English translation of Prof. Becchetti’s remarks about PCJP global economy “white paper”

Acton Institute’s Michael Severance, who works in Rome, has posted something interesting on the new “white paper” from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Rome Economist Helps Explain Vatican ‘Note’ on Financial Reform
Michael Severance

When the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace needed an expert economist to assist in articulating the “Note” titled Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority to feisty journalists at an Oct. 24 Vatican press conference, it called on the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” economics professor, Leonardo Becchetti.

For an English translation of the professor’s remarks at the Vatican press conference, go to the end of this post.

Prof. Becchetti is a local celebrity of sorts, whose TV time has increased since the outbreak of the global financial crisis and growing cynicism on the future of the European Union. He has provided his expert assessments and criticism to Italian news channels and late night talk show programs, and has become a “go-to guy” when speaking on the relationship of economics to human happiness, central banking and monetary policy. See his interview of the monetary policy and inflation:


No doubt, Prof. Becchetti was charged with the very difficult task of articulating and defending some the Note’s bold economic and political prescriptions – usually a “no-fly zone” for Vatican officials. Moreover, in all fairness, Becchetti removed his professor’s hat to his best ability, while speaking in relatively plain language to the journalists, most of whom, like myself, do not hold PhDs in international finance and monetary policy.What follows is the unofficial English translation (actually my own) of the transcript of Prof. Leonardo Becchetti’s presentation. Becchetti’s technical debriefing on the Note last Monday raised a few eyebrows and provoked some critical thinking on what the Vatican document said (and didn’t say) regarding international financial and monetary reform.

For example the following finer points jumped out when translating Becchetti’s remarks:

1. The logic that a global economy requires global governance seems not quite right. What about the Church’s traditional support of subsidiarity, that is, crises should be resolved at the local level of problem. The financial crisis is a pandemic and will require massive effort to resolve it, but local symptoms and outbreaks of this financial disease are manifest in unique ways from nation to nation. A single global monetary and financial authority might simply enforce a “one-size-fits-all” policy that is not practical in most countries. This logic smacks of the 20th century centralized economic planning that has proven destructive in Eastern Europe.

2. Becchetti’s analogy of the “long spoons” is not sensitive to the fact that, through human innovation, those same klutzy over-sized spoons can be creatively re-invented through human innovation to allow for self-feeding. For me, Becchetti’s long spoon analogy inspires ideas of spoon-feeding each other (i.e. receiving easy hand-outs) and not creative cooperation to resolve our financial crisis. If left to fend for ourselves, it might be a clumsy experience at first, but we will then be forced to find ingenious and independent ways of self-preservation.

3. It is true that our world is increasingly interdependent and this provides great opportunity for international solidarity and cooperation, but why use the term “formidable threat” when addressing the fact that first world job holders are feeling the heat of equally qualified laborers from developing countries? I like the thought that the first world feels the need to compete and intelligently find more efficient ways of production, but Becchetti’s subtle semantics seem to infer that Marxist class struggles are at play in devising a global financial peace plan .

4. Lastly, what evidence is there that a financial transaction tax on stock exchange activity will ease the pain and suffering of today’s struggling businesses and unemployed? How many ways have we tried to tax and redistribute our way to human fulfillment? Is this the missing link in international economic planning? Cannot someone speaking on behalf of the Church and who is an expert in economics and happiness, at least make some sort of plea for greater spiritual wealth and its redistribution (i.e. by becoming fulfilled in Christ evangelizing His Word)?

I am sure you will have more questions yourself. Please feel free to share your own opinions. [There and here!]

Translation of Prof. Leonardo Becchetti’s remarks (original Italian version)


Read the whole thing THERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    When the paper first came out, I watched the video online. This new article is excellent and confirms all my ideas on this paper.

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    I know that you’re head over heels in love with the Acton Institute Father but would it kill you to present the Distributionsist viewpoint for once as one gets the impression from your posts on this subject that the only two options are Marxist-Leninism or Von Miss style Capitalism.

    Would it really hurt you to link to the Distributionist review once in a while? perhaps link to Christopher Ferrara’s article in July’s edition of the Remnent entitiled “The Apothiosis of McDonald’s”, or even review his book “The Church and the Libertarian: A Defense of the Catholic Church’s Teaching on Man, Economy, and State”.

  3. Fabrizio says:

    Ahi serva Italia, di dolore ostello,
    nave sanza nocchiere in gran tempesta,
    non donna di province, ma bordello!

