Some Economic Applications of Evangelii Gaudium

(CNS:Reuters:Alessandro Bianchi)

I am a Catholic and it is the very intellectual foundations of the Catholic Church that drew me back to my faith. I grew up admiring Pope John Paul II’s battle against communism—a battle that we now know he played an integral part in.

Pope Francis’s background is very different from his two most recent predecessors. Admittedly, I worried about his views coming out of the more liberal Jesuit order. Now his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, would seem to confirm some of my worst fears, especially as an economist. Samuel Gregg from the Acton Institute does an excellent of job here of pointing out those fears.

Here is the offending passage that has so many of my free-market friends in an uproar:

[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. (n. 54)

However, to me the answer to this is in the section just prior. In fact, paragraph 54 starts with the phrase “In this context,” which many seem to have ignored.

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised—they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’.

My reading of this conforms to a significant problem I have had with some free market, libertarian leaning economists which is that any monetary generating activity is of equal value to society. For instance, if I spend $1,000 on an abortion or $1,000 on a life-saving procedure, are the two activities really of the same value—one activity ends life while the other saves life?

Yet, according to our economic bean-counters, the two procedures go into our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and America’s income goes up. If we suddenly decided to abort every baby in America, GDP would zoom, but within a few years it would become painfully obvious that a 100 percent abortion rate is also bad economics—which I recently pointed out in my blog “Demographic Winter Comes to America.”

And, abortions feed economic inequality since abortions are most prevalent among poor women with an abortion rate of 53 per 1,000 women representing 40 percent of all abortions. At the same time, well-heeled doctors and the health system pocket the abortion money, including government funded Medicaid dollars. Just look at Dr. Gosnell and how he enriched himself while inflicting physical and spiritual pain.

From abortions we move into chemical contraception, ie, the “pill,” which is an abortificant—meaning they cause abortions since it does not prevent the fertilization of an egg only the attachment to the mother. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 10.54 million women in 2010 used the pill. If you assume $100 per month per woman, that is $12.6 billion added to GDP every year. This does not include more expensive chemical contraception such as intrauterine devices or implants.

Another example is gambling. Living in Northern New England, I am surrounded by states that have legalized gambling. Gambling may be most representative of Pope Francis’s “human beings as consumer goods” where the industry is built on massive amounts of deception and exists solely to remove the money from your wallet as quickly as possible.

Studies have shown that casinos and other gambling venues are an economic blackhole for the communities that they are located in. The revenue generated from, mostly local, customers is wisked away never to return. Yet, economic theory says that this economic activity is just as valuable as any other—until it’s not.

Then there is the massive Hollywood-Entertainment complex whose shows and movies anymore are a cesspool of promiscuity, dysfunctional families, homosexuality, crude language, etc. that glorifies sin over virtue. It’s no surprise from the way mainstream American families are portrayed that traditional marriage has eroded and cohabitation has surged. And from the Pope’s perspective, this form of demonic communication is brought to you courtesy of America’s free market.

Speaking of the breakdown in traditional marriage, proponents of same-sex marriage talk about the economic benefits that would accrue to a state that allowed for it. According to an article in the Huffington Post titled “Gay Marriage And The Economy: Same-Sex Unions Will Boost Economy By $166 Million, Study Finds”:

The Williams Institute at UCLA Law reported Monday that wedding spending by same-sex couples in the three newest states to approve gay marriage may generate more than $166 million over the next three years. The Institute estimates that same-sex couples in Maine will collectively spend $15.5 million, Maryland couples will spend $62.6 million and Washingtonians will spend $88.5 million on weddings.

Finally, one last example is the growing movement toward drug legalization. Just down the road Portland, Maine became the latest city to legalize marijuana. Surely, moving illicit drug sales into the open will be a boost to GDP. And, so will all of the growth in the drug rehab business, bankruptcy and divorce courts, and counseling services.

Abortion, contraception, gambling, same-sex marriage, and drug legalization are all examples of a free market at work that will not bring “greater justice and inclusiveness in the world” from an economic or, more importantly, spiritual standpoint. Yet, when Pope Francis looks at an economic powerhouse like the United States, he must wonder how much of our income and wealth, or more technically measured by GDP, is predicated on this “economy of exclusion and inequality.”

On the flip side, GDP undervalues activities that often have a high spiritual component. For instance, in large part because of my faith, I stay at home and homeschool my four children. According to Salary.com, the work of a stay-at-home mother is worth at least $113,599. When accounting for in GDP, am I not at least worth the pay of a casino dealer?

Overall, why wouldn’t Pope Francis be a bit unimpressed by America’s economic prowess and the workings of the free market in promoting sin and under-promoting virtue? A free market needs boundaries in order to operate efficiently, such as some government regulation. A free market also needs boundaries to operate spiritually and, in my opinion, that is the Christian faith.

Overall, I can’t help but think that Pope Francis really isn’t criticizing America’s free market so much as he is criticizing America’s waning Christian faith. I think economists have forgotten that the Catholic Church is, first and foremost, in the business of saving souls. If we want the Pope to take the free market seriously it is up to all of us to show that economic growth helps, not hinders, salvation.

(Photo credit: CNS/Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi.)

Wendy P. Warcholik

By

Wendy P. Warcholik is a research fellow at The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and blogs at Ph.D Mom Dropout. She formerly served as an economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, and was the chief forecasting economist for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services. She is a co-creator (with J. Scott Moody) of the Tax Foundation’s popular “State Business Tax Climate Index.” She earned her doctorate in economics from George Mason University.

  • vishmehr24

    The fiction of a science of ‘economics’ must be given the go-by and the term ‘political economy’ be revived. Chesterton was a master of political economy and consequently the economists and their acolytes despise him as an economic ignoramus even while honoring him as a prophet in other things. How consistent is this, I do not know.

    To re-moralize economics, it is perhaps required to revive the notion that morally commendable acts are those that are intended to further the common good. Thus, the State is justified to discriminate between commendable and non-commendable acts.

    The other thing is the prevalence of anonymous property. The Catholic doctrine respects private property but property is really speaking a public and stable relation between a person and the thing that is the property. This condition– public and stable-is often not obtained in these days of giant corporations and mutual funds and rapid trading of stocks. Thus, the giant corporations are effectively owner-less and do not further the functions of private property i.e due stewardship of earth and its resources, the social and political functions of property are also not fulfilled–that dispersed, stable and public property serves to disperse authority but giant owner-less corporations are aligned with the state,

    • Adam__Baum

      “Chesterton was a master of political economy and consequently the economists and their acolytes despise him as an economic ignoramus even while honoring him as a prophet in other things. How consistent is this, I do not know.”
      For the same reason that Einstein managed to elucidate secrets of the Universe while supporting socialism.
      As much as I find Chesterton enlighting, I’m not joining the cult that ascribes omniscience to him.

      • vishmehr24

        Chesterton was not reticent on economics. So if he was a prophet, he was a bad prophet if his economic thought is to be regarded as ignorant.

        So either he is a bad prophet or we need to pay attention to his economics.

        • Adam__Baum

          It’s not all or nothing. That’s the proposition of a cult.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “the giant corporations are effectively owner-less”

      All corporations are essentially ownerless. That is why on the 18 August 1792, the French Legislative Assembly declared, “A State that is truly free ought not to suffer within its bosom any corporation, not even such as, being dedicated to public instruction, have merited well of the country.”

      • Adam__Baum

        I don’t know where you live, but in the United States we have something called a “closely held” corporation, and there is active owner management-the Berle and Means objections does not fit. I know several owners, they’d laugh at your statement, because their ownership comes at great and continued cost.

        In addition, Jefferson penned that letter in 1789. The modern (U.S.) corporation only began to take shape after Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819), so whatever Jefferson was objecting to, it wasn’t the modern corporation.

      • vishmehr24

        The key thing is -public and stable relation of the thing owned to its owner(s).

        The pronouncements of a revolutionary assembly are hardly authoritative to those that oppose that revolution on principle.

  • Ajram10

    The issues with this pope are not economic; while one can question the inordinate emphasis he has given to economic matters, there does not appear to be anything terrible non-traditional in what he preaches. Only our Tea party amen corner here could possibly be upset with it. And as well as they should be with their synthetic Americanist revisionisms.

    No, the real problem is the non-traditional aspects of this pope’s thinking. Notice his reference to the Jewish community in this exhortation with no call at all for conversion, but essentially a religious indifferentism that seems to allocate to them a separation track of truth and salvation.

    And his catcalls towards those who uphold the fullness of truth, and take classical doctrinal and moral integrity seriously, as though we somehow don’t have a sufficiently flexible posture and are not truly encountering the true mystical empirical Christ through some exalted stream of consciousness. Herein lies the true problem.

  • lifeknight

    I commend Dr. Warcholik for dedicating her life to staying at home and educating her children. Arguably, much financial gain is sacrificed with this choice of vocation in life. However we CHOOSE to live this way for the good of our families and ultimately for the good of society. In the same manner our charity AND the financial support of charity must be freely CHOSEN by the individual. Otherwise it is NOT charity. It is a forced action which is not Catholic.

    His economic fixation aside, I resent the comments by the Pope regarding overt displays and vocalizations regarding the true EVILS of our time. The physical, spiritual, and emotional emphasis which is so necessary in our world to stop abortion, contraception, and euthanasia (not to mention the homosexual and lesbian perversions of family) are lost in his renditions of how to help the poor in an economic sense.

    Clearly the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy must guide Catholic thought and charity. If you are dead, however (aborted) none of those matter.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      The two are not unconnected. The #1 cause of abortion, is the exclusion of the next generation from the free market.

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  • Marcelus

    Just a little something, Evangelii Gaudium is not an encyclical, it’s an exhortation, not mandatory but just bellow the level of an encyclical.
    Do not make the mistake of looking at it with american eyes!! If posiible since this is mostly an american site I believe,

    I keep seeing the same lines of comments over and over. Even watched a critical response to EG by a Fr Sirico one of your readers posted.

    It is quite clear that CM posters are not and will be fond of Francis in any way you may look at it. But do not take as if the Pope is targeting America or IT’s Capitalism.

    Which brings another question as to how do you think or why most of the Cardenals elected him, His views and preaching to them came as no surpirise.

    IS it not your Church that chose Francis?

    I believe , He is global now, he talks about boats sinking with hungry refugees in front of Lampudusa on a monthly basis, hunger in Africa or what he and I if you’ll forgive my comment have seen in Argentina, and most oj L America for all that matters-

    THe corrupt form of Capitalism (look it up) implemented in the 90’s down here, led to massive layoffs, people’s savings held and retained by the banks , looting and so on, Look up 2001 crisis in Argentina and later and recent it’s replicas in Iceland , Spain, Grecee and so.

    Other than that, He is not talking about America I believe.

    • Carl

      “Do not make the mistake of looking at it with american eyes!!”

      [Trickle down theories] is completely American jargon, NOT a Catholic term, NOT a real economic term, how can someone NOT at least be confused? How can an American conservative NOT feel insulted. Trickle down economics is a pejorative term used by American leftist against conservatives. Again, how can an American conservative not feel insulted?

