Pope Francis’ new interview: damage control on “trickle down” economics?

Interviews.  Interviews. Interviews.

Pope Francis gave an interview to La Stampa.

In the newest interview, the Holy Father is asked about reactions to his odd economic observations in Evangelii gaudium.

My translation:

Some passages in Evangelii gaudium attracted accusations from American ultra-conservatives.  [For an Italian journalist, even for this publication, not being a socialist makes you an ultra-conservative.]  What effect does it have on a Pope to hear himself called a “Marxist”?

Marxist ideology is wrong.  In my life I have known many marxists who are good as people, and because of this I don’t take offense.

The words that struck the most were those about an economy that “kills”… [And the Pope pounces. He was waiting for this question.]

In the exhortation there is nothing that can’t be found in the social doctrine of the Church.  [This is called “damage control”. At least I think it is damage control.  Let’s find out…] I didn’t speak from a technical point of view, I sought to present a snapshot [una fotografia] of what is going on.  The only specific passage was on “trickle-down” theories, [le teorie della “ricaduta favorevole”] according to which every economic growth, favored by the free market, results in producing on its own  [di per sé] a greater equity and social inclusion in the world.  There was the promise that when the glass was full, it would be transferred over and the poor would benefit from it.  Instead what happens when it is full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing comes forth for the poor.  [WHOA!  That doesn’t follow, does it.  What the Pope presents here is a picture of the pie growing, or here a glass, but as the glass grows it contains the water within, and never allows the water to spill over the edge.  It doesn’t follow that the growing glass automatically contains all the water.  Leaving aside the problem of the term “trickle down”, which is a disparaging political label, is there a good alternative to “trickle down”? A free market which grows the pie, grows the glass, is preferable to a model wherein when I get something, you are therefore deprived of having it as well.  While this is a brief comment on the Pope’s part, it conveys to me a mistaken notion.  What’s the alternative?  A glass that doesn’t grow?  Bad situation, that.  Zero sum.] This was the sole reference to a specific theory.  I repeat, I didn’t speak as an expert on economy [da technico], but according to the social doctrine of the Church.  And this doesn’t mean being a Marxist.  [True, none of what he says here is Marxist.]

In any event, the Pope seems to be doing some needed damage control.

First, allow me to say that I was right: por si mismo is not “inevitably “.  Here we find Italian “di per se”.

The Pope isn’t endorsing any system.  He is speaking in generalities.   Greed and corruption can effect any economic system.  A free-market can, in fact, not result in a betterment of the lot of the poor on its own.  

And there is no such thing as an “unfettered” free market.  Nor should there be.  There must be rule of law.

People who are active in the free market must take responsibility to make sure that the benefits do trickle down.

I think Pope Francis is overly negative in his view that the glass will grow bigger so that nothing can get out of it.  Something is going to get out.  Again, I suspect that the Holy Father has a limited perspective: the disaster that is Argentina, indeed South America.

I call to mind what Andrew Napolitano said in his mostly negative reaction to Evangelii gaudium: the Pope is frustrated (and thus attacks capitalism) because the poor aren’t getting rich quickly enough.

I respond that, if people acting in the free market act with a view for the poor, the trickle can be far far greater, far far swifter.

I prefer to understand this to be the Pope’s main point when he comments on “trickle down” economics.

Bottom line: Francis is right! A free market will not on its own solve problems.  People have to take responsibility.

Still, the fact remains that a free market model is the worst model we could adopt to help the poor, except for all the rest.

I hope that when conservatives out there write about the Pope’s views they will weigh also the main point: por si’ mismo… di per se… by itself.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Netmilsmom says:

    Oh thank you Father!
    This clears a lot up.

  2. Ben Kenobi says:

    We have work to do. :) Hopefully someone can set him aside and explain how the pie grows. ;)

    Thanks for this father Z.

  3. catholicmidwest says:

    At the same time as they recognize and discuss how something like Fukushima can happen, which is a result of unfettered capitalism. [?!? It is? A result of “unfettered capitalism”? I don’t think that will hold up.] There is a balance that must be struck here, and humanity has to be the center of the entire calculus, not some ideological principle. That’s the point.

  4. Johnno says:

    I will first say THANK YOU POPE FRANCIS, for clarifying that you are against Marxism.

