26 November 2013

Papalnomics: the Apostolic Exhortation

Here's Francis I on the global economy:

Some 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 naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

The English text comes straight from the Vatican, so at least one report finds it telling that the Pope uses (or implicitly approves) the phrase "trickle-down," which is usually regarded in the U.S. a partisan pejorative term for the "supply-side" economic theories favored by Republicans. If the particular language has raised eyebrows, the line of argument is really nothing new. The Catholic Church was driven to lie with strange bedfellows (e.g. fascists) by its hostility to communism, but its great objection to communism has always been to its godlessness, not to its economic theories, and to my knowledge the church has never felt compelled by its hostility to communism to endorse capitalism unconditionally. Needless to say, Catholicism and Christianity in general are not about "freedom," and Popes have never been very susceptible to the rhetoric of freedom as an end unto itself emanating from the U.S. The sad thing is that people might listen to a Catholic Pope, who has practically no credibility in his actual realm of expertise, -- the realm of expertise itself has practically no credibility -- when he speaks on socioeconomic subjects, by virtue of the authority he carries in his realm of expertise. When someone says virtually the same thing, yet doesn't claim to speak for God, people either refuse to listen or presume the worst motives from the speaker. Maybe that's why Bolsheviks try to make themselves into gods.

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