      CCC2425 Socialism and communism are atheistic ideologies and violate Church teaching. Capitalism is only wrong when practiced as [absolute primacy.]

      • TheodoreSeeber

        “[Trickle down theories] is completely American jargon”

        Uh, no it isn’t. It’s also Argentinian Jargon for Peron’s version of the theory, in which large semi-state-owned corporations were favored over the poor through direct transfers.

        • Carl

          (Trickle down economics) is attributed to humorist Will Rodgers during the Great Depression mocking people who have control of wealth.

          Please offer your historical evidence of Argentinian Jargon before this date…

          • Carl

            According to CIA.gov Peronist Populism didn’t exist until after WWII.
            Argentinian who coined this phrase?

            Ok, let’s assume you’re right two countries use the term “trickle down theory,” so you admit it’s NOT a universal term.

            Any arguments that its NOT a pejorative term?

            • Marcelus

              My friend I am from Argentina- sorry to sat your history is a little shaky.

              Where do get this from???

              “semi-state-owned corporations were favored over the poor through direct transfers”

              • Carl

                What’s sh sh sh shaky… It’s NOT a pejorative term, NOT a universal term, or that some Argentinian used the term before Will Rodgers?

                ISBN of Economics book that this term resides in please…

                • Marcelus

                  You know, what ? I took the liberty of reading carefully that part again where in english , they (Vatican) translate “trickle down”, one way or the other, into “derrame”

                  Looked up tricke down and found (You know this better than I ) so as to make no mistakes ,

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trickle-down_economics

                  “Derrame” , and this IS VERY ARGENTINIAN, it often used so refer to argentina, and maybe Thrid World economic deployment of ultra capitalists policies..

                  Clealy, EG was written i n Spanish. THe use of this term seems to prove it. And it does not come eve close to what I understood TD to be, based on what you are saying even.

                  El Derrame (spilling) is used and has been used, particularly in Argentina , to explain how the richer some portions (usually the upper ) of society are or become, the better for the lower portion of society, usually the poorest. And this by means of “spilling” the residue from the rim of the filled up glass of richness.

                  Thats was derrame (spanish) means and has been used for in economic jergon.

                  • Marcelus

                    hurry, Im leaving in a minute

                    • Carl

                      “The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes
                      that it would [trickle down] to the needy. Mr. Hoover didn’t know that money
                      trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will
                      have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor
                      fellow’s hands.”

                      Will Rogers in the St. Petersburg Times – Nov 26, 1932

                      Mr. Rodgers, an out spoken democrat, in favor of FDRs New
                      Deal Socialism.

                    • Marcelus

                      Ok.clear. thanks. Still I think Derrame points somewhere else, I don’t know..

                    • Art Deco

                      Will Rogers died in 1935. The political economy constructed over the next forty years was inchoate at that point.

                      He was an entertainer, primarily, not an economic sophisticate. One thing he knew is that the economy began a course of rapid improvement in the Spring of 1933.

                      As for Roosevelt, prior to the war, federal expenditure as a share of domestic product averaged about 6.5% and the largest federal budget deficit amounted to about 4% of gross domestic product.

                      Social Security did not pay a dime in benefits until 1940. Per capita product returned to 1929 levels by 1939 and returned to long term trend lines by 1941, so the Depression was nearly over before Social Security kicked in.

                      You had before and after Roosevelt took office a patchwork of local relief programs to which the Roosevelt Administration added various public employment schemes. That was about all.

                      The most problematic aspect of the Roosevelt Administration was the complex of mercantilist and quasi-syndicalist measures (the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, promotion of industrial unionism, and high minimum wages). The appellate courts invalidated the most troublesome and intrusive of these (NIRA) on the grounds that it comprehended an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.

                    • Carl

                      Not sure what your point is, the fact that Mr Rogers had no formal business training and people of education use his term—I think that says it all.

                      Of corse it was inchoate in the early 30’s, but when Democrats get the single payer plan they really want are you going to say that it’s historically inaccurate that Obamacare was really a free market plan?

                    • Art Deco

                      You are incoherent here.

                    • Carl

                      Will Rogers comments were after the Nov 8, 1932 election.
                      Did any one really confuse the US Constitution original intent with “The New Deal?’
                      LOL, Obama’s “fundamentally Change” America, yea, there’s still people who say he’s not a socialist either.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    Thrid World economic deployment of ultra capitalists policies..
                    Usually, what is referred to as “ultracapitalism” isn’t capitalism. A lot like the “ultraCatholics” who end up being something completely different.

                  • Art Deco

                    Just to point out that advocacy of liberal economic policies has little manifest constituency in Argentina. Different flavors of populism and mercantilism are the order of the day. Alvaro Alsogaray may have been an exception, but his parties typically comprehended only 4-5% of the electorate.

                    • Marcelus

                      You got your numbers right. thank you. Let’s not forget That Prdnt Menem is usually seen as the one who caused what I imagine the Pope must have been talking about. If Menen upheld capitalism or not is an argument by itself

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’m not saying it is earlier- I’m saying it is likely that the Pope is referring to the economic systems promoted first by Peron’s dictatorship, then again in the 1990s by the Kirchner Administration until the crash of 2001. In Argentina. Why would a Pope who doesn’t speak English read Will Rodgers?

            • Art Deco

              No. The Kirchner’s ascendancy dates to 2003. The troublesome monetary system adopted in 1992 antedated them by more than a decade.

          • Art Deco

            Agreed. I first heard the term from a middle school history teacher in 1978. It was a commonplace in the liberal opinion journalism of the first Reagan Administration.

        • Adam__Baum

          Vacant, intellectually bankrupt and emotionally charged political invective is vacant intellectually bankrupt and emotionally charged political invective, whether it is said in Engish here, or Spanish in Argentina.

          Argentina had been a statist cesspool for decades.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Trickle-down in Argentina is a statist scheme.

            Means something different than what libertarians and Reagan worshipers promote. It means using consumption taxes to directly subsidize production for crony-capitalist owned businesses in which the dictator owns a share.

            One of the latest was subsidizing piped natural gas by adding taxes to compressed gas bottles. Thus, every time a poor person lit up a stove, they were financing the factory down the street.

            • Adam__Baum

              This is charitable as I can be- you are devoid of any possibility of informed comment on these matters. Anybody who says “I reject” a secular term of art like rent-seeking and then complains about the same type of behavior (validly) is well, nuts.

              • Art Deco

                Agreed.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                Secular is the problem there, isn’t it? Secularism is always evil.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Secular is a problem as is pseudoreligiosity.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    It is part of my general distrust of the attempt, widely spread among many economists, to separate economics from morality. I’m just familiar enough with the work of these economists to reject their basic philosophy. One small child dying of AIDS in Africa is worth more to me than the entire Globalized market combined.

                    Better to still have our lives ruled by priests and limited to agricultural technology than to give in to secularism.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You aren’t distrustful, you are paranoid.

                      Although Tullock (and Buchanan) wasn’t the best as coining nomenclature, he installed into the economic body of knowledge the knowledge that politicians are sinful.

                      Whether or not they were trying to do so, they were incorporating moral reality into the dismal science.

                      The complaint “about small child dying of AIDS in Africa is worth more to me than the entire Globalized market combined.” may reassure you of your imagined moral superiority, but it has nothing to do with your refusal to use the term “rent-seeker”.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Politicians aren’t the only sinners in economics, and they’re mainly puppets anyway. The real sinner is the man who bribes the puppet, not the puppet.

                      Their form of moral reality (that business owners are always virtuous and government is always not) is depraved at the start.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “The real sinner is the man who bribes the puppet, not the puppet.”
                      You mean the rent-seekers? Satan, be gone from us.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      “he installed into the economic body of knowledge the knowledge that politicians are sinful.”

                      All men are sinful. That should be the basis. Not just politicians. Not just rent seekers. ALL.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      The general doesn’t invalidate the particular.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      True, it doesn’t. But it should influence the general theory, and in the case of capitalism-as-religion, it fails to.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Blah, blah.
                      All they did was point out something people failed to consider. That politicians lie cheat and steal, and even when they don’t they try to get advantage.
                      Try to make one coherent response.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      And totally ignored (or failed to consider) that business people lie cheat and steal, even when they don’t try to get an advantage.

                      And that’s due, of course, to the fact that human beings lie, cheat, and steal, even when they don’t try to get an advantage.

                      In other words, news flash, human beings are sinners.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “And totally ignored (or failed to consider) that business people lie cheat and steal, even when they don’t try to get an advantage.”

                      No, you disgusting liar. That you insist on entering transactions without adequate competence, prudence and diligence is your sin. You are a middle aged man, start taking some responsibility for yourself.

                      In other words, news flash, human beings are sinners.
                      Yours is calumny and imprudence.

                      Mine is pride. I keep thinking stupid can be fixed.
                      None of this has anything to do with the term rent seeker.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      “That you insist on entering transactions without adequate competence, prudence and diligence is your sin. ”

                      Caveat emptor, yep. Except a market that relies on caveat emptor, as the primary form of contract enforcement, is a market completely free of anything related to morals or ethics.

                      Prudence is a virtue, true, but imprudence when the terms are sufficiently hidden is not a sin.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You immature whiner. It’s time to grow a pair and take responsibility for your actions.
                      If you are not in an industry and are not a lawyer, you don’t sign a contract without competent counsel.
                      Your ignorance isn’t concealment.
                      As an aside, get an exorcist too. Thorough dedication to fultile lies is a sign of the diabolical.

    • redfish

      I think there’s a realm of valid criticism of United States economic policies, especially in regard to free trade agreements and globalization. We’re told, for instance, that it doesn’t matter if workers in US industries and agriculture lose jobs, because it helps consumers, and of course, helps corporations lower their costs. The same corporations are exploitative overseas and set up sweat shops and engage in unethical practices, but we’re told, that doesn’t matter, because the wages they give are marginally better.

      American conservatives largely don’t support “trickle-down economics” — they would view that as cronyism — they simply don’t believe in punishing the wealthy, or redistributing their money. Despite this, though, there are several areas of US policy where I’d argue this type of cronyism is at work and some trickle-down mentality is in effect.

      You don’t have to be a leftist to think in some places corporate influence in government has run amok.

      • Adam__Baum

        You don’t have to be a leftist to think in some places corporate influence in government has run amok.
        And visa versa. There’s revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, two clown shows in the same circus.

      • Art Deco

        I think there’s a realm of valid criticism of United States economic
        policies, especially in regard to free trade agreements and
        globalization.

        For pity’s sake. The net effect of protectionism in most societies is the manufacture of political property rights to the associated rents.

        The utility of tariffs is that they are a fairly regular way to collect revenue, which is helpful in countries which lack the information base to collect aught but the crudest direct taxes.

      • Art Deco

        The same corporations are exploitative overseas and set up sweat shops
        and engage in unethical practices, but we’re told, that doesn’t matter,
        because the wages they give are marginally better.

