Pope Francis and U.S. style capitalism

From Deseret News:

NEW YORK — The Rev. Martin Schlag is a trained economist as well as a Catholic moral theologian, and when he first read some of Pope Francis’ powerful critiques of the current free market system he had the same thought a lot of Americans did: “Just horrible.”

But at a meeting on Monday at the Harvard Club, Schlag, an Austrian-born priest who teaches economics at an Opus Dei-run university in Rome, reassured a group of Catholics, many from the world of business and finance, that Francis’ views on capitalism aren’t actually as bad as he feared.

“You can get the impression that the pope is against capitalism,” said Schlag, who heads the Markets, Culture and Ethics Research Centre at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, located near the Vatican.

But he explained that what Francis — the first Latin American pope — understands as capitalism is in fact the “crony capitalism” that is found in the pontiff’s native Argentina and much of Latin America. Schlag defined “crony capitalism” as “a form of capitalism where people get rich not because of their work but because of their friendships and political connections and the privileges they have.”

That is quite different from the American system, he said.

“Does the pope understand the United States? I think he doesn’t know the United States,” said Schlag, who is also an adviser to the Vatican department that deals with social and economic issues.

Schlag’s view that Francis is conditioned by his Argentine experience is shared by many who seek to contextualize the pope’s criticisms, but it is not shared by all those who know the pope.

“Of course he knows” the U.S. because he has been meeting with U.S. bishops for years, and even more frequently since he became pope, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, a senior adviser to Francis, said during a visit to Washington last month. [So… His Holiness knows about economics in these USA because he has been meeting with US bishops?]

“He knows the Americans and he knows the culture as well,” said Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is also an outspoken critic of U.S.-style capitalism. [I am eager to see this knowledge of (USA) Americans made manifest!]

Still, Schlag said he believes that the pontiff’s Sept. 22-27 visit to the U.S., his first to the country, will be an opportunity for Francis to learn more about America and to appreciate the positive aspects of what Schlag said is the most successful economy in history.

[…]

Read the rest over there.

Some sharing options...

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Pope Francis and U.S. style capitalism

  1. Kerry says:

    We are certain when he talks with Barry, and maybe even Barry’s pastor, they will tell him all he needs to know about America.
    I think he should go to Disneyland, were Father Z a Cardinal, perhaps a shooting range, to get the sound of Liberty in his ears.

  2. chantgirl says:

    I for one am tired of hearing everyone else (on the left and the right) tell me what the Pope really means or thinks. Kasper and Marx tell us that the Pope backs their Communion-for-current-mortal-sinners solution, and we hear crickets from the Pope himself. Scalfari, in his latest interview with the Pope, says that the Holy Father believes in the annihilation of souls, and we hear crickets from the Catholic media and the Pope. I understand that Scalfari doesn’t take notes and doesn’t give exact quotes, but after the confusion of the previous papal interviews, the Holy Father keeps going back to the man. The Pope has not clarified what was said in the interviews and we are all left to wonder if the Pope is a heretic. I’m not praying for the man’s death, but I don’t think I’m out of line in praying that God delivers us from this papacy quickly; confusion and chaos are reigning supreme at the moment.

  3. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Schlag defined “crony capitalism” as “a form of capitalism where people get rich not because of their work but because of their friendships and political connections and the privileges they have.

    That is quite different from the American system, he said.”

    That WAS quite different from the American system. Today, it is, mostly, about who you know. The Wild West version of capitalism, where one could get rich by the sweat if one’s brow, has been dead since at least the 1970’s, but an argument could be made for the 1920’s. Seriously, do you think Bill Gates would have been where he is, today, if his mother had not been on the board at Harvard?

    The Chicken

  4. bsjy says:

    Schlag’s interpretation could be true if we accepted the premise that American capitalism is distinct from crony capitalism. American capitalism has never been free from politically driven favoritism, from the first Bank of the United States through the transcontinental railroads and the Brooklyn Bridge to the extension of the copyright and patent protection periods to Solyndra and Elon Musk. There were fewer cronies in the distant past because the U.S. government was less paternalistic than it is now. Woodrow Wilson was instrumental in that posture shift.