    Quell’ anima gentil fu così presta,
    sol per lo dolce suon de la sua terra,
    di fare al cittadin suo quivi festa;

    e ora in te non stanno sanza guerra
    li vivi tuoi, e l’un l’altro si rode
    di quei ch’un muro e una fossa serra.

    Cerca, misera, intorno da le prode
    le tue marine, e poi ti guarda in seno,
    s’alcuna parte in te di pace gode.

    Che val perché ti racconciasse il freno
    Iustinïano, se la sella è vòta?
    Sanz’ esso fora la vergogna meno.

    Ahi gente che dovresti esser devota,
    e lasciar seder Cesare in la sella,
    se bene intendi ciò che Dio ti nota,

    guarda come esta fiera è fatta fella
    per non esser corretta da li sproni,
    poi che ponesti mano a la predella.

    O Alberto tedesco ch’abbandoni
    costei ch’è fatta indomita e selvaggia,
    e dovresti inforcar li suoi arcioni,

    giusto giudicio da le stelle caggia
    sovra ‘l tuo sangue, e sia novo e aperto,
    tal che ‘l tuo successor temenza n’aggia!

    Ch’avete tu e ‘l tuo padre sofferto,
    per cupidigia di costà distretti,
    che ‘l giardin de lo ‘mperio sia diserto.

    Vieni a veder Montecchi e Cappelletti,
    Monaldi e Filippeschi, uom sanza cura:
    color già tristi, e questi con sospetti!

    Vien, crudel, vieni, e vedi la pressura
    d’i tuoi gentili, e cura lor magagne;
    e vedrai Santafior com’ è oscura!

    Vieni a veder la tua Roma che piagne
    vedova e sola, e dì e notte chiama:
    «Cesare mio, perché non m’accompagne?».

    Vieni a veder la gente quanto s’ama!
    e se nulla di noi pietà ti move,
    a vergognar ti vien de la tua fama.

    E se licito m’è, o sommo Giove
    che fosti in terra per noi crucifisso,
    son li giusti occhi tuoi rivolti altrove?

    O è preparazion che ne l’abisso
    del tuo consiglio fai per alcun bene
    in tutto de l’accorger nostro scisso?

    Ché le città d’Italia tutte piene
    son di tiranni, e un Marcel diventa
    ogne villan che parteggiando viene.

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    76 Ah, Italy enslaved, abode of misery,
    77 pilotless ship in a fierce tempest tossed,
    78 no mistress over provinces but a harlot!
    79 How eager was that noble soul,
    80 only at the sweet name of his city,
    81 to welcome there his fellow citizen!
    82 Now your inhabitants are never free from war,
    83 and those enclosed within a single wall and moat
    84 are gnawing on each other.
    85 Search, miserable one, around your shores,
    86 then look into your heart,
    87 if any part of you rejoice in peace.
    88 If there is no one in your saddle, what good
    89 was it Justinian repaired your harness?
    90 Your shame would be less great had he not done so.
    91 Ah, you who should be firm in your devotion
    92 and let Caesar occupy the saddle,
    93 if you but heeded what God writes for you,
    94 see how vicious is the beast not goaded
    95 and corrected by the spurs,
    96 ever since you took the bridle in your hands.
    97 O German Albert, who abandon her
    98 now that she is untamed and wild,
    99 you who should bestride her saddle-bow,
    100 may the just sentence falling from the stars
    101 upon your blood be strange enough and clear
    102 that your successor live in fear of it!
    103 In that far land, both you and your father,
    104 dragged along by greed, allowed
    105 the garden of the empire to be laid waste.
    106 Come and see the Montecchi and Cappelletti,
    107 Monaldi and Filippeschi, those already wretched
    108 and the ones in dread, you who have no care.
    109 Come, cruel one, come and see the tribulation
    110 your nobles suffer and consider their distress.
    111 Then you shall see how dark is Santafiora.
    112 Come and see your Rome and how she weeps,
    113 widowed and bereft, and cries out day and night:
    114 ‘My Caesar, why are you not with me?’
    115 Come and see your people, how they love
    116 one another, and, if no pity for us moves you,
    117 come for shame of your repute.
    118 And if it is lawful to ask, O Jove on high,
    119 you who were crucified on earth for us,
    120 are your righteous eyes turned elsewhere,
    121 or, in your abyss of contemplation,
    122 are you preparing some mysterious good,
    123 beyond our comprehension?
    124 For each Italian city overflows with tyrants
    125 and every clown that plays the partisan
    126 thinks he is the new Marcellus.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    One weeps and waits for the waves of socialism and communism to overcome our own beloved country. Obviously, the young man has forgotten Machiavelli and Thomas More on these subjects, as well as many, many others…”No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution”– Niccolo Machiavelli. And More’s Utopia is a satire, which some forget. But the best reference, “My Kingdom is not of this World.” Jesus Christ…