    Secondly, he is correct in a sense. That even in a free market, there are those selfish opportunists who would seek to maximize profit at the expense of cutting labor and other dishonest means out of pure avarice. There is no economic system that will ever solve these problems. the only solution is to encourage Christian morality across the nation, which of course means evangelization, which of course means rationally defending and promoting the faith.

    Government does have a moral duty to help its poor, but marxism and socialism are not the solution. Promoting Christian morality is.

    But good luck doing that in a secular nation that hates Christianity. Since a secular people cannot be counted on to be moral, the government will therefore take matters into its own hands and make them. Either by option A, increased taxation for social services or management of all finance and property via coercive means. Or option b, eliminating the poor through eugenics, contraception, castration and murder. Or option C, why not do both A & B?

    Pope Francis, and any future Pope or bishop or priest, must always define their terms and explicitly point out the right means and condemn the errors. Cross every ‘t’, dot every ‘i.’ Corporations and PR agencies strive to do this all the time, as did Church Councils prior to Vatican II. That’s the reality of the legalist information-driven world we live in. The VII Church needs to now change to meet the demands of the modern world, not remain stuck in the world from 50 years past.

  5. John of Chicago says:

    I really do hesitate to read between the lines of the Pope’s reflections on current economic practices but perhaps he is saying that a “trickle” as in “trickle down” that drips eventually, softly, almost imperceptibly upon the bowed heads of the poor is an insult and a wholly unacceptable way to conduct business or construct our societies. Perhaps the Pope is saying let’s resolve now to craft a world in which the apt metaphor is of a deluge or a torrent or a wild cascade that soaks and saturates and engulfs those at the bottom and does it much, much sooner than later. In imitation of the Kingdom, perhaps.

  6. Sofia Guerra says:

    Reverend Father,

    Have you considered the possibility that the Holy Spirit in His perfect Wisdom even had a plan for you in the pontificate of Francis? I know you are probably shaking your head at this moment but I must throw in my proverbial 2 cents.
    Since Pope Francis started giving interviews (insert me holding my breath here) you have had the thankless job of explaining what he is trying to say to us.

    The Holy Father’s lack of command of the English language and in particular modern colloquiallisms which are sadly used in the ridiculous media ad nauseaum has helped to cause a host of problems.

    You have patiently studied, translated and written posts to help us understand our Holy Father. I must say in my humble opinion, is the hardest job you have been given since becoming our online Pastor (yes, thats my opinion and I dont care what people think, you are a pastor to many who cant be part of a parish for one reason or another. Case closed) . Your patience is astounding. I have prayed for you to continue your rational, calm, reflective and prayful observaton of your task at hand. Thank you, because I have to tell you I am missing Benedict.

    I grew up in an Italian parish where I had pastors like Francis. I have uncles (God rest their souls) like Francis. They have much to impart to us, but you must learn their language. (I dont mean English , Spanish or Italian..,.I mean the way they speak…) Jorge Bergoglio may have been born in Argentina and a product of that environment, but remember he is the child of two full blooded Italians…He is the combination of the Italian uncle and the South American wild card which we do not understand here in America.
    You say at every writing that he responds from that Sound American mentality…Yes you are correct…but he lures us in with that Italian Uncle thing which we all love but beware…we do not know what he speaks.. South America is a million miles away from our perspective as Americans and to some degree as Roman Catholics. This Italian/Latin American raised pope will keep us upended…Something tells me Benedict is smiling at this moment.

    [Another reason why I determined to get into Spanish, at last.]

  7. GypsyMom says:

    Well, of course free market economics will not work to help others if there are no moral underpinnings at work in the participants! NO system or institution, or anything else, for that matter of fact, works without morality! “The wages of sin is death” means the death of all good things–the death of trust, relationships, communities, businesses, families, education, governments, civilizations, and, yes, economies. Sin and selfishness destroy, not exactly complicated theology. But “trickle-down” economics, backed with morality, DO work–the economic booms in the U.S. of the 1920’s, the 1980’s and early 90’s, and even of the early years of George W. Bush’s administration are proof. The media has been working hard in their usual diabolical way to rewrite the history of those years, and they’ve been effective. Once again our religious leaders are chiming in on matters that are not really their primary field of study and expertise, are being used by an opportunistic media, and are causing great damage. Since when did an ordination make them qualified to be hailed as experts on everything? They should be concerned about the one thing for which they will be judged–saving souls. Sadly, that’s the one thing far too many of them ignore.