    The Pope could still be opposed to American capitalism if by that he meant consumerism. It is in a consumer mentality that the American dream leads all others. A chicken in every pot, two Chevys in every driveway, and a cookie in both hands (Paul Deen’s famous “balanced diet”); that’s the American economic dream. Our poor are those who don’t have an iPhone 6 and a 2gb data plan, who have to watch HDTV over the air on their 46″ TV because they don’t have cable, whose car doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth.

    American Catholics are no less infected by this pattern of denial of self-denial. We cannot limit ourselves to fish on Fridays, and we cannot get ourselves to Mass on Ascension Day. We hear Jesus say, “Pick up your cross and follow me,” and we reply, “Send Simon of Cyrene to help. I have a hangnail.”

  5. marcelus says:

    “But he explained that what Francis — the first Latin American pope — understands as capitalism is in fact the “crony capitalism” that is found in the pontiff’s native Argentina and much of Latin America. Schlag defined “crony capitalism” as “a form of capitalism where people get rich not because of their work but because of their friendships and political connections and the privileges they have.”

    Well, it is good to know there is no corruption in the 1st world, inluding thee US. your politicians are honest, have a great president, and nno poverty almost. And friends do not do friends millions dollar favors and cut deals, and richness is onnly based on hones work.

  6. Sonshine135 says:

    “Crony Capitalism” in America may not have tendrils that run as deep as in Argentina, but large corporations and industries all have lobbyists in Washington D.C. They are the people that truly run America. It would be foolish for us to believe that special favor is not curried PACs and special interest groups are rampant here. True, this may not manifest itself as material goods to a specific person, but it is there none the less. One need only go to 2nd vote at http://www.2ndvote.com , and you will see that the political positions of these companies are a good reflection of what Congress is working on.

  7. Gratias says:

    Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga has an article on Environmentalism that explains the current position of the Vatican on capitalism. It is a recipe for how to turn poor countries into Cuba.

    http://www.casinapioiv.va/content/dam/accademia/pdf/es41/es41-rodriguezmaradiaga.pdf

  8. Dialogos says:

    Crony capitalism is alive and well in the U.S. via multitudes of tax breaks for favored businesses. (I live in WA where Boeing’s blackmail of our cowardly state legislature is a prime example.) I also find it so galling that our paragons of capitalism and the American way, who know how to spend money (unlike those horrible people in public service) and get good return on their investment, suddenly are only exercising their “free speech” when making campaign donations (known in other countries as bribery). Oh, they so demurely proclaim, we don’t expect anything in return for our $! And PS to the commenter who referred to the President with a familiar nickname: whoever the holder of the office happens to be and however reprehensible their behavior, they are still the holder of the office and the office itself deserves some respect.

  9. Imrahil says:

    we cannot get ourselves to Mass on Ascension Day

    Say rather: “We are a country where of the 85 % that confess any religious or irreligious affiliation in polls, 80 % at least are Christian; where 55 % consider themselves ‘very religious’ and another 27 % ‘religious’, and where, as in any country, agnostics and non-practicers won’t mind a day off work; but somehow we can’t bring it about to make the fifth or fourth highest feast of Christianity (depending where we put Christmas – Epiphany would be the third and Pentecost the second), which is celebrated in unison by all the denominations, into a public holiday protected from ordinary work by law.”

    One isn’t supposed to criticize foreign countries, but I will say that I do not understand that.

  10. johnmann says:

    It’s quite naive to think crony capitalism doesn’t exist in the US. The hotel-state conspiracy prevents me from renting out my house on a short-term basis. Unlike most Americans, I think our tax system is basically fair but the carried interest rule is undoubtedly a give-away to Wall St.