        Have you compared the wage rates in foreign enterprises abroad to local agricultural wages or to what prevails in domestic manufactories in loci like Mexican border town or in Thailand or in India? If not, what is the basis of your complaint?

        • redfish

          The basis of that complaint is that it a marginally higher wage rate doesn’t make everything OK.

          To begin with, they’re primarily pushing these type of trade relations to exploit lax labor and environmental protections. Its not just a matter of foreign workers being more willing to do this type of work, or being more industrious. Its a matter of less regulations. In some cases, it goes well beyond that. For instance, an American mining company in Indonesia hired mercenaries to fire on striking workers, going around the legal system there.

          • Art Deco

            Environmental goods are normal or superior goods. You purchase more of them as you grow affluent and more basic appetitles are met.

            Turn of the century America was pretty filthy, too.

            • redfish

              By the turn of the century, American law had already established decent labor standards and a few environmental laws. Of course, America had, if not perfect, a relatively accountable government, and businesses in the end decided that a well-paid work force was more able to purchase its products. Some governments overseas are not very democratic, and when you export most of your products to wealthy countries, the purchasing power of your workforce doesn’t matter much for your profit.

              There’s the argument that capitalism by its inherent virtues will make these countries more democratic and fair in the long run, but that’s what I have doubt about.

              • Art Deco

                Again, the alternative to ‘capitalism’ is mercantilism, which is prone to rent seeking and cronyism. Another alternative is the command economy, which has scant history of co-existing with any kind of free and popular government.

                • redfish

                  I’m not complaining about capitalism, although you could hardly call the Chinese government capitalist, since it involves itself heavily in the economy. I’m questioning the effectiveness of these type of foreign trade relationships to transform the governments.

                  • Art Deco

                    China is a partially dismantled command economy. There are juxtapositions of various systems in its economy.

                    What you are ‘questioning’ was not the assertion of anyone who trafficks in economic theory or measurement. I know not who you are shadow boxing with, but the arguments for liberal trade regimes turn invariably on welfare gains static and dynamic, not on political matters.

                    • redfish

                      I addressed the economic side of things, earlier. The question was what the limits of welfare gain would be given the un-democratic nature of the government. I’d argue conditions for workers in the US improved in part because of the labor movement. I don’t know if you think the labor movement was unnecessary, or harmful. And I’m arguing if it benefits the patriciate in China it will be partly because the government is not democratic. Marxism relies on the idea that democracy is a tool of capital; so its hardly Marxist to say that.

                      I’d hardly be a lone voice in saying GDP isn’t the best metric on economic well-being. Ie. If GDP is rising, but consumer purchasing power is going down, then what it says is limited. You take everything in total.

                    • Art Deco

                      The question was what the limits of welfare gain would be given the un-democratic nature of the government.

                      The welfare gain is not dependent on the presence of a particular political system.

          • Art Deco

            Redfish, business is not philanthropy and philanthropy only subsists in realms where people are earning a regular living. There are a complex of advantages and disadvantages to setting up shop in Thailand or India. You take away the advantages, there is no point in setting up shop there. The justification for that might be twofold:

            1. That foreign enterprise retards economic growth (a proposition without much evidence bar where export enclaves develop) or

            2. It is better the society be without employment rather than have ‘exploitative’ foreign capital.

            Be my guest trying to argue these points.

            • redfish

              “Economic growth” is a broad way of measuring things, and in general, not helpful. Most of China is still poor, most of the increase in wealth is still by a small minority. Yes, and I’d argue if these industries developed domestically, rather than by foreign companies, they’d help transform the economy much faster. The US effectively used tariffs in the 19th century to nurture domestic industries.

              But the point isn’t just on the foreign end, but also on the domestic end. And really whether equal trade relationships with countries that have vastly different regulatory systems really make sense and are about a “free market.” The fact that two countries have different regulatory regimes has nothing to do with capitalism or free markets. That’s a political issue, not an economic one. So the question is who is pushing the political issue, and why.

              A hundred years ago, conservatives — including small government conservatives like Taft and Coolidge — generally accepted the idea of tariffs as a tool of trade. It did get ample support from socialists, who then thought it favored business, but more importantly, were internationalists, and had no interest in national sovereignty.

              • Art Deco

                “Economic growth” is a broad way of measuring things, and in general, not helpful.

                There are all manner of metrics that are interesting for ascertaining the welfare of a society. General income and production metrics are the most salient. If you do not know those, you cannot say much that is intelligent about the process of economic development.

                • redfish

                  “Growth” generally refers to GDP, which isn’t a very good metric. If you were referring to something else, then I was mistaken. Most of the increase in wealth is still concentrated.

                  On the historical note, conservatives didn’t only support tariffs for revenue purposes.

                  • Art Deco

                    Isn’t a very good metric? Why not try tea leaves.

                    As for income distribution, there are patterns of intermediate deterioration followed by improvement in the process of development. (See Simon Kuznets) The notion that economic improvement benefits only the patriciate is warmed over Marxist tripe. Income distribution figures seem to have local signatures. Latin America’s generally stink no matter what’s up with the quantum of economic dynamism.

                    Redfish, you are not going to re-invent econometrics in this combox, in spite of your aspirations. Give it up.

                    I do not give a rip what other reasons Calvin Coolidge had up his sleeve. It was still bad policy bar as a strategy for reciprocal trade deals. The man also smoked cigars, which is aesthetically unpleasant and unhealthy. I am not taking it up.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    Redfish, there are problems with GDP, but it’s all we got.

              • Art Deco

                A hundred years ago, conservatives — including small government
                conservatives like Taft and Coolidge — generally accepted the idea of
                tariffs as a tool of trade.

                So what?

                The country had little in the way of direct taxes and that was the salient means for raising revenue. They still cause welfare losses and are tinder for rent seeking, even if Calvin Coolidge did not get that.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    I am wondering whether the Holy Father is proposing that those who use their labor for economic gain through capitalist ventures should not contribute to the support of the Church since these monies are ill-gotten. Just wondering…

    • Mike Smith

      Is he really saying they are ill-gotten? Or is he saying that our compassion is being deadened? If the people directly help the poor, or if they give to the Church and the Church helps the poor, the result would be the same. The trouble is that our capacity for empathy is deteriorating and we are putting our trust into the goodness of others to do what we ourselves should be doing.

      • Adam__Baum

        Tell me, who is poorer. The family that has little, or the well-to-do couple whose postponing (indefinitely, because their concerns piddle time away) children, the impoverished individual who worries at night because the world seems to be “going to hell in a handbasket” or the individual who places their head on 400 threadcount pillowcases, sleeping easily after writing a check to some anti-life, pro SSM politician

        • Mike Smith

          I hoenstly don’t know what you are getting at in reference to my comment. Deacon Ed is directly referencing money (economic gain, capitalist ventures) supporting the Church in regards to the Pope’s comments. I was addressing that and wasn’t referencing a spiritual metaphor.

          • Adam__Baum

            It’s implicit in what you are saying

            “If the people directly help the poor, or if they give to the Church and the Church helps the poor, the result would be the same.”

            that you are talking about material want. I’m saying that the more spiritually perilous and intractable poverty lies in the attitudes and practices who have plenty in a material sense, but are impoverished where it counts, and it’s pretty clear that the Pope is focused on material issues as well.

            • Mike Smith

              Well, the subject matter was about material need, so that was what I was addressing. I’m not saying addressing spiritual poverty isn’t important, it’s just not the subject.

              Ed made a comment about how the Pope would feel about “ill-gotten money” going to the Church, and I addressed it specifically. Your post just seemed more like a retort than an aside.

              I think the Pope is spot on in addressing the loss of our core values. Where theological debates are great, and we should continue having them, they don’t feed the hungry or clothe the naked. You may call that “material want” but it is truly one of the core missions of the Church. And we, as a society, are growing more and more away from that precisely because of what Pope Francis said: they are no longer oppressed or needy, they are becoming invisble and disposable. The person that hungers isn’t hungry anymore if we act like he isn’t there.

              • Adam__Baum

                “Well, the subject matter was about material need, ”

                As was the letter. He’s talking in poltical colloquialisms (trickle-down and then saying that there’s no no empirical proof that that things that only exist as political terms of art work. I get it, he dislikes certain things, but I’m not sure what they are or what he’s proposing.

                The point is that the spiritual poverty that exists is far more perilous and pervasive than material poverty.

                • Mike Smith

                  As I said in another comment, the Pope is describing theories that free market economics are a means to bring about justice and inclusiveness as trickle-down theories. There is no mention of a trickle-down theory as a thing in of itself.

                  And I don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive, as if one has to come before the other on some kind of scale. I don’t know why you are putting them that way, especially because the indifference the Pope is decrying IS a spiritual poverty.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    “There is no mention of a trickle-down theory as a thing in of itself.”

                    Then what does this mean? What are they continuing to defend?
                    “[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories”

                    And as I said in another comment, Justice is the product of informed consciences, not economic systems. To expect wood from ore indicates a certain misunderstanding.

                  • Art Deco

                    Mike, he is using political buzz-terms that you find in opinion journalism. It is just completely out of place in a papal exhortation.

                    He is also shadow boxing. Libertarianism is an odd minority taste in any starboard political party you would care to name. The public in the United States has the most affinity for it, but even here the Libertarian Party comprehends perhaps 0.4% of the electorate and practical libertarianism in the Republican Party tends toward objection to central government activity contrary to positive law, not to any governmental activity. Not to say you do not have the sort of libertarianism he references in public discussion, but it is almost entirely an academic or combox tendency.

                    In this country, there were quite a mass of people who mistook Ronald Reagan’s rhetorical flourishes for Ronald Reagan’s policies. Peace and justice Catholics are the same way, contending with schematics derived from political rhetoric rather than assessments of actual policies.

                    That is what is troubling about the Pope’s remarks. There kinda…dumb.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      In Argentina, it has become a left-wing buzzword under the Kirchners. Too bad they took their methods from Peron.

                • lifeknight

                  Because I work with the poor, I feel somewhat able to say that the true peril IS their decent into spiritual poverty. Material wealth or the lack of it, is NOT what should be our focus. The change I see– sadly is REAL— from the poor Mexican who comes to America to gain work and is humbly religious, to the same person who becomes focused on material wealth in a year’s time. At the same time the spiritual poverty increases monumentally. The more Americanized, the more lustful and greedy. You are SO correct Mr. Baum–economics can be the death of spirituality. It is the weakness of the human condition. The problem is not capitalism, but Original Sin.

    • Adam__Baum

      He’s also talked about decentralizing the Church. Does than mean I redirect my Peter’s Pence donation to my Diocesan annual collection?

  • poetcomic1

    Show me where in this encyclical is the call to the Kingdom of Heaven? Where is the adorable perfection of Jesus Christ offered to all of us rich and poor? My problem with the Pope Francis flow of pronouncements is they pull me into the realm of argument, confusion, secondaries i.e. THE WORLD. Is Francis radical? Hardly! St. Paul was radical.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “Show me where in this encyclical is the call to the Kingdom of Heaven?”