  8. Warren says:

    Damage control, or teachable moment? [It could be both. It is a learning experience for Pope Francis, also.] The mainstream media, which is to say the secular media, make it difficult to get a Catholic word in edgewise. This we know.

    Perhaps Greg Burke—American journalist now Vatican senior media advisor—understands how to massage the press and create openings. Ergo, perhaps the Holy Father knows this, too. [Big assumption.]

    Just saying.

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    Would “growing the pie” mean low level jobs would pay better? I don’t know about economics but it has not seemed to translate to that especially while unemployment is high, while landlords et al extract ever more, at a rate outpacing income growth. Government aid is filling the gap. And that seems fine with employers. I think there maybe needs to be an increase in the minimum wage but with some new exceptions to it for young or disabled workers with certain conditions so there is not exploitation. I would like to see it become way easier to start some kind of a small business; for someone on the outside who does not have much know-how it can be completely insurmountable. I have known homeless people who had a business idea but the fees, insurance requirements and red tape made it completely impossible to do so while complying with laws. It ought to be really easy to have some kind of micro business.

  10. Elizabeth: See the micro-capital proposal made by Poverty Cure. It aims at the third world, but why not here as well?

  11. KingofCharity says:

    This is great news for two reasons: 1) this new interview reveals that Pope Francis is becoming more and more cognizant of how his words can be so easily spun by heterodox Catholics, MSM liberals, and anyone with an anti-Catholic agenda. [This could be.] The quickness of his counter claim and public rebuttal of the mass confusion and erroneous interpretation of his message, shows that his radar is up and he is in tune with how his messages for the universal church are being transmitted and perceived by the Church. He will continue to grow more and more prudent about his diction as time goes on. The global stage is NOT Buenos Aires . . . and our Holy Father is learning this very quickly.
    2) Secondly, it shows that it isn’t just desperate and wishful thinking conservative, orthodox Catholics trying to re-spin the pope’s words to conform to Tradition and orthodox social doctrine. The pope himself, has unequivocally clarified his orthodox standing by officially denouncing Marxism. His words and explanations are in complete agreement with all of the orthodox commentary on the exhortation over the last week. By the way, all of the pope’s clarifications sounded just like Father Z’s original critique of the exhortation.[They do sound very much like, don’t they.] Fr. Z has his hand planted firmly on the pulse of Pope Francis’s papacy. Either the Vatican is reading Fr. Z’s blog, or Fr. Z really, really understands the complicated dynamics of this young, revolutionary, and unprecedented papacy.
    Pope Francis clearly possesses three of the four cardinal virtues. No one can dispute that he possesses a sense of justice, fortitude, and temperance.
    Let’s continue to pray that he grows in prudence. Holding the Keys to the House of David, the Church Militant on Earth, is a huge responsibility. The Church is under perpetual attack from the Evil One, so every single word that flows from his mouth must succinct with razor sharp precision.

  12. Joan M says:

    From my experience, the so-called “trickle down” does not really trickle down. What happens is – the companies produce more, sell more, and make more money. Then the workers and the unions demand better wages for the workers. After protracted negotiations, salaries and wages increase, at least some. In the 70’s and early 80’s the increases were large. Thereafter they were smaller and smaller. However, because the expense to the companies resulted in decreased profits, the selling prices of their products increased, and increased more than the total increase in salaries, wages and benefits. The result of this was the “trickle down” was sucked out! The workers were poorer than they had been. [And yet, were there no companies, there would be no jobs.]