    But I don’t even think that’s what Pope Francis is criticizing. I think he, like most Latin American poor, is critical of neo-liberal economic policy. I.e., Jeffrey Sach’s “shock therapy,” pioneered by Milton Friedman and, in the minds of Latin Americans, synonymous with Pinochet and the Mexican peso crisis. Much of the criticism of neo-liberalism is undeserved but Pope Francis reminds us that even when pursuing economic growth, we can’t forget the poor. Too often we pursue growth for the greater good forgetting that there will be those who lose out through no fault of their own. Trade liberalization may help a large number of poor people in the long run but in the transition, some people will lose their livelihoods. Just look at Detroit. Pope Francis is telling us to be mindful of the auto worker, the farmer, and even the government bureaucrat. Abolish the IRS but don’t forget that those are real middle-class people with families working there.

  11. acricketchirps says:

    There are still a lot–if a shrinking number–of small free market capitalists in the U.S., starting businesses or running franchises.

    It could be argued that cronycap is the ugly wart (or maybe cancer) on top of American free enterprise. Where as in a country like Argentina it may be, due to impossible hurdles a Joe Nobody has to clear to start and run a business, that crony is the only cap they got.

  12. lmo1968 says:

    Schlag defined “crony capitalism” as “a form of capitalism where people get rich not because of their work but because of their friendships and political connections and the privileges they have.”

    That is the case more and more in “these” United States.

  13. Kathleen10 says:

    Dialogos, you are entitled to your opinion, but any person who has inflicted what that man has inflicted on these United States, deserves to be called worse than just the diminutive of his first name. I respect the office, but certainly not the occupant, who to me is in league with the diabolical.
    It is rough to be poor in America, very rough indeed. “Poor” is when you are broke, no dinero, no cash, nothing in the bank, can’t find employment, and lousy prospects. In that case, you are persona non grata, and American life is going to kick the heck out of you, and leave you hurting. Today, the previous middle has moved down to the lower rungs. It takes a whole lot of money to just live moderately, and each year it takes more.
    I know little about economics, but still, I do believe the free market system is the best. I’ve never seen an economic system that rivals it, certainly not in any socialist countries. They all seem to go broke.
    For the thousandth time, I wish Pope Francis would concern himself with passing on the faith intact and saving souls. I really have no idea what is going on in this world except to say confusion reigns in every direction. I personally get no solace nor direction from what is coming out of the Vatican right now, but maybe somebody else does.

  14. iPadre says:

    The most generous nation and people in the world, despite out faults and failures.

  15. Mojoron says:

    Francis certainly knows that crony capitalism is the vine that often feeds the church. It did during the time of Michelangelo and it does now. Without the U.S., many in Rome would not have the pecunia to afford the programs they do now. For the Vatican to slap the hand that feeds it is not wise.

  16. “But (Schlag) explained that what Francis — the first Latin American pope — understands as capitalism is in fact the ‘crony capitalism’ that is found in the pontiff’s native Argentina and much of Latin America. That is quite different from the American system, (Schlag) said.”

    Unfortunately, as several other commenters have noted, the difference between the “American system” and that in Argentina (to name but one example) is not as different as Schlag seems to think it is.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  17. eulogos says:

    I think it is pretty obvious that we do have crony capitalism here, if perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree than in Argentina. I think it likely that the criticisms of capitalism are right-but what is the alternative? Cuba? The old Soviet Union? China is only getting rich because it endorsed capitalism, although not liberty. I can never even tell from the documents what we are being told to do. Continue to tax heavily, or tax even more heavily, and give lots of money, via bureaucrats like myself, so that the dependent classes can continue to scrape along in their completely dysfunctional way? Continue to structure benefits in such a way as to discourage initiative and reward dysfunction? What, what, what, do they want us to do? Nationalize industries? We have seen how poorly that works. And when we bring globalism into it, it is even more complicated. Should we help the US poor by requiring US companies to produce here, or setting high tariffs on goods from the outside? Even if that worked, is it good to deprive people in other countries of work they seem to want, even at wages and in conditions we find abhorrent, which we are held to be guilty for because we buy the products? I just find the whole thing so confusing. Suppose I thought I had to treat an encyclical about economics as serious moral guidance. What would I then do? Or not do? Vote for Democrats? They are just as much in the pockets of capitalists as the Republicans, just different ones. Their solutions for the problems of the poor in this country have not worked and if anything have made things worse. Their positions on other moral issues are downright evil. Not vote at all? Start a violent revolution to put in a Socialist dictatorship?
    Really really bad idea. All I can think of are things we already knew. Render unto Cesar-pay my taxes with as good a grace as possible. Give money to people I encounter who I can see really need it and will benfit from it. Give a little money even to the street people who might just buy alcohol with it, just in case they might buy a sandwhich and even if they might be scamming me. Buy local produce and support local small businesses, to direct some of my money away from the huge corporations. (But some of the big ones provide really good services that it takes a big organization to do right, in my opinion.) What else can an ordinary person do, anyway? And who thinks we are going to build heaven on earth with everything perfectly distributed and no one acting motivated by greed? I am surprised things are as good as they are in our corner of the world, considering human nature.
    Susan Peterson

