than the rich preying on the poor:

Indeed, sometimes Benedict sounds like an old-school European socialist, lamenting the decline of the social welfare state and praising the “importance” of labor unions to protect workers. Without stable work, he notes, people lose hope and tend not to get married and have children.

But he also wrote that “The so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favor of the shareholders.”

In short, managers should run their companies for the benefit of those who whine about the common good rather than for those who actually paid for the company (i.e. the shareholders). I’m guessing this is the “squeaky wheel” part of the sermon.

Yet, while outsourcing is deemed “bad”, the Pope also laments that poor countries aren’t better taken care of by richer ones. Towards that end

Benedict also called for a reform of the United Nations so that there could be a unified “global political body” that allowed the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and he called on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.

“In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all,” he wrote.

Except for the fact that “development aid” is not wealth. Wealth is created through productivity, not handouts. Indeed, the surest and simplest way to aid development in poor countries to give them jobs … a.k.a “outsourcing.” Doesn’t that whole give a man a fish/teach a man to fish thing ring any bells, your Holiness? Moreover, the more things like outsourcing happen, then the greater wealth there is in the world, and the more work/wealth/happiness there is for everyone to enjoy. Again, I’m pretty sure that was something about loaves and fishes in the Bible that would help illustrate this point.

So much for Papal infallibility.

Just to be clear, I say all of this as a practicing Catholic who is raising his own children in the same tradition. I have great respect for the Pontif when it comes to matters of the spirit. I just wish he’d leave the day-to-day management to the rest of us.

17 Responses to Pontiff Pontificates On Economics … Badly

  • “So much for Papal infallibility”

    Papal infallibility only applies in matter of Church doctrine (to the best of my knowledge) of which these statements obviously are not.

    That being said, as a praticing Catholic I disagree with most of the above statements regarding ECONOMIC policies.

  • Holy political correctness — this guy’s more Catholic than the Pope!

  • This encyclical did not involved any ex cathedra (infallible) pronouncements. Those are reserved for strict theological doctrine.

    I attribute the Pope’s poor understanding of markets, however, to the decades he spent in the academic world.

    Caritas in veritate is a serious miscue for B16. The Church has been very slow in learning the most important lessons of economics, and very slow at getting beyond the teaching laid down at the end of the 19th Century by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum.

    I recommend that the Pope get himself some Hayek.

  • I understand that “papal infallibility” only applies to the doctrines of the faith.  I was trying to be funny.

  • I must confess, though I’ve been through all the religious education as a Catholic, I still haven’t cleared up how “Thou shalt not steal” allows room for any follower of the Commandments to participate in taxation.  I’ll have to dig into the Catechism, I suppose.

  • You’re kidding right?  The whole “Render unto Caesar” thing is ENTIRELY in regards to TAXATION!

    Both the Old and the New Testament are replete with discussion of taxation, both in support and opposition…mostly the Gospels call for Justice and Justness in Tax Policy and Collection.

    Mayhap if you read more Gospel or listened more closely in Mass, and a little less Hayek, you’d be a little less confused.

    • Yes, Joe.  He’s joking. Although, he’s got a point if you consider what the Bible understood taxes to be for (i.e. administration) as opposed to he massive wealth transfers codified today.

      I’ve often thought the best rejoinder to current taxation levels was “God only demands 10%. Where do you get off?”

      • Walter Williams has written that the government’s budget should be limited to a percentage of GDP, since, after all, 10% is good enough for the Baptist Church.

    • So tell us, Joe, what about gold coin, or any other method of exchange that free people want to use, that does not have a ruler’s image on it? What then?
      Michael was definitely on the right path: “Thou shalt not steal” applies perfectly to the idea of a majority “voting” for , who then seize the property of the minority under the color of authority. When Abraham tithed, it was done willingly, according to God’s commandment. Any refusal on his part was between him and God; there was no authority for priests to come seize more of Abraham’s property, or to imprison him.
      Lick Caesar’s boots if you want, but leave me out of it. It’s “Christians” like you who have destroyed my desire to be a part of any congregation. You’re so eager to make the rest of us submit to the earthly powers, when in fact there is only one King: “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”

      • Does this oppression of minorities apply to all laws and acts of government that are not unanimous?

        • Yes, absolutely. It must by necessity. Tyranny is not just one man over a large group; it’s also an entire population less one, lording themselves over the one.
          If an individual out of a googleplex is harming no one, he must have the right to continue in his own way, regardless of what everyone says. That is freedom.

  • Don’t you know that Jesus said, “Affordable health care is a right!”  And they were all healed.  Amen.

  • Well the Church gets their 10% and the government gets some more….Nimitz CVN’s and Medicare aren’t cheap.

  • il papa better be careful about opening up cans of economic worms – especially as relates to ‘fairness’. i’ll just *betcha* there are some fabulous church-owned land and magnificent church-owned structures in europe that it can be proven were confiscated by the church when the *rightful*, *original* owners pissed off the bishop or the cardinal. am not positive, but a knowledge of medieval power politics leads me to think that anyone “guilty” of a convenient heresy or apostasy would certainly have his lands seized by the almighty church, probably even *before* they burned him alive. ya think benny would like to make a statement on THAT particular evil? think the church would agree to apply some of that oh-so-desired fairness and give those lovely lands and manor houses back to the heirs of the rightful owners? after all these years, certainly some of them must be simple humble working folks who could use the money. has benny made a widely-publicized critique of the church’s infamous ‘medici popes’ period? or even a passing mention of the role of the hutu nuns and priests who cheerfully took a helping bloody hand in the rwandan massacres? etc etc? would benedict beam approvingly if governments started looking into issues like these? why shouldn’t they? HE felt free to stick his nose in THEIR business, right? HE cast the first stone, no?
    benedict needs to shut his mouth, tend to his flock and mind his church’s business. the poor have always been with us and that’s a damn shame, but this populist hypocrisy and call for a one-world government (“a world political authority”) is….not good. never mind the fact it most certainly WON’T hepp the po’, (how much good has “development aid” done for north korea, lebanon, and all of sub-saharan africa?), it’s not going to put butts back in the empty seats of the deserted churches of europe, which is *supposed to be* the guy’s number one priority.

  • I guess some of that Hitler Youth stuff did stick after all.

  • Based on Pope Benedict’s statements I would say that he is solidly behing the anti christ.  Not only is his ecomonic wisdon is in question but also his spititual wisdom also.