Archive for Pope Francis

Block, the Austrians, and the Catholics

Concilio_Trento_Museo_BuonconsiglioNormally, I wouldn’t bother examining an article like this, but the author of the piece tries to score some points using Walter Block and the Austrian School as examples, so I’ve commented. My remarks in brackets:

ANALYSIS: Are free-market Catholics ignoring Pope Francis?

(RNS) On one level, the recent clash over Catholic University of America’s decision to accept $1 million from billionaire industrialist Charles Koch underscored the stark divide many see between Catholic social teaching and the libertarian-tinged economics championed by Koch and other conservatives. [Basically, this article is founded on the proposition that capitalism is the philosophy of modern Robber Barons as the repeated references to Koch make clear.]

But the controversy also pointed to another, counterintuitive reality: vocal free-market advocates are gaining traction in the Catholic Church, [that's debatable] even as Pope Francis repeatedly condemns a capitalist system [unfortunately, Pope Francis is greatly confused about what capitalism even is, as explained here, and here.] that he says is hurting the poor and increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots.

In the political world, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is both a practicing Catholic and a devotee of the libertarian icon Ayn Rand [First of all, Paul Ryan, advocate of multiple tax increases, bailouts, and other huge-government programs is hardly a "devotee" of Ayn Rand. Ryan may say so to score points with gullible libertarians, but that hardly proves Ryan's bona fides. Secondly, given the nature of Rand's philosophy, it's impossible to be both a practicing Catholic and a Randian, and one wonders if the author of this piece even understands that. Thirdly, Rand condemned libertarians and libertarianism.] — as well as the face of GOP proposals for cutting welfare programs and taxes that have drawn fire from U.S. bishops and other church leaders.

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In Trusting Politics and Politicians, It Is the Pope Who Is Naïve

6618Gary Galles writes in today’s Mises Daily:

When the rich get richer by rigging the political process, that is objectionable, but it is not amarket failure. It is a government failure, imposed by undermining the benefits competitive markets provide for all participants. And the solution is to get the government out of the theft business (as capitalism would require), not to first enable favorites to garner ill-gotten gains from restricting competition, then use government’s abuses as an excuse to more heavily tax (and thus discourage) those who actually benefit others.

It is true that the crony capitalism we see all around us, which is far closer to fascism than capitalism, is unjust. Pope Francis is right to criticize such injustice. But private property, the basis of capitalism, prevents rather than enables the “dog eat dog” “survival of the fittest” competition that capitalism’s attackers accuse it of.

In contrast, private property prevents the physical invasion of a person’s life, their liberty, or their property without their consent. By preventing such invasions, private property is an irreplaceable defense against aggression by the strong against the weak. No one is allowed to be a predator by violating others’ rights. Property rights negate the rule of “might makes right,” which prevails in the absence of such rights. In Herbert Spencer’s words, “far from being, as some have alleged, an advocacy of the claims of the strong against the weak, [it] is much more an insistence that the weak shall be guarded against the strong.”

Pope Francis, Income Inequality, Poverty, and Capitalism

Guest Post:  Pope Francis, Income Equality, Poverty, and Capitalism  

By Nicolás Cachanosky

The criticisms of free markets in Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) have generated strong reactions around the world. One example is a recent post by Gregory Mankiw on his blog with brief but interesting reflections. Special attention was paid to the passage where the document criticizes the “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.” (p. 46).

First we must recognize that there may be possible semantic nuances that can lead to inaccurate interpretations because Evangelii Gaudiium is not an economic document and, certainly, the “prevailing economic system” is not exactly a blueprint for free market economies. However, the criticism of free markets is clear and presents a difficult challenge to suggest that the document does not refer, indeed, to free markets after arguing for “semantic nuances.” Secondly, I agree with Mankiw that “trickle-down” is not a technical term, much less a theory, and is a derogatory word used by the left and other groups critical of free markets. By using this phrase, the Pope inserts a negative bias against the free market; a neutral term would been a better choice of words. The terminological slip on economic issues in the document (an example of many) suggests the need for caution regarding the strong claims that the document puts forward on economic issues. Categorical statements in a document of this importance should be better supported and articulated. Imagine an economic document critical of the Church with a clear superficial use of the language of the discipline being criticized accompanied by adjectives such as “crude and naive.” Using imprecise definitions can make us see non-existent problems. Third, the effect produced by the Evangelii Gaudium on public opinion invites us to review some general indicators of social and economic welfare in countries that are more and less inclined to free markets. Is it true that the free market leaves the homeless and marginalized the less wealthy? How much truth and how much myth is in the so-widespread criticism of “evil capitalism”? What Pope Francis expresses is ultimately a reflection of a widespread belief across a number of sectors in most countries around the world.

It is easy to get an overview of the economic and social situation of more and less free market countries if we group them into four categories according to their economic freedom. This allows a gradient of results and to observe differences between more and less free countries. It is important to note that the data of all countries must be observed, and not chosen, for example, from only a few (more details here). This would allow both an advocate and a critic of free market to choose a couple of countries at their convenience. Is the entire sample, not ad hoc selection, what should be used as reference. Let us consider, then, some economic and social data from countries around the world according to their economic freedom.

The following graphs show the GDP per capita (PPP) [i.e. adjusted for cost of living] and the average 10-year growth rate for four groups of countries according to their economic freedom. As the graphs show, on average, the freest countries are not only richer, but also grow faster in the long run.



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Judge Napolitano on the Pope’s Economics

Mises Institute Distinguished Scholar Judge Napolitano today examines the current Pope’s economics:

Traditional Catholic social teaching imposes on all of us a moral obligation to become our brothers’ keepers. But this is a personal moral obligation, enforced by conscience and Church teaching and the fires of Hell — not by the coercive powers of the government. Charity comes from the heart. It consists of freely giving away one’s wealth. It is impossible to be charitable with someone else’s money. That’s theft, not charity.

If you give until it hurts, freely and out of love, and seek nothing temporal in return, you have built up treasure in Heaven. But if the government takes from you and redistributes your wealth to those whom the government has decided to benefit — rich and poor alike — what merit is there in that for you? If you give a poor person a fish to eat, in a day, he’ll be hungry. If you show him how to catch fish and teach him how to acquire the tools needed to do so, he can become self-sufficient and perhaps one day rich enough to help others. If the government takes money from you to buy the person a fish, half of the money will be wasted.

The Pope seems to prefer common ownership of the means of production, which is Marxist, or private ownership and government control, which is fascist, or government ownership and government control, which is socialist. All of those failed systems lead to ashes, not wealth. Pope Francis must know this. He must also know that when Europe was in turmoil in 1931, his predecessor Pius XI wrote in one of his encyclicals: “(N)o one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist.”

Read the whole thing.