  18. Imrahil says:

    Well, let me be frank because it’s shorter that way.

    First, I cannot quite understand some of the usual things people say when they wish to come down hard on Socialism, including some here in this combox.

    Here we have a ghastly ideology whose very utopia is a nightmare of uniformity and bureaucracy (as Chesterton observed), whose very essence lies in contradicting the Seventh Commandment, whose theoreticians are adamant that not being content with that, you cannot be a socialist without directly breaking the First Commandment, too, an ideology whose death toll is counted in millions, an ideology whose adherents even committed a great amount of murder making not even sense from their own point of view, an ideology which used means that, somewhat, leave a more nasty feeling than downright murder or even perhaps than open bodily turture (read: the “measures of destruction” which the East German secret-service adopted once capital punishment for dissenters became politically inopportune), an ideology which let loose four major wars (including the one Stalin plotted together with someone who politically is usually counted in the opposite camp; but was Hitler rightist, in the classical sense? many have doubted it) and which was ever ready to fight an aggressive war to take over the territories it had not yet held, kept back only by the readiness of the West to defend itself –

    and what do they say? What do they say when they want to scold it?

    It wasn’t successful, they say.
    Its adherents adamantly believed in it, to the point of fanaticism, they say.
    It was dogmatic and claimed to have the absolute truth, they say.

    In other words, Socialism is reviled precisely for the three points (most chiefly for the “lack of success”) which could be brought forward in its favor. Which, coincidentally, can be said (depending on the definition of “fanaticism” for the second) or at least are being said by a superficial point of view taking but the present age into account (the first one) about holy mother Church herself.

    I cannot understand that.

    Another point: Was it so unsuccessful, after all?

    I revel in its downfall, in the victory of the free West. But I think a case could be made that the (nightmarish) utopia of the socialists partially at least actually was fulfilled in the Socialist lands. With all, or thankfully not with all but with some, this dystopia implied. (The dreamers who would not think the Socialists principles out to their logical conclusions* were, of course, not satisfied. But socialist theoreticians themselves would have opposed them.)

    *So, taking the socialist point of view, of course you’d have to be ready to assume that people (being vulnerati in naturalibus as we put it – but while the theology as such is Catholic, the consequences have been universally observed by observing men) would let themselves be bribed by the class-enemy with material goods (such as the proverbial bananas), and you’d have to take into account that a loss of manpower will make the Socialist state more feeble (whose good is, again according to official Socialism, is of course the highest good).
    So, setting up a wall and imprisoning one’s populace, making “desertion of the Republic” a crime, is not a deviation from Socialist principles. It quite tenably follows from the socialist premises. Being not a Socialist I still say it is wrong; but it is not un-Socialist.

    (My point here is that the often-heard claim, “Socialism was a good idea which was abused by the Socialists” is wrong. They did not always follow socialist principles – there was petty self-enrichment among the party officials – but on the whole they made a better job of putting Socialism into practice than people think they did. Only it is not a paradise they put into practice. It is a nightmare.)

    And then… yes, as I said, I revel in the West’s victory.