      Pretty much articles 1-40. Right up front.

      • Marcelus

        NOT AN ENCYCLICAL.!

        • poetcomic1

          Technically, no. But all such become de facto encyclicals in this brave new world.

          • kellen2005

            “But all such become de facto encyclicals in this brave new world.”

            What does this mean?

            • poetcomic1

              It means (God forbid) the end of the hierarchical church and the triumph of Protestant-bourgeois values.

          • Marcelus

            Correct!

      • Adam__Baum

        I see nothing about overflowing Churches on Sunday or long lines on Saturday.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Then you’re not reading closely enough.

          • Adam__Baum

            Based on what you write, I suggest that you don’t judge anybody else’s reading effort or comprehension.

    • hombre111

      Aaah. A newcomer to the Cafeteria Catholic line. Welcome.

      • Adam__Baum

        Wow, there’s the pot calling the kettle black.

        • hombre111

          You missed the irony.

          • Adam__Baum

            No I didn’t. You think the announcer is calling home run, when the whole stadium saw a whiff.

    • Curtis L.

      Seriously? Did you READ it?

      • poetcomic1

        ALL of it? You gotta be kidding.

        • Curtis L.

          So you didn’t?

  • Guest

    “Then there is the massive Hollywood-Entertainment complex whose shows
    and movies anymore are a cesspool of promiscuity, dysfunctional
    families, homosexuality, crude language, etc. that glorifies sin over
    virtue. It’s no surprise from the way mainstream American families are
    portrayed that traditional marriage has eroded and cohabitation has
    surged. And from the Pope’s perspective, this form of demonic
    communication is brought to you courtesy of America’s free market.”

    You are quite right.

    People focus on his lines that refer to economic theories but he seems to be saying that these theories need to be infused with morality. We need a moral people not particular theories.

    We place too much emphasis on one side of the equation. Yes, so called free markets are necessary but we need people to live as Catholics. The same goes for democracy. We have the troubles we have today for the reasons you point out. We care more about consumer products, sports watching foolishness, and diversions then we care about important things.

    Your news analogy is right one. How much is devoted to serious issues and how much is devoted to facile nonsense?

    • Carl

      I agree with you to a point. But the last two Popes I didn’t have to extrapolate what they had to say, I had to re-read and contemplate what they wrote, all the answers where there. I feel like, and I feel others too, have to bail him out on what he says and writes because its not clear.

      I find myself thinking, is this Pope really a genius?

      Instead of spelling out everything like the last two Popes this one is actually forcing us into critical thinking and engaging us to correct those who use his words to distort Church teachings.

      • Guest

        I agree with you and feel the same way. I do not know why this Pope speaks and writes as he does. I am not criticizing the Holy Father I only want to grasp what he says.

        Why do we need 500 different people to tell us what he really said? All contradicting each other? I do not get it.

        For me the key is to pray, remain convinced God would not lead us astray, and digest all that he says through the eyes of the Church.

        • Adam__Baum

          re Carl & Guest:
          “I find myself thinking, is this Pope really a genius?”

          “500 different people to tell us what he really said”

          I don’t see the fomenting of endless interpretation as genius. There’s a lack of clarity here. I like black and white. The world is full of expositors of the idea that it’s 500 shades of grey.

          When he speaks, especially extemporaneously, I keep seeing the posters of World War II that bore the warning “loose lips sink ships”.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I think you’ve made the same mistake everybody else has. He doesn’t even mention the United States until paragraph 64. The unregulated, amoral, capitalistic market he’s talking about is global trade, viewed through the lens of Argentina, not the United States. While Reagan’s version of trickle down certainly increased the gap between the poor and the rich, Peron’s version of trickle down was direct transfer through the price of goods from the poor to the rich- so complex that even the left wing Marxist Kirchners couldn’t unravel it. Even today, piped gas to industry is subsidized by cannister cooking fuel for the poor in Argentina, for instance.

    Worse yet, as the Pope brings out, is the WTO and the IMF who work together to keep third world countries in debt and powerless to defend themselves against predatory trade deals.

    I even found one article that praised free trade for raising the average standard of living in East Asia- an area where free trade has disrupted the market so much that girls are aborted because boys earn more and can better support the family.

  • Vasco Gama

    Is it really so surprising that the Pope speaks for the poor?

    • Marcelus

      apparently for most readers here, it is.

      • Guest

        Your arrogance is exceed only by your ignorance and bias.

        • Marcelus

          Ignorance , so direct?

          Heard of omnipotence??

          Goes hand in hand with this comments.well. go your own way then

          • Guest

            Look in the mirror. Your passive aggressive tone and false charges hardly make you seem authentic or clever. Simply obnoxious.

            • Marcelus

              Just not used to words such as arrogance, nuts, etc. Ok., well then- good luck

              • Guest

                Oh, but you are used to charging others with “hatred”?

        • Vasco Gama

          I can’t understand your claim. Why should the Pope avoid criticizing the state of economics, if it is the cause of suffering. The criticism is moral not political, at least in my understanding. Is there anything sacred about it that makes it above any criticism, or that makes any criticism unfair.

          • Guest

            My post was not about the Pope at all. It was in response to a poster to smeared “most readers” of this website.

          • DaGeek

            The question is – IS capitalism the cause of suffering? It’s not even clear that the pope thinks so. His attack on capitalism seems to be based on the economic inequality that it engenders, and lays bare the strawman argument that capitalism (trickle down theories) would result in greater equality. Who ever made such a claim? Capitalists will claim that free markets lift all boats (albeit perhaps inequally). The last 30 years’ experience in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa would seem to be pretty good evidence that this claim is true, Francis’ musings notwithstanding.

            Francis needs to decide: should we all be poor equally so that nobody gets “ahead”? Or should we encourage economic systems which create vast amounts of wealth and lift all boats, even if some get very rich in the process. He seems to favor the former.

            • Vasco Gama

              Yes, capitalism causes suffering. While saying this I am not saying that socialism or any other economic system is better, I am just stating the obvious that in economic crises a lot of people get poorer, a lot of people become unemployed and suffer. Capitalism is far for being perfect in regard to the interest of people (I am not claiming that capitalism should be perfect, or that there is any miraculous alternative).

              Francis doesn’t need to decide between any of those options, as if those were the only possibilities (maybe that is what you want to claim, which doesn’t make it so, it is just your opinion) or if there are no ways to make things better for people (economy is a way to serve people and not to feed itself). Francis is not addressing that there is too much wealthy people (or that this is immoral), rather that there is too much poverty and suffering (and that one must not be indifferent to this).

              • Adam__Baum

                Life, and more directly, original sin causes suffering. An economic system can only mitigate the human condition, not abate it.

                Complaining about poverty is like complaining about friction.

                Capitalism is the best grease, but you still hear the squeaks and grinding.

                • Vasco Gama

                  As there is suffering in life, are you arguing that one (particularly if one is the Pope) must be indifferent in face of poverty, as if it was unavoidable?

                  • Adam__Baum

                    No, I’m saying what Christ said that there will always be the poor.

                    Anybody or anything that promises to rid the world of poverty usually ends up worsening it. It means we as individuals do what we can, because grand schemes are fraught with problems.

                    This world is unfortunately often a matter of the best of the worst.
                    Does “healthcare for everybody, $2500 less per family” ring a bell?

                    • Vasco Gama

                      The fact that there will always be the poor, however doesn’t mean that we are supposed to be indifferent to it, and even less that the Pope should be indifferent to poverty and suffering. Unlike what you seem to suggest the Pope didn’t propose to pursue (neither is anyone proposing it) the end of poverty in any sense, he just called the attention to the fact that there is an increasing indifference to the suffering of others.

                      What I addressed has nothing to do with “healthcare for everybody”.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “It means we as individuals do what we can, because grand schemes are fraught with problems.”

                      Where in this do you get a prescription for indifference?

                    • Vasco Gama

                      I got it from your comments such as “Christ said that there will always be the poor” (this is an excuse to indiference, at least to me), as in my original comment I only asked if one should be suprised (or if it was particularly odd) with the Pope speaking for the poor.

              • Art Deco

                Yes, capitalism causes suffering.

                There is suffering incorporated into any economic system you would care to mention.

                (We might also note that ‘capitalism’ incorporates a variety of conceivable institutional arrangements).

                • Vasco Gama

                  I am not debating the economic system, the point is that if there are people suffering (in this case due to the particular economic situation we face), it is only natural that the Pope calls the attention to their situation. Why should that be unexpected (or strange)? Should he be happy about the situation, or silent, or doesn’t he has the right to denounce it (it is not the case that he is suggesting that we should reject capitalism or anything remotely related with it)?

                  • Art Deco

                    If people are suffering they are suffering. Their suffering in the material realm has to do with the quantum of skill they possess and the brute labor they can bring to bear. Capitalism is not the source of that problem. That is a problem of human life manifest in any economic system.

                    • Vasco Gama

                      I am not arguing that there is a better alternative to capitalism (as in view there is no such thing, or if there is we didn’t found it). Even in the “perfect” system that we are able to create, there are people that are poor and that are suffering. In any case one must not be indifferent to poverty and suffering, but what is really absurd is the claim that the Pope should address those problems, as if he was a magnificent and decorative statue somewhere in Rome, and if he could speak at all, he should say only those things that we find pleasant.

              • Benjamin Warren

                Capitalism does not cause suffering. Central banks do. Economic liberty is glorious and Catholic, and those who oppose it deserve to suffer in a Latin-American-type nightmare for decades the way Latin America has.

                • Vasco Gama

                  I have no problem with capitalism (so you don’t need to defend it from me). Knowing that it brought wealth to most people in the world, one way or the other, does this means that we must be satisfied with everything that it produces, or that we must be indifferent and close our eyes to everything, or that the Pope should be silent and say nothing but praises to capitalism, or doesn’t he have the obligation to call the attention to real problems, such as poverty and suffering.

                  • Art Deco

                    Some guidance on rhetoric from P.J. O’Rourke: “when the antithesis to a statement is absurd, the original statement did not need to be made”. Consider the antitheses to yours:

                    1. We must be satisfied with everything capitalism produces.
                    2. We must be indifferent and close our eyes to everything.
                    3. The Pope should be silent and say nothing but praises to capitalism
                    4. The pope doesn’t have the obligation to call attention to real problems, such as poverty and suffering.

                    The fourth might be true in certain contingencies. The other three are silly unless there is someone advancing the argument that the Pope should sound like a cross between Leonard Peikoff and some sort of East Indian guru.

                    (While we are at it, it is bad usage to attribute acts to abstractions and well nigh impossible to be both silent and sing praises).

                    • Vasco Gama

                      I don’t think that none of the statements is silly (the silliness and absurdity is what is implicit in the criticisms to the Pope, as an emotional answer to the misreading and wishful thinking that liberals may find reasonable to hold). Nowhere the Pope suggests, or addresses, or pretends to support any alternative to capitalism (although you might see any ghosts that you are fond of, but that is your problem).

