I have mentioned that people have raised translation problems with the new Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium. I posted under another entry about problems with par. 54, which in the English translation mentions “trickle-down” economics.
Since that other post delved into more things – the discussion there has been interesting – I thought it useful to pull out of EG 54 just the first part.
Let us assume that the original composition was Spanish:
54. En este contexto, algunos todavía defienden las teorías del «derrame», que suponen que todo crecimiento económico, favorecido por la libertad de mercado, logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo.
In this context, 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.
Over at the other post a commentator pointed out that the official English rendering of EG 54 makes Spanish “por si’ mismo” into “inevitably”, but that it really means “by itself”.
Let’s swap in the “by itself” and read it again.
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories [“trickle down economics”] which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will by itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.
There is a big difference between “inevitably” and “by itself”!
There are uses of “mismo” that have to do with time, such as “ahora mismo” (“right now”). This is not one of those.
I think we can stipulate that “las teorías del «derrame»” is an adequate expression for English “trickle down” economics. We can drill, I suppose, into who generally uses the phrase “trickle down”. Some will say that only critics use the phrase. Let’s leave that aside. Also, I am not convinced that “justice and inclusiveness” does justice to “equidad e inclusión social”. “Equidad” is not “justice”.
But the real point here is that in EG 54 the author says that “trickle down” economics cannot by itself produce the desired result.
That is, of course, correct.
No economic plan will solve the problems of the poor by itself. Economic plans must be carried out by people who have good, solid morals and values.
I submit that these morals and values must be rooted in religion.
Bottom line: Whoever did the English translation of EG 54 did Pope Francis and the watching world a grave disservice and caused confusion. The use of “inevitably” for “por si’ mismo” changes the meaning of the key phrase in a significant way. The confusion will be difficult to rectify.
The Pope is not so much condemning a specific approach to helping the poor, though I think it is fair to assume that he isn’t a fan of “trickle-down” economics. What he is really going after is the notion that markets, plans, schemes, theories, what have you, can be relied on to help the poor by themselves, that is, without our personal engagement and choice to take responsibility actually to help the poor in concrete ways.
In the meantime, we still don’t have Latin on the Vatican site. I suspect we won’t get the Latin.
Moreover, it seems you can’t read the document online any more at the Vatican site. Now you have to download a pdf.