    But there’s some very hidden feeling that, maybe, to a degree, the victory wasn’t won by a ready defense-force, convincing people, fighting them, and such-like only. There may have been a little part in it which was the fact that the Socialist leaders, while cruel, were not as cruel as they would have had to be had their one goal been the upkeep of Socialism. And there may have been a little factor about people choosing the right system (that of the free world), choosing it alright, but not (at least not only) chooising it because it’s right, but (at least also) choosing it because it provided bananas.

    That much to that point. It was long enough and I’ll still write something else on another point, if I get the chance. [Nice and pithy?]

  19. Imrahil says:

    Second, on the question itself. I think five questions have to be firmly distinguised,

    1. what does the Pope think?,
    2. does he actually teach what he thinks, and if so, with what level of bindingness?,
    3. if it is not teaching when he says something, should he have said it?,
    4. if it is either not teaching or not teaching a dogma, is he right with what he thinks?,
    5. if he is teaching but not a dogma and we dissent, are we to keep our mouth shut or even convince ourselves we’re wrong?

    Once we have done that, maybe it will not be so pressing any-more to always present one’s own position as the one the Pope happens to hold.

    I guess that maybe unconsciously at first, but to some degree consciously by now, the Holy Father is giving the Church whose Head’s vicar he is a little lesson in not over-valueing Papal (non-dogmatic) utterances. He has said so. “This Pope talks a lot” (said about himself), and so on.

    No once that’s settled…

    out course the question no. 1 from above is interesting to the Catholic (it’s his Pope, after all) and the entire world (it’s the visible head of the Roman Catholic Church, after all).

    Would he, if he knew precisely what American capitalism is, be an adamant defender of precisely this model of society?

    Any intuitive answering of that question can (I’d say) only be: “I doubt it.”

    —-

    Coincidence or not… some Americans seem to believe that their society is the only one feasible on Earth. Also, I’ve been told that this has subconsciously turned into a subconscious tenet of faith for many Americans.

    (For not to rely on prejudice only, I give the quote from Preacher Stanley Hauerwas’s sermon on Reformation Sunday, which can be found on the internet, where he speaks of a common attitude found among his fellow-countrymen to hold that “The Reformation struck a blow for freedom. No longer would we be held in medieval captivity to law and arbitrary authority. The Reformation was the beginning of enlightenment, of progressive civilizations, of democracy, that have come to fruition in this wonderful country called America.)

    Also, I have heard that the one religion which actually was founded in America (and in this America) more or less officially holds the preference for the American way among their tenets, thinks the Declaration of Independence is an inspired document, and all that…

    and then, this defence of the American way (not actually only defending, but, if slightly, extolling the American way over other possible concepts), was quoted by a news-agency called “Deseret News”. Coincidence? Maybe. A strange chance if chance it is, as Gandalf said at the Council of Elrond (I wasn’t present, but I’ve read about it ;-) ).

    —-

    As I said, the intuitive answer to “does the Pope think American capitalism is great” is no. For a more informative answer, I cannot speak about the Pope. I can only speak about what I myself like and dislike, and I’ll be less systematic and thought-through that I’d like to be. But anyway, here let’s go and quote a few lines by Johnny Cash,

    And he said: “Son, this world is rough
    And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s got to be tough
    And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help you along.
    So I gave you that name [Sue] and I said goodbye;
    I knew you’d have to get tough or die
    And it’s the name that helped to make you strong.

    Now you just fought one hell of a fight
    And I know you hate me, and you got the right
    To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
    But you ought to thank me, before I die,
    For the gravel in your guts and the spit in your eye
    Cause I’m the ** that named you ‘Sue.'”

    I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
    And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
    And I came away with a different point of view.
    And I think about him, now and then,
    Every time I try and every time I win,
    And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him – Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

    That’s the problem. From “mere” and “pure” Capitalist logic, you’d give your son a name so that he is teased and grows hard by it. But you don’t, because you love your son (and because it’s weird anyway). And if your son should grow up and fail in business-life (and, making theoretical things easier, fail through his own fault), you’ll maybe comfort him with a hug, maybe will slap his face for his failures (which also, whether ideal or not, shows that one takes personal care), maybe order him to repair the garden’s fence, for starters, and in any case (I should hope) give him some lunch to eat.