                      Silliness it is to criticising the Pope, saying that

                      « Yes, capitalism causes suffering.

                      There is suffering incorporated into any economic system you would care to mention.»

                      is it that the Pope is denying that, or otherwise is he only claiming that we must not be indifferent to the suffering and that we must address that reality? (and no, I don’t have any alternate economic system for you to consider)

                      Silly, indeed is your claim that

                      «If people are suffering they are suffering.»

                      Or claiming that

                      «Capitalism is not the source of that problem. That is a problem of human life manifest in any economic system.»

                      I really don’t care about the source of the problem (I don’t pretend to reform capitalism or present any alternative and I don’t have the illusion of ending poverty, nor anyone else for that matter). What does this has any relevance to what has been said. Maybe you find that capitalism is the most perfect economic system (I am not going to debate that as it is quite irrelevant), you are free to think whatever you want about capitalism, what is at stake here is not the perfection or imperfection of capitalism, but, if one must be indifferent to those who suffer (as the poor), or if it is unreasonable for the Pope to address this issue.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              “Who ever made such a claim?”

              Juan Domingo Peron, and later, Christina Kertchner.

              What, did you think this was about Capitalism in the United States?

            • Deacon Ed Peitler

              I agree.

              The problem with Francis is that he is not an economist (that I know of). Too many bishops make economic statements but have no technical experience or education to back them up.

              Also, holding down a job and actually working to support a family does give an additional perspective on the use of money though.

              • Adam__Baum

                Deacon, macroeconomics is, and has been in a crisis for decades. There’s an old saw about “if all the economists in the world were laid end-to-end”, they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. There is no magisterium and so there is authority and they tend to be insular and isolated. The late Ronald Coase decried what he called “blackboard economics”. Others point to the hypermathematicization. Some of the most lucid explanations of economics came from people considering the most mundane things, such as Adam Smith’s description of a pin factor or Leonard Reed’s visit to pencil factory (the sadly defunct and now demolished Eberhard Faber-check the price of a 602 Gullwing to see why I say that) that formed the basis of I, Pencil.

                http://www.fee.org/files/doclib/20121114_IPencilUpdatedCover2012.pdf

                A good deal of thinking economically is simply to ask “and then what” and “at what cost” and realize a lot of the time, the answer is “we don’t really know”.

                F.A. Hayek, won the 1974 Nobel and in a book entitled “The fatal conceit” wrote

                The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

                Yet despite this caution he favored nationalized healthcare, and we see there a perfect example of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

                There’s much merit to the educational value of raising a family or working, I am reminded in the 1930’s, in a case that eventually went to the Supreme Court, the government accused the Schecters of not being economists in Schecter Poultry v. U.S., “I’m not an economist, but I am an economizer.”

              • Art Deco

                I think these exhortations are extensively vetted by staff and go through multiple drafts. IIRC, the Holy See has a workforce in the low thousands, so there should be someone there versed in economic discourse who can say, ‘boss, this passage needs reworking’. Maybe they are there, but their counsel is blocked by people north of them in the channel.

                Again, the problem is the substitution of terms from opinion journalism for economic discourse.

                I have a suspicion the problem is occupational. An economist of my acquaintance once had a conversation with Joseph Stiglitz when Stiglitz was scoping out that particular college for one of his children. Stiglitz had been through a term on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and told this other economist that intramural debates in the Clinton White House often turned on the poles formed by lawyers and economists. The mentality of the two was just quite different. I strongly suspect that the habits of mind of the economist are rare among human service workers, and clergymen have more affinity with human service workers than just about anyone else. They are dealing with the detritus of social relations. They are not necessarily thinking several steps ahead on how things got the way they got.

  • JERD

    This pope is wonderful! He communicates at a level most can understand, and he goes out of his way to make us a little uncomfortable. He makes us all squirm in our seats doesn’t he? Just like Christ must have done 2000 years ago when he walked upon this busted and broken world of ours, challenging the power brokers of his day.

    How does it feel to be challenged? I love it!!

    • Guest

      Everyone claims to know what he is saying even while they each contradict each other. That is a challenge.

      • Marcelus

        Evident and manifest hatred towards Peter here. It’s sad.

        I mean does this man lead your Church? He will continue to do so for a few years.

        If so, What are you planning on doing???

        • Guest

          Are you nuts? There is no hatred other than in your calumnious assertion. I love the Pope and the Church. My post was pointing out that the Pope’s words are often misinterpreted due to vagueness or some reason. To deny that is to deny the obvious and smacks of an ideology.

          • Marcelus

            Nuts now!!! woooaw. what’s next ?

            I love the Pope and the Church…

            • Guest

              What’s next? For you, a psychiatrist I hope.

              • Marcelus

                Impressive, …

        • Adam__Baum

          Popes are infallible, not omniscient or impeccable, so we’ll be praying for him.

          • DaGeek

            Popes are only infallible when speaking ex cathedra or confirming evangelical councils’ proclamations. Apostolic exhortations, while they must be respected by all Catholics, are not in any way infallible. The pope can be mistaken in such a promulgation.

      • Adam__Baum

        I disagree, clarity is an element of understandability. In your second post, you acknowledge that lack of clarity.

        • Guest

          Note sure of your point? I am saying the Pope speaks and writes in a way that seems to confuse many. I am not saying it is intentional or that he is wrong. I am saying that he is often vague for some reason. Then, multiple people all claim to really know what he intends and they mostly contradict each other.

          When I point out the obvious some kook calls me a “hater”.

          It makes no sense.

          • Adam__Baum

            “I am saying the Pope speaks and writes in a way that seems to confuse many. I am not saying it is intentional or that he is wrong.I am saying that he is often vague for some reason.”
            I don’t find it helpful. Do you think it’s helpful that the sheep are arguing among themselves about the meaning of the sheperd’s call?

  • Mike Smith

    Pope Francis is pointing out the very real paradoxical problem of free market economics and charity that has been generated, which many seem to forget. There is no doubt that people should be free, and you have a right to what you earn. The free market system provides great opportunities for many. However, the paradoxical side is that with freedom comes personal responsibility, and we are relying on the personal responsibility of the “rich” to be charitable.

    Therein lies the paradox. We know what should be done, but it is immoral to force anyone to do it. We leave it up to the personal conscious to determine what is “comfortable” charity, but it would be tyranny to demand a certain level of charity by fiat.

    The economic system works in theory, but the sin of the people in it will always make it not pan out. We hoard wealth, we justify comfortability in our charity, our politicians allow cronyism to infect our economic system. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

    • Adam__Baum

      “However, the paradoxical side is that with freedom comes personal responsibility, and we are relying on the personal responsibility of the “rich” to be charitable.”

      FYI, its the “conscience”, not the “conscious”.

      No you aren’t relying on the rich. Charity isn’t merely about money. Many “rich” are the owners of privately held businesses that only maintain impressive values only so long as they remain in tact (and in many cases, associated with the owner, due to their personal credibility).

      Since almost nobody thinks of themselves as rich (outside the uberwealthy), calling on the rich is passing the buck. We have the parable of the GOOD Samitaritan, not the RICH one. I have acquaintances who have closely businesses who tell me how frustrating it is that people don’t understand that their business isn’t sitting around counting piles of money, and how fragile these businesses are.

      We are relying on the charity of the ordinary person to give of their time, talent and treasure. You do almost nothing by merely writing a check. When you get big bucks from a Buffett or Gates, they want something, usually publicity or control.

      • Mike Smith

        Apologies for spelling.

        I think you misunderstood my statement. I put rich in quotations for a reason, because I don’t think there is some clear definition of rich. There is also the parable of the woman who essentially gave a penny, which was all that she had, and so actually gave more than the rich man who gave a large sum and paraded it around. I understand fully that helping the poor isn’t about simply giving money. But the Samaritan could still afford to pay for the man’s lodging, correct? He gave from his excess to help someone who needed it more. Yes, doesn’t have to be money. Just excess.

        What I’m trying to point out is this: most of us have a very, very distorted view as to what comfortable means and what is excess. And we often times feel that someone who has “more” should be the one to help, because they can afford it “more” than us. And, much like the good Samaritan, we are relying on the “goodness” of those people to do what we are capable of doing ourselves. That’s what the Pope pointed out: in order to feel that trickle down economics is just, you have to rely upon the good of those at the top. And, increasingly, we are becoming callous to the needs of the people at the bottom.

        • Adam__Baum

          “And, much like the good Samaritan, we are relying on the “goodness” of those people to do what we are capable of doing ourselves.”

          And that thin reed is all we have, ultimately.

    • DaGeek

      I think Francis is advocating something that goes well beyond individual “charity” and he clearly says so. He is advocating change in what he would call unjust economic systems which create disparity. I would agree with what you are saying, but I’m pretty sure Francis is going well beyond that. I don’t know that he’s a Marxist (i.e. Rush Limbaugh’s term) but he is clearly attacking capitalism in a new, pointed way.

      • Mike Smith

        You see, I didn’t read it that way at all.

        “[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”

        This is true. In theory, it works great. However, there is something missing in that statement: people. We are talking about theories and systems, apart from human nature. So he shifts the focus to the people in the system:

        “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

        This brings in people twofold. First, the system works in bringing about justice if the people who wield economic power are more Good Samaritan and less Levite Priest. Second, it is perpetualized in its current state by making it immune to criticism (which is what we are doing).
        He doesn’t advocate a different system. He isn’t advocating specific change in the system we have. He is advocating PERSONAL change. He wants us to be aware of where it fails (and it does, it isn’t perfect) and to not give into the indifference it is creating by its shortcomings.

        • Adam__Baum

          We’re clearly operating under two different premises. Let me be as direct as I can be-consider this phrase:

          “continue to defend trickle-down theories”
          Nobody defends “trickle-down” theories, because they don’t exist. There’s all kinds of known economic theories, but nobody has ever advanced something called the “trickle-down” theory(ies). Trickle-down is a political term, a charge leveled against policy decisions. Then he says “this opinion” (there’s only one?) isn’t supported by facts. I guess not. What facts could support something that’s a label rather than a coherent set of assertions? I can’t even infer what he means by considering whose mounting the defense, since he disputes “some people”.
          A few words is a definitional quagmire.
          You say in theory IT works great. Reading the Pope’s letter and your response, makes me feel like I’m in a room with two people speaking some unfamiliar jargon. The thing is, I have an undergraduate degree in economics and a masters in finance and accounting, so I’m pretty conversant with the terminology.

          • Mike Smith

            The IT I’m referring to it the free market (capitalist) system. I don’t think it’s confusing jargon. I’ve said it numerous times, and the Pope referred to it specifically. The system is “economic growth, encouraged by a free market” and the theory is that it “will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” Pope Francis called theories that advocate that notion “trickle-down theories.” I thought it was pretty clear, anyway.