  6. wmeyer says:

    Jack, I think Fr. Z is so focused on the Acton Institute because it is functional and sensible. With all respect, the distributionist philosophy asserts the notion of rules of behavior, with no visible enforcer. However, if we had a free market, then individuals could work in their own interest, which necessarily requires delivering values to others. Given sufficient ingenuity and motivation, a grass roots growth of enterprise might approach the ideal of distributionism. However, in the absence of a free market, you are more likely to suffer ever increasing control from government, which all but crushes individual initiative, and heavily depresses the economy.

  7. Jack Hughes says:


    Just because something ‘works’ does not mean that it is moral and/or right, the early modern philosophers such as bacon and hobbes tried to assert that because science worked in making us ‘masters and possessors of nature’ that Aristotle and St Thomas were wrong simply because A-T Philosophy aimed at the next life and not the current one, this bait and switch tactic lead to the successors of the early moderns claiming that the A-T refusal to play this game constituted that A-T was false. As any decent historian of philosophy could tell you , no serious challange to A-T was ever offered and its ‘success’ owed much more to political expediancy than itellectual content.

    Father here is my challange to you, review the article “Is the Acton Institute a Genuine Expression of Catholic Social Thought” over at the Distributionist review, its a very readable article, not that long (slightly over two pages), it distributionism is as backrupt philosophy as Wymer claims then it shouldn’t take you long to dismember and hoist upon a petard for all the Von mises crowd to cheer and beat their chests, surely if you can spare 3/4 posts (at last count) on the subejct of the Vatican Paper then you can be magmanimus and give the opposition some air time.

  8. mbutton says:

    An international financial authority doesn’t necessarily conflict with the principle of subsidiarity. The principle of subsidiarity states that organizational matters ought to be organized by the most local possible level of organization. If more centralized authorities are capable of succeeding where local control fails, then its not a contradiction of the principle of subsidiarity.

  9. muckemdanno says:

    Jack Hughes,

    I have read Storck’s article you recommended.

    Storck asks the question “What was the result of this new approach to economics [free market] and government?” and then he answers his own question with a quotation from Rerum Novarum:

    “The ancient workmen’s Guilds were destroyed in the last century…”

    Unfortunately, the Pope does not blame “free market” economic thinking for the lamentable state of affairs. In fact, he blames the interference of the various governments in “repudiating” the Church. The fact is that “liberals”, via the power of the state, stole the property of the Church in one country after another from the 16th to the 19th centuries on the grounds that it was for the “common good.” As far as I know, the followers of Adam Smith and Bastiat favor no such thing. They assert the right to property. It is the “liberals” such as Robespierre, and “Distributists” who favor the stealing of private property by the state for “the common good.”

    The Church asserts the right to property. “Distributists” ought to stop pretending that there is some valid form of “Catholic” socialism.

  10. muckemdanno says:

    I also like how Storck condemns the idea of free contracting of wage rates by quoting Pope Leo again:

    “there is a dictate of nature more imperious and more ancient than any bargain between man and man, that the remuneration must be enough to support the wage-earner in reasonable and frugal comfort. (Rerum Novarum, 45)”

    It’s only part of a sentence you say…where is the beginning of the sentence??? It is clear why Storck leaves it out…Let me provide it for you here…:

    Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless,

    State intervention in these types of agreements is the exception, not the rule, and is necessary only when justice itself is violated. Pope Leo asserts in this same paragraph that the state should be kept out of this as much as possible (oh, I guess Storck ‘forgot’ to include that part)

    The state today is way too big, and almost everything the state does nowadays is evil. It is unthinkable that “Distributists” today do not take the side of the more ‘right-wing’ style libertarians, seeing that the overarching power of the state is entirely responsible for the destruction of the Church by their taking of property for the “common good”, the destruction of the family by usurpation of the rights over marriages, the destruction of children by state education, the destruction of working men’s wages through their inflationary fiat monetary scheme, and the destruction of entire societies by their unjust wars.

  11. Braveheart says:

    Thank you Muckemdanno.

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