    The Americans, of course, do all that, as the rev’d dear iPadre said (generosity is, indeed, something in which the Americans are certainly very great and probably do surpass all other nations on Earth – I wonder only, though, why we hear of that so rarely when America is praised?). But it is not in accord with the logic of Capitalism, per se. By that logic, you’d have to ignore him – or, the “altruist Capitalists”, to subject him to some “encouragement”, i. e. pep-talk, about working-harder, never-giving-up and all that sort of thing. And this is, of course, not entirely unheard of, either, especially if the person in question is not someone about whom we personally care (e. g. especially if he belongs to an anonymous mass of the needy, who do get that treatment e. g. on the internet).

    If we do care, we won’t treat someone as pure capitalist theory would have us do; the Americans, who are better in caring than others, know that well.

    There is one other feature about American capitalism, though, which, maybe, the Pope distinctly dislikes. It is the premise “the goal of business life is becoming rich”. It may not be so in American practice, I cannot believe it is, but theory matters, and at any rate the point we’re talking about is the theory: and, well, some want to get rich, and Chesterton commented “to be clever enough to get all the money one must first be stupid enough to want it”. Some (I do not, of course, subscribe without reservation to all Chesterton said) may want to become rich without being stupid. Some – and this in functioning societies has always worked at least to a degree w.r.t. moderate riches – may actually become rich by as it were by chance (Bill Gates at least partly is an example for that – and I consider that, nota bene, a sympathetic trait and do not mean to say it as a reproach). But ordinarily, the goal of the employee is to fulfil his contract diligently, receive his salary, and a pat on the back and a word of praise from his employer going with it. The ordinary goal of the entrepreneur is to become or remain established in the market for his business – often a business which he actually is personally attached to it -, pay his employees and creditors, make the money that is adequate for his position (and the entrepreneurial responsibilities) for himself, set aside some set-asides for hard times of the enterprise, and so forth.

    I am not speaking about an ideal to be achieved. I’m speaking about the actual case. People are tempted to greed, of course, but normally their goal (not only shouldn’t be, but isn’t) “amass money, and then amass more money” – and of course while the items on the list for the entrepreneur I gave above can amount to a quite substantial amount… maybe not even have other practical outcomes than if the goal were simply amassing money – still: In the deeper attitude there’s a gulf of a difference.

    Thus if, which at least among those engaged in defending the (American, or other) capitalist system, it is not uncommon for an entrepreneur (say, a chicken farmer) whose actual pride is to provide people with healthy eggs in a clean, irreproachable way and not without giving heed to the well-being of the chickens – if such a farmer should feel that, but, being a good capitalist, say his goal was merely to amass as much money as possible, then there’s something wrong not with the action, but with a system of thought that makes people present themselves less good, or worse, than they are. Hypocrisy isn’t fine, but (objective) reverse-hypocrisy, making oneself worse than one is for to fit into the system? That’s weird.

    —–

    On the other hand, as long as the chief problem of “crony capitalism” is that friendships help and the old elites reproduce themselves: apart from seeming somewhat natural, and even if we wanted to, unhinderable (without bureaucracy in no less amount than Socialism), is that so bad after all? People of course want a sufficient livelihood, but assuming they have that, they’d feel it as a punishment, or a drastic failure, if they fall from their level, not as just the chance about finishing a few inches afterwards in a race of equally-opportunitied competitors (which in a theoretical utterly crony-free capitalism it would be).

    If, though, the rich conspire with the state to hinder small businesses from getting in their way, or to amass money that doesn’t belong to them, or to hinder people from earning their livelihood, etc. – that is, needless to say, bad. Maybe it’s less the case in America than in Argentina (I don’t know about either country), but I doubt it would be entirely absent. So it depends on what “crony” means…

    and, bottom line, it all is very complicated.

    Sorry for the long comment. [Please edit!]

  20. Imrahil says:

    Dear eulogos,

    What are the alternatives?