            I think you are venturing down the semantics route to support an argument. Plenty of people label economic theories as “trickle-down.” And plenty of people defend economic theories that are labeled as “trickle-down.” Rightly or wrongly. I don’t think anyone was attempting to discuss Trickle-Down Theory™.

            • Adam__Baum

              No, you are venturing down the sematics route.
              “Plenty of people label economic theories as “trickle-down.”
              Oh I’m fully aware that “plenty” of people label things that way, and it always is hurled from the same seats in the theater. It’s still indefinite and invective.

            • Art Deco

              I think it was Fr. Z who pointed out that the insertion of the word ‘inevitably’ was a bad translation from the Spanish. The correct term would be ‘in itself’ or ‘for itself’.

              ==

              And, yes, the Pope’s concepts are confused. You can have pure free enterprise, amendments to pure free enterprise, mercantilism, command economies, or juxtapositions of these in different sectors. Command economies are commonly more equalitarian than others…at some cost. That aside, the competitor to ‘free-market capitalism’ is mercantilism, which I tend to doubt is particularly egalitarian or ‘inclusive’ (or at least it appears not to be assessing Latin American economic statistics). If the Pope wishes to discuss amendments to free market capitalism, fine. Just recall that there are precious few advocates of unadulterated free market capitalism. He might quit arguing with Ayn Rand and start a discussion with working starboard politicians.

              • Adam__Baum

                “He might quit arguing with Ayn Rand”

                Do you mind if I borrow this?

      • lifeknight

        I am going to try to have Rush read this article and the subsequent posts. It would be enlightening for him to see the Catholic bantering here. I learn something every day when I tune in to the Crisis commentary.

    • Nestorian

      Why is it any more tyrannical to restrain the greed of the rich and its pernicious effects on the common good than it is to restrain the lust of the sexually reprobate and its pernicious effects on the common good?
      You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot advocate for laws against pornography, prostitution, no-fault divorce, etc., and at the same time condemn laws that restrain greed as tyranny.

  • JC

    As a practising Catholic, it is my opinion and my hope that the Pope is ignorant in the field of economics, and he needs to stick to the Spiritual vacuum within the Catholic Church. May it then, again, be the moral and spiritual lighthouse that it was through the mid to late 1960’s.

  • Adam__Baum

    Finally! Somebody with actual qualifications discussing the dismal science, and somebody who resists the intellectual tractor beams of the two death stars of the economics profession, radical contractarianism (such as Don Boudreaux, who believes in absolute freedom everywhere but his blog, Cafe Hayek) and radical centralized collectivism (Paul Krugman, the aply named Alan Blinder, at the rest of the court astrologers of the left).

    My problem with the “offending passage”, isn’t the observation about indifference, he’s right, people are indifferent. They’ve always been indifferent, which is why we have the Parable of the Good Samaritan and why the lukewarm are said to merit unique Divine contempt. It’s a result however, of original sin, not the prevailing economic system.
    The rest of it, however, is wanting. At best, it betrays a certain paucity of experience that comes from living one’s whole life in a despotic cesspool, at worst, bias. “Trickle-down” isn’t a technical term, it’s a term invented by the those ignorant and inimical to the idea that individual human beings are capable of managing the routine affairs of their households (the term economics is derived from the greek word referring to a household) better than government bureaucrats and their arrogant desire to issue olympian pronouncements, in creatively indexed ad impressive tomes.

    Worse, if there is a such a think as “trickle-down”, we know where it exists, in the old Soviet daschas and similar environs.

    Yet even if we grant him that rhetorical flourish, the Pope decries a phantom. John
    Paul helped bring down the evil empire, I don’t know what Francis is opposed to, and know even less what he’s advocating. I see rage against the machine.

    Other than where two kids are willingly exchanging lunches in grade school, there are precious few free markets. Where they are approximated (personal computing), we have ever greater access and less exclusion. Contrast that with say banking, education and “healthcare”, all heavily regulated. No free market advocate thinks that it serves any other purpose than production. Justice is the product of informed consciences, not commerce, restrained or unrestrained. The most predatory entities often operate with government sanction.

    The great irony is that economically literate people see both the power and the limits in economic matters and arrangements, while the ignorant see it as all-important. What should I conclude then, when he reserves his most passionate prose for the worldly philosopher and the rest of his pronouncements are 500 shades of grey.

    I admit, having attended graduate school at a Jesuit institution, that erected A mosque on its premises, invited Abbie Hoffman and a wide variety of pro-death CINO’s as speakers, and generally engaged in conspicuous displays of indifference to the Bishop and and having watched Georgetown cover its Crucifixes to meet tender sensibilities and now glaringly apparent anti-Catholicism of the liar-in-chief, I frequently ask myself what exactly do Jesuits stand for, because they seem to have an identity that is unique and apart from the Church, an insular and petulant attitude, with gnostic attributes).
    Ask yourself would you consider “Jesuitical Casuistry” to be a complement? I’m not comforted by this Pope’s style, I much preferred Benedict’s teutonic precision and thermonuclear intellect.

    When I think of the threats to the Church, I don’t think of economic systems. My extended familty perservered in faith in Eastern Europe, under the brutal, inept, corrupt and dehumanizing influernce of the USSR.

    No, I think of all the young people who are leaving the Church, or become “Holly Lillys”, and the author has a piece about demography on her blog. I think of the legal psychosis that priviledges and permits Islam, while suppressing and suffocating Christianity.

    The real poverty in the world is spiritual, not material. It’s important to put bread in bellies, and how to provide the ordinary kind is a prudential decision. If I I could, I would ask him, isn’t my conscience as sacrosanct and inviolable as the athiest’s?

    I’m hoping the Pope’s future pronouncements will be more concerned with the Bread of Life than what is confected in bakeries and if he attends to great temporal threats, he lends his mordant pen to decrying the manipulation and dehumanization of the human person by the state.

  • Michael Newhouse

    Evangelii Gaudium is an apostolic exhortation, not an encyclical.

    Pope Francis calls us out of our tired liberal/conservative partisanship (political, economic, social) and invites us to encounter Christ in all his simplicity and immediacy and transforming power.

    That is Good News for us all.

    • Marcelus

      yes!!

    • Carl

      Please refer to your statement in Evangelii Gaudium.

      • Carl

        Here’s what I read:

        Problem, “widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many
        countries – in their governments, busi­nesses and institutions – WHATEVER the political ideology of their leaders”… (EG 60) “In many countries globalization has advanced local economies but eth­ically debilitated them.” (EG 61)

        Answer, “Inculturating the Faith” (68.) and “203. Business is a vocation, and a noble
        vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a
        greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good
        by striving to in­crease the goods of this world and to make them more
        accessible to all.” “204. the creation of sources of employment and an integral
        promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.”

        • Carl

          No reference to “tired liberal/conservative partisanship” in EG.
          Another tired “American thought/term” to go along with “trickle down” used by Leftist.

          • Carl

            “tired liberal/conservative partisanship”
            * Smells of relativism condemned by Popes to me
            * No absolutes?
            * Does Truth exist?
            * Meet someone halfway twice and you have given up 75% of your beliefs!
            * C S Lewis Screwtape logic

  • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

    The Acton Institute not liking Evangelii Gaudium is probably the biggest endorsement for the Apostolic Exhortation that I can think of.

    • Adam__Baum

      No surprise. Your contempt is the best reason I can think of for writing them a check.

      • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

        Believe me they don’t need your money. They’ve their Calvinist donors for that.

        • Adam__Baum

          Right, everybody that doesn’t sign on to your fantasy is a Calvinist.

  • JERD

    Another way to look at this is to recognize what a “free market” is. It is nothing more than two or more persons engaging in economic relationships. It is the relationships that make a market. It takes at least two to make a market.

    When the pope critiques a “free market” he is engaged in a critique of the relationships that make up that market – employer/employee for example. Thus, the question for us is not some sort of utilitarian mantra of an economist like “does the market efficiently allocate goods?” Rather, we are asked by this pope, “how do you live Christ in your economic relationships; as a buyer, seller, employer, employee, etc?”

    Those who want to reduce his teaching to some sort of economic dissertation a la Hayek, Friedman, etc. miss his point entirely.

  • windjammer

    Did he mention the word “subsidiarity” either directly, in substance and/or description? Must have missed it if he did. Would someone please be kind enough to direct me to it.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Paragraphs 238-261, was listening to that section on the way to work this morning.

    • Carl

      Direct use of the term Subsidiarity—-no. He mentions the importance of four pillars of the Social Doctrine which Subsidiarity is one of them. And the use of the terms Common Good , Human Dignity, and Solidarity are used numerous times—-about ten times each. Curious that Sudsidarity is not mentioned directly isn’t it!

      Examples of Subsidarity are there if you dig for them, the importance of individual Parishes, how he’s willing a to give more responsibility to Bishops and less to Rome, importance of Catholics to involve themselves in society.

      Benedict XVI writings always had direct use of the term Subsidiarity.

      Search Tip: After you download the PDF file in the top tool bar look for the Find tool and then search for words of interest and find items of interest.

      • Carl

        I stand corrected, there is one reference to the term and its a good one. The Find key missed it the first time. I found it re-reading Seeber posted comment.
        240.
        It is the responsibility of the State to safeguard and promote the common good of society.188 Based on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, and fully committed to political dialogue and consensus building, it plays a fundamental role, one which cannot be delegated, in working for the integral development of all. This role, at present, calls for profound social humility.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    Our country has thousands of regulations that control and harm business everyday.
    We don’t need more regulation we need people who care about others.

  • Objectivetruth

    I have not read Evangelii Gaudium yet, but plan on.

    But maybe the Holy Father has poked the appropriate pointy stick at the subject. As we all have heard, Christ came to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” I remember when Pope Francis mentioned early in his pontificate that people spend more money on their pets than on the poor. I think the dog/cat pet industry is north of $10 billion in the US. Got to admit, when my wife takes our $1500 pure bread pooch in for a $50 nail and shampoo spa day at the local mega pet store, a whole lot of neccessary Catholic guilt kicks in……..

    • Adam__Baum

      “mentioned early in his pontificate that people spend more money on their pets than on the poor.”

      He needs better stats.

      We spent 74 billion on food stamps alone in 2012.

      http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/snapsummary.htm

      • Objectivetruth

        I think the Holy Father was speaking more of how much bank goes flying out of our own pockets in to the poor box on the way in to Mass on Sundays.

  • Emilio Perea

    There is a serious error in the official English translation, where “por si mismo” = “by itself” is translated as “inevitably”. I.e. he actually wrote that trickle-down economics by itself will not bring about greater justice… Does anybody actually disagree with that?

  • Randall Ward

    The author of this article and Pope Francis are both socialists. Why be ashamed of what you believe in? No excuses need to be made for Pope Francis. Like everything else the Popes say, I don’t react until I allow what they say to simmer for a long time. I have found out I don’t know much and have a lot to learn, so I listen and wait.

    • Art Deco

      When you say “socialist”, to what are you referring, precisely?

  • hombre111

    An interesting approach, and worth some thought. One thing: I would not put the Pope’s opinions down to his being a Jesuit as much as his being a citizen of Argentina, which has suffered desperately–economically and politically. He knows that the world looks differently when your vista is from the bottom of a shoe.

    • Art Deco

      Argentina has suffered from several decades worth of bad and erratic economic policy as well as chronic institutional defects.

      It is not the ‘bottom of a shoe’. It is a middle income country and was in the 1920s in the second rank of the world’s affluent countries.

      I am not sure the Pope himself has much to offer with regard to Argentina’s situation, bar to remind people that societies where people bring moral judgment to public life are generally more agreeable places to live.

      • hombre111

        As a South American bishop, he met regularly with the bishops who represent some of the poorest nations on earth, and got a view of reality most Americans never do.

    • Adam__Baum

      Unfortunately, that shoe has been a jackboot.

  • Jaha Arnot

    I have to admit I am confused by the consternation caused by Evangelii Gaudium. I haven’t seen anything in there that is a material departure from all social justice teachings following in the footsteps of Rerum Novarum (would encourage everyone to look, in particular, at Quadragesimo Anno, Populorum Progressio, and Centesimus Annus). The fact that people find anything that novel in what Pope Francis is saying . . . they must not have been listening that carefully for the last 120 years. Markets and commerce are inadequate to achieve the good of the polity, without the preconditions of just laws and the moral formation of market participants, both directed at the greater good of society and the obligations and duties due to our neighbor – how is that novel? That the Holy Father chose to express it stridently and without apology, to shake us out of our complacency is probably a good thing. That’s his job.

    • Adam__Baum

      Markets and commerce are inadequate to achieve the good of the polity,
      without the preconditions of just laws and the moral formation of market
      participants.

      I don’t think anybody is promoting anarchy here, are they?

      • Slainte

        Catechesis for children must teach not only corporal works of mercy and the spiritual works of mercy, but also the tithe. If children learn young, they will grow into moral citizens and the good works will have become good habits. These moral citizens will be better off as will society.

        • Adam__Baum

          I agree, Slainte. By the way, I’ll pursue law school when you enroll in B-school.

          • slainte

            What is B-school?

            • Adam__Baum

              Business school.

              • slainte

                Ok deal. Which school is best for an MBA… Columbia or Wharton?

                I always wanted to throw around terms like “matrics”, “percentage of GDP”, “seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent in the third quarter of 2013″.
                I should fit right in there with the 22 year olds….. : )

                • Adam__Baum

                  I have a preference for Chicago (or I did). Of course if you really want to join the ruling class- Bleed Crimson.

                  I went to a “third tier” school. It has the all important AACSB accreditation. Not like going to Cooley, but still not going to get you a gig @ McKinsey.

                  I considered a “second tier” school, but they didn’t offer specializations and it was too far to drive, especially for the group projects.

                  Actually if you want to use those terms, you’ll more want to enroll in econ PHD program. I’d say Masters. but outside a few schools like Johns Hopkins, MA’s are falling away.

                  No, in B-school you learn about “leverage” and “synergy”, puts and calls, warrants and rights, futures and forward markets, brand equity, Internal Rate of Return, and Net Present Value, direct and absorption costing, earnings per share, and then you never use much of it again, unless you own a business or go to the “C-suite”.

                  Much of the jargon is vacant and transient neologisms. We never hear about “activity based costing-ABC” or “re engineering” or “total quality management TQM” anymore” “Six Sigma” has stuck, for that I still say a good part of MBA is “master bull-oney artist”.

                  The first MBA’s were granted by Dartmouth in 1896ish. (Amos Tuck). They trained railroad accountants as there was a big demand due to RR’s being growth industry and the ICC had been formed in 1887. It was about the same time the CPA came about and shortly after the ABA started pushing for a law degree as a requirement to sit for the Bar -go figure.

                  I’m sure you’d fit in better than I would at Civil Procedure or Moot Court.

                  • slainte

                    I was joking. I am not interested in attending Business School; although I admire those who successfully complete post graduate business degrees and state licensing exams…not an easy thing.

                    I understand that Wharton and Stanford rank among the best business schools if one is seeking a career on Wall Street or within the buy side space (ie., hedge funds, private equity, or asset management cos.)

                    I think you would enjoy law school as you seem conversant with statutory and caselaw analysis, public policy, and debate. An important part of life is discerning what one loves to do and then pursuing it passionately always keeping God and family as primary before career.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I knew you were joking.

                      The conversancy you observe was gained working as pension compliance analyst.

                      Even if I enjoyed law school, not enough time to amortize the tuition. Based on family history, either on or close to being on borrowed time.

                    • slainte

                      It happens to many in the financial field; times were particularly stressful in the wake of the 2008 financial debacle when Wall Street and global finance bled out. Many were hurt. The key thing is you landed on your feet and you are moving forward. Don’t look back; the past is inconsequential and every day is a new day with potential for great things to happen.
                      Noone is promised forever on this earth so don’t assume you have been handed a death warrant unless the grim reaper is standing in front of you.
                      If finances permit and it would not burden your family’s well being, go to law school. If not full time, then go part-time at night; one class at a time. There is always hope for good things to happen. God exists and He will walk with you on this path. Just ask Him in prayer.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      A couple of thoughts.

                      One this occurred in 1999. No blaming the “crisis”. It was something called demutualization. It’s good to get knocked on your keister, you realize it is a dog eat dog world and you are wearing milkbone underwear. (I miss “Cheers”) If you remember “Cheers”, you are two old for night school.

                      I’m not assuming I have a death warrant, because my grandmother lived to be 99, weeks short from 100. Unfortunately the other three were dead by 53. I have already outlived a sibling, a first cousin, two uncles… and I still have a lot more black hair than grey.

                      I have a somewhat older friend ditching an engineering career to go to law school with the intent of practicing IP law. I think it’s a reaction to a divorce, but what do I know. He’s going at night and will be an 55+ year old, what’s the choice term these days? Associate, assuming he actually gets hired.

                      I’m done with formal education, other than CPE.

                    • slainte

                      “… If you remember “Cheers”, you are two old for night school..”

                      Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”

                      Those who are most successful in life, including devoted Catholic parents with large families, business professionals, athletes, all just do; they don’t over-think processes. That is not to say one does not plan, but one should not allow the mind to overrule a workable goal.
                      One of the most brilliant attorneys I know left law school in the 80s and with a fellow classmate, set up a law practice in Manhattan that continues to flourish more than thirty years on. He did not engage the traditional legal career path (associate, partner, etc.) despite having graduated from a good law school and having had career opportunities available.
                      He is a criminal defense lawyer representing persons on death row; having been certified in capital cases. He had a dream and he just did it even when everyone around him went a more traditional route.
                      I write this to encourage you to keep an open mind; don’t allow arbitrary things (ie, one’s age) to impede worthy and attainable goals.
                      Pax.

        • Objectivetruth

          I make sure my kids drop some of their own dollars in to the poor box on the way in to Mass.

          I was teaching the corporal works of Mercy to my 6th grade confirmation class. I was describing how Mother Teresa would lift the poor of Calcutta out of the gutters of Calcutta and take care of them. My confused 12 year olds asked me “What’s a poor person?” “What’s a gutter and why would anyone live there?” I realized that in my very blessed parish where these children come from $700k homes and get dropped off at school in high end Mercedes and Lexus SUV’s, had no idea what a poor person was. This, I shockingly realized, is not good.

          • slainte

            What you are doing is so excellent. Really important is the fact that you are personally teaching a Confirmation class. This image of you giving of your valuable time to teach other children will resonate with your own children as they grow older. You are their exemplar for the corporal and spiritual works.
            Maybe you can also do a project where the children purchase or make inexpensive gifts (maybe even just bake some cookies) to be distributed in a neighboring parish to less well off children.
            It would be important to let the children know that the reason they engage in this act of kindness and charity is not just to bring joy to other children at Christmas, which is important, but also because it is right and good for them to orient all their actions toward imitating Jesus who is most perfect.
            Just a thought. Kudos for being a great parent.

            • Objectivetruth

              Thanks, Slainte. Most of my true Catholicism was learned byobserving the actions and devoutness of my parents.

      • Jaha Arnot

        No, nor is the Holy Father advocating economic dictatorship. The fact that so many are getting their bloomers in a bunch over the document speaks to a general unfamiliarity with the historical position of the Church on these matters. So far, I have heard the following:
        *the Pope is a heretic, and should be excommunicated
        *the Pope is a priest, and they don’t know anything about economics
        *the subject is outside the “faith and morals” jurisdiction of the Holy See
        *the Pope is a Jesuit, so what do you expect
        *people from Argentina don’t get it
        *it’s not an encyclical, anyways, so we can ignore it

        Seems like an awfully defensive reaction.

        • Adam__Baum

          What?

          • Jaha Arnot

            Not sure what’s unclear about my comment – it seems perfectly self-explanatory. You said nobody was advocating anarchy – which I never asserted. I am, however, asserting that people are responding to Evangelii Gaudium in what I can only, in the mildest terms that charity allows, call “unjustifiably reactionary” fashion. Nowhere has the Holy Father advocated the nationalization of the means of production, price controls, state monopoly of commercial licenses, centrally planned supply chains, elimination of private property, etc. That’s why I sarcastically responded “nor is the Holy Father advocating economic dictatorship.” If people think he is proposing a Marxist utopia, they probably need to read Marx.

            Let’s now add “Leftist jargon and cant” to the list of absurd comments. I can just add it to the collection. Good stuff, everyone – keep it coming.

            • Adam__Baum

              I’ll have to take your word for it, because I’m not sure what he’s proposing. I see a certain amount of vagueness, so I’m not sure what to think.

              • Benjamin Warren

                What about Cardinal Dolan?

                • Adam__Baum
                  • Benjamin Warren

                    Thanks, but its no lapse of judgment – it’s specifically intended. Leftists dominate our hierarchies, and its killing us. That’s why a campaign to promote the automatic excommunication of anyone voting for a leftist party is so ip

                  • Benjamin Warren

                    It’s not an accident or a lapse of judgment – hierarchies everywhere are dominated by idiots, and it’s killing us. That’s why a campaign to promote the automatic excommunication of leftists on economic grounds alone is so important. I believe it was St. Pius X who instituted the oath against Modernism. The test on the graduated income tax is the most obvious and clearest political test that can be devised. Anyone agreeing with the graduated income tax should be threatened with excommunication, and certainly not be admitted to seminaries or the religious life.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      It’s certainly a lapse of judgment to praise the architect and building design as it’s collapsing in plain sight.

                    • Benjamin Warren

                      Fine, but don’t you think leftist voters ought to be excommunicated?

            • Benjamin Warren

              Clearly he’s promoting the welfare state, which is *not* Catholic. The rich worldwide are getting the stuffing beaten out of them, by bishops and others, and we’re threatened with eventual Marxism. Democracy is the road to socialism.

              • Adam__Baum

                Too be fair he specifically rejected a “simple welfare mentality”.