    Bhutan. Nothern-Italy (mentally abstracted from a situation within an inhomogeneous currency-territory; the organized-criminality problem of the former Two-Sicilies is a seperate issue). 1950s (West)-Germany. France (with its largely state-run economy). The dreamland of whoever coined the term “democratic socialism”, which is Sweden.

    I don’t mean ideals (there are very certainly points in which Sweden, e. g., is not an ideal), just want to point out that there are systems different from the present American one, nevertheless actually currently running.

    What, what, what, do they want us to do?

    Not necessarily anything to do, but I, for one, would wish you to think something. That is more important than one, er, thinks it may be. So, for instance

    give lots of money, via bureaucrats like myself, so that the dependent classes can continue to scrape along in their completely dysfunctional way? Continue to structure benefits in such a way as to discourage initiative and reward dysfunction?

    Whatever about how much money you give, whether privately or by the government: maybe, not to think of it as “discouraging initiative and reward disfunction”. Initiative is not encouraged by being extra hard on those not displaying it. Disfunction is not is not rewarded by receiving aid to lessen some of its consequences, if indeed they are the consequences of disfunction. Charity is, as Chesterton said, principally charity to the undeserving (or only accidentally deserving), but we still hold it to be a virtue, not a vice.

    The great point against government aid is that it costs money and that it may be wrong to collect the money (via taxes, for people are only morally, per se, obliged to help up to a limit). But not, as you seem to suggest, that it would be wrong to distribute it, given we have it. So, if some private donor just takes a fancy to donate (and hence the first falls away), distributing aid is entirely unproblematic.

    Should we help the US poor by requiring US companies to produce here, or setting high tariffs on goods from the outside? Even if that worked, is it good to deprive people in other countries of work they seem to want, even at wages and in conditions we find abhorrent, which we are held to be guilty for because we buy the products?

    It would certainly be unjust (to US companies) to do the first without the second, and perhaps also to do the second without the first. Both together? At any rate I don’t think that idea should be ruled out by way of dogma (as opposed to free-trade). Free-trade is to be preferred because apparently, and if, and as long as, it returns the best outcomes, but not because it’s free-trade simply.

    So, tariffs may probably turn out, all in all, to some up to a disprofit. (It is but fair, by the way, if the poor that would gain from protectionism are, so to speak, given recompensation taken from the all-in-all profit made by free-trade.)

    Vote?

    For the lesser evil among the parties that have a chance, or for the perfect party (or much better than the lesser evil) which doesn’t have a chance, or not at all (unless there is one very good or only slightly flawed party with a chance.)

    Give a little money even to the street people who might just buy alcohol with it

    because they, after having made clear their survival, are pretty much subject to the same sobriety rules as all us other Catholics (simplifyingly summed up as “Do not get really drunk”).

    As for abhorrent conditions, what if the state defined “abhorrent conditions” (as in “conditions so abhorrent as to go beyond the due responsibility of determining the just conditions in his own territory”), and then, well, just forbade the import of such products? After all, the minimum-wage is the same-principle: we suppose that people have a duty to rather not work than subject themselves to undignified work. (The great question in applying this principle, even if we agree on it, is of course what is undignified, and what is merely heavy work, though perhaps very heavy work.)

    And who thinks we are going to build heaven on earth with everything perfectly distributed and no one acting motivated by greed?

    Society does not suppose that wrath will be absent from men, as well, but it does set up a state which makes clear that wrath is kept at bay, and battery and murder are not part of normal society and are quickly punished wherever they occur…

    That said, I do not consider “desire to have more” as equivalent to the sin of greed, and I certainly don’t think that a heaven on earth, even if it existed, would mean everyone has the same thing. Certainly not.

    I don’t think the cause of a free economy with some rich men is much helped by assuming they are a regrettable bug of the system. Aren’t they a feature? If so, are they necessarily a bad one? I tink they are, and they aren’t. Though of course there are sinners among them.

    considering human nature.

    You mean “concupiscence”. Human nature, as we all learned in anti-Calvinist apologetics (no offense!), is wounded but in itself by no means flawed.

    So, and this is finally it. Sorry for the long comment. Still I do hope our reverent host will give it a pass, but that is his decision.