                • Benjamin Warren

                  He’s a classic episcopal demagogue. All of his lingo is the same lingo used by leftist politicians. You cannot deny that.

                  • Benjamin Warren

                    The most ignored moral issue of our time is the oppression of business and the rich by government, and by failing to condemn it, while praising such villains as JFK (as the Bishop of Dallas recently did) the bishops are part of the problem.

                    • Mark Hirsch

                      I think you’re going to be dissatisfied with the Catholic Church if you really think the Church will fall into your constructed far right ideology. The Church has always been the champion for the poor, not the rich. Just as Christ was and is.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “far right ideology” translation: economic literacy.

                  • Mark Hirsch

                    This is the lingo that has been used by the church for over 100 years. If you wish, I can provide links to encyclicals that mirror this, and that have been written since the Industrial Revolution.

                    • Benjamin Warren

                      Arguing that the government should plunder the rich is to argue against the natural law, so anyone voting leftist ought to be threatened with excommunication. That means YOU.

                    • Art Deco

                      Maybe we can lock you and Theodore Seeber in a large walk-in closet and you two can pull on each other’s braids and leave the rest of us in peace.

        • Benjamin Warren

          Bishops get paid to do stuff, and they aren’t doing it. They ought to be enforcing dress codes, and they aren’t. They ought to be defending property, and they aren’t. The United States is capsizing, while the bishops praise Ted Kennedy and give communion to Nancy Pelosi. Anger? Fire? If there were any, there would be a bucket-load of reasons.

          Anybody who votes for a leftist party should be excommunicated latae sententiae for economic reasons, not just abortion.

  • Benjamin Warren

    St. Thomas Aquinas condemned the graduated income tax in I-II Q. 96, Art.4 when he wrote that only laws that burden society “proportionately” are just. It is also contrary to the Natural Law: you shall not steal. Not everything the Pope says is infallible, and the Pope ought to be firmly corrected. In fact, anyone teaching this really ought to be threatened with excommunication. Since it is the Pope, unfortunately, we are in serious trouble indeed. No, I am not a sedevacantist.

    • Art Deco

      Anachronistic. And contrived.

      • Benjamin Warren

        Claiming that morality is anachronistic is outrageous. You ought to be threatened with excommunication! By writing off St. Thomas, you show yourself to be ill-educated or uneducated. You’re a villain!

        • Art Deco

          Let go of my leg.

          • Benjamin Warren

            I’m not being unreasonable, and you’re a jerk for implying I am.

    • Adam__Baum

      The federal income tax is an affront to subsidiarity, an opportunity to sew confusion, dissent and despair. The taxpayer stands naked before the state, without any mediating institution or chance for associating with others or having any alternative. A myriad of promises regarding the limits and the necessity of the tax that accompanied its promotion and enactment were never met.

      The fact that it’s hundred anniversary passed without serious reflection about the wisdom of its continuance shows is dispiriting.

      • Art Deco

        That’s not the problem with the federal income tax. The problem is excess legislative discretion in its application, which has rendered it a tool to confer bon bons on favored economic sectors (oil and gas and real estate development in particular)

  • Arriero

    Pope Francis is referring to those usurers that have built this awful casino-system around us.

    Pope Francis is not an expert in economics, but he pretty well knows what he’s talking about.

    It’s funny seeing how here, a Catholic page, some dare to call the Pope socialist, or wrong, or that he should be excommunicated.

    There is a hidden pseudo-calvinist wing within the Catholic Church that must be completely eradicated. If you’re rich and you feel some blame for it, perfect, but don’t want to change the Church of the poor. Kiss your calvinist idols and let our Church to be pure in its historical soul.

    This Pope recently said: «I’ve never been a right-winger». Clear as water.

    • Art Deco

      And we have yet another interpretation of what the Holy Father ‘really means’, an indication that fragments of this exhortation were badly written.

      I do not particularly care for casino banks either. However, parts of the exhortation indicate that there is not anyone around him that he listens to who is familiar with economic discourse, much less someone who can talk intelligently about the various modes of financial intermediation.

      The Pope needs to remind salaried employees of Citigroup and J.P. Morgan and Banco Santander that when they take advantage of asymmetric information, they are generally defrauding someone. That aside, he does not need to get into the weeds of this sort of thing.

      • Arriero

        Pope Francis is a South-American of Italian family and of Spanish cultural background.
        Italy and Spain are probably the two foremost historical nations in the world from a Catholic perspective (Spaniards were also the ones to firstly read the Word of God in America (north and south), to read the real Word of God, which is only the Catholic.
        Then the calvinists and other protestants flooded to north-America and in their ideas penetrated the old South-European Catholicism in America. That explains why European Catholics have usually been more «marxist» (in the good sense of the word; yes, there is a good sense to that word) oriented in economic issues while American Catholics have usually been more libertarian oriented, due to this awful pseudo-calvinist wing. The State is a liberal invention! Libertarians are actually false-liberals; or subtle nihilists, in other words.
        The last Pope, the german Pope, in one of his latest speeched put our current pseudo-capitalist system at the same level of terrorism.

    • Guest

      You know what he means? So do hundreds of others and you all contradict each other.

  • Allamanda

    I’m not sure that this is so ground-breakingly different from any of the Church’s previous social/economic writings. It does seem in line with everything I’ve heard before.

  • Stephen J.

    I think part of the difficulty is that there are really two different questions when we talk about a government “regulating” an economy, and the varying reactions to His Holiness’s words indicates which question comes to mind first as the most important:
    –1) Regulation as “Thou Shalt Not”: The *prohibition* of certain ways of allocating economic resources, such as the outlawing of private loans at excessive interest rates or the sale/purchase of criminalized commodities or acts. This is what Ms. Warcholik notes in her article to point out that not all economic activity is licit, or indeed ultimately profitable, merely by virtue of being unregulated, and that wholly unregulated capitalism ultimately culminates in oligarchies, mercantilism and monopolization.
    –2) Regulation as “Thou Shalt”: The *mandating* of certain ways of allocating economic resources, most immediately through basic taxation, but also through government assumption of responsibility (on behalf of “the public”) for making economic decisions once made privately, a process that ultimately culminates in communism and socialism and (more problematically) the totalitarianism inevitably required to enforce them.
    The key thing to realize is that both forms are necessary to some degree to achieve and sustain a truly prosperous society, and that both must be limited to ensure a properly just society. But since the forms are to some extent opposed and both produce injustice when taken too far on their own, arguing for an increase to either can always be seen as arguing for the ultimate end result, and this assumption of bad faith is always counterproductive and not necessarily correct.

  • wraithby

    There have been powerful critiques of capitalism e.g. Chesterton and Belloc, the Southern Agrarians, Schumacher, Wendell Berry etc. The Pope’s letter is laden with Leftist jargon and cant and does not rise to that level,

  • John

    “My reading of this conforms to a significant problem I have had with some free market, libertarian leaning economists which is that any monetary generating activity is of equal value to society. For instance, if I spend $1,000 on an abortion or $1,000 on a life-saving procedure, are the two activities really of the same value—one activity ends life while the other saves life?”

    You don’t understand free market, libertarian economics.

    • Adam__Baum

      And doesn’t read much econ literature. There’s an awful of papers devoted to the existence, nature, identification, qualification, quantification and mitigation of “externalities”.

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  • IntellectGetOne

    Here’s part of the problem — the Pope tries to address economics in western culture and uses 3rd world problems to do so:

    “Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.”

    In America, there is almost zero starvation. In all of Western Europe, there is almost ZERO starvation.

    Do some people, on rare occassions, go without a single meal? Or heaven forbid, TWO meals in a row? Sure. But we all do the same at LENT!

    The concept of inequality is false. What is important is the level of human life. In nearly all western cultures, people have hot/cold running water, food available 24 hours a day at the local grocery, flights that leave from an airport within an hour of most people’s homes that will take them anywhere in the world in under 24 hours for about $1,000 max. Entertainment, air conditioning, transportation and medical care.

    I’m not saying there are not drug addicted or mental handicapped individuals that have all this. I am saying it is there for the clean/sober, mentally stable individuals.

    Sorry, we have to face it: Our pope is a 3rd world pope and chooses to view the world ONLY through his 3rd world economic view.

    I love him — and he is great with people — but let us hope he learns that he is not Benedict the 16th, nor JP II. He is Francis. That is enough for this time and place. He does not need to weigh-in on areas he has no clue about!

    • Marcelus

      As shepperd of a Universal Church The Pope must speak and care for all his sheep.Millions in the world are “suffering” poverty, and millions of Catholics too, VIsit LA, Africa and even Europe (SPain, Grecee) today.

      Do not feel pointed at. THe Pope speaks to and about the world, not about America or western society.

      Excellent, no stavation records in America!!

      THe world, good or bad, goes beyond that

      You call for help or aide the sheep that need help or healing

      I believe he may have some right to do so or not?

      Do you think is is clueless in economics,?

      3rd world Pope? I do not think Francis is triing to be like Benedict or JP2 or anywhere close. He is absolutely different with a reach we have not seen in ages.

      • IntellectGetOne

        I know he is clueless in economics. He is ONLY clued-in for 3rd world economics.

        While I love the Pope and am very happy we have him — to think as you do, that when he says things he is really only speaking to a portion of the world — seems entirely dangerous.

        Should I start to follow your advice when he speaks about theological issues? Should I say “well, I live here, so that does not apply to me” or “I’m not divorced, so forget all that other stuff he’s saying”?

        Of course not!

        I love the Pope. But I’m not ignorant nor stupid. He lived and served in Argentina. You may think that is a first world country — but it isn’t. Thinking and praying and wishing it were — does not make it so.

        He IS a 3rd world Pope. It is who he is! I embrace it and welcome the Holy Spirit giving us a 3rd world Pope!

        But that is not the same as ignorantly believing that a 3rd world Pope can magically understand Western economics (or Eastern!). Also, it does not imply that the Pope should speak on things he does not personally know.

        And most certainly, it does not mean that I should kow-tow to the Pope when he discusses things where I am more of an expert than here is.

        Again, I’m glad you love our Pope too. But you have to love him, not adore him. He is not perfect. Let us work to help make him a more perfect Pope.

  • TimRohr

    WHAT A CONFUSING ARTICLE. Is there anybody in the room that is not an academic and actually runs a business and feeds his family from it?

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  • Curtis L.

    Interesting read. Thanks for writing it. I’ve also done my own casual analysis of this brilliant exhortation (please note — the exhortation is brilliant, not my analysis :)). It can be found here: http://curtisknowsnothing.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-economics-of-pope-franciss.html

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  • http://www.westernperspective.blogspot.com/ Michael O’Hearn

    Keep in mind that the main thrust of the papal statement is evangelization. The pope is not trashing free markets nor is he condemning rich people. He is merely pointing out how capitalism is unethical and how it, along with other current factors and trends, greatly obstructs and interferes with the work of evangelization commissioned by Christ. Our role as Christian laity is to get rid of these obstacles with the power of Christ’s authority, which may well presage the ultimate demise of capitalism.

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