  13. KingofCharity says:

    If the Eucharist is the long awaited Emmanuel, the Messiah, the risen, glorified Jesus of Nazareth. The Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Eternal Word of God. And He is here in every tabernacle, Catholic Church, and Catholic in the world. . . . then what Pope Francis is saying is: why sit around and wait for a system to “trickle” physical comfort on the world. The torrent and font of all mercy and compassion is now in the world . . . the Eucharistic Lord. He is a flood gate of mercy, compassion, and transformative grace. So shouldn’t compassion, mercy, and life-changing power be gushing, not trickling, upon the earth? If we are truly animated and empowered by God’s Flesh, shouldn’t there be a profound outpouring of justice. mercy, and compassion on the poor?
    First and foremost, free market capitalism is less of many evils because it is the most conducive to free will. It is the system that allows free will to flourish the most, it creates the optimum environment for accepting, responding to, and COOPERATING with God’s Grace. If this is so, then there should be a gushing waterfall of mercy, justice, and compassion upon the poor . . . . . not a trickle.

  14. Gratias says:

    A rising tide lifts all boats.

    Instead, what we have here are the American Catholic bishops lobbying for MORE FoodStamps.

    South American intellectuals firmly believe their impoverished situation is the result of American Imperialism, not their own fault. There was a very influential book in the 1970s called “The Open Veins of Latin America” by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano building this myth. (This was the book presented in person by Hugo Chavez to our President Barack Obama when they met).

    The enlarging full glass theory will give aid and comfort to Marxists (“Accade invece che quando è colmo, il bicchiere magicamente s’ingrandisce, e così non esce mai niente per i poveri. “)

    A pope’s words matter very much. Precision is to be valued. I remember when Blessed John Paul II was asked what he had thought of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” his answer was very concise: “It is as it was”.

  15. Phil_NL says:

    Well, it isn’t really news that EG didn’t contain any new teaching. The problem that both EG and all that preceded it are vague enough to support a very wide range of economic policies remains – at least, it’s a problem if you think the Church should say something about economics. As argued before, I personally think the episcopate should leave that topic well alone.

    On other fronts, this confirms that the pope isn’t a marxist (although there is a “St. Marx” area in Vienna, so he might make an exception for the saint…), and is most likely strongly influenced by his argentine experiences. Nothing we didn’t suspect there either.

    What is a pity though is that he is judging economic systems solely on the relative gap in incomes. That criterium is just plain wrong. If the rich become richer by 10%, and the poor by 2%, the poor still benefit – and likely in a way that decreases their plight considerably, as they tend to have no reserves, so they derive relatively a lot of benefit from what they do get extra. The gap will of course never close that way, but free-markets 1) never promise that, and 2) are not concerned with income distribution from a moral point of view to begin with. Any moral obligations one may feel to donate to the poor operate outside of economics.

    In all, it reminds me of the late Margaret Thatcher (who probably is not liked much by any Argentine, sadly), who onces famously replied to an attack that her opponent “would rather have the poor were poorer, if it meant the rich were less rich”. Thinking in terms of income gaps creates exactly that kind of twisted logic.

  16. MichaelBoston says:

    I hope the Pope is not favoring any political system. However, I’m skeptical when he continues to utilize the cant of the Left. A free market economic system is “a spontaneous order” that requires the rule of law and virtuous actors in order to flourish. A free market system is not dogmatic about the role of the state so long as the state is limited.Under a free market system the state’s role can include safety nets and checks on monopolistic wealth through taxation, legal and fiscal policy. The Pope’s simplistic use of terms like “trickle down” cuts off rational debate about economic policy. I pray the Pope will discuss the social teachings of the Church in light of the disastrous record of statism (whether socialistic or crony capitalist) throughout history. So far the Pope has been a-historical and his musings have been fodder for the (anti-human) statists.

  17. benedetta says:

    I’m interested in knowing the back story of the way the msm and some ‘catholyc’ others are doing this: if Pope Francis says x, they immediately say “Pope Francis must mean y which has no grounding in Catholic teaching whatsoever”. For instance, when our Holy Father talks of not judging gays, which is the same as what previous Popes have said, now in this moment certain voices say “he believes gays should be able to marry”. Even in spite of the documented historical record in which he compares gay marriage to the demonic. With Pope Francis, journalism seems to have hit a new low in this regard, straying so far from the record.

  18. Hans says:

    There was the promise that when the glass was full, it would be transferred over and the poor would benefit from it. Instead what happens when it is full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing comes forth for the poor.

    I read this bit differently than you did, it seems, which is both an advantage and danger of metaphor. I read it as saying that there was the promise that when individuals (or corporations, etc.) had “enough” (a full glass), they would share the excess (that which spilled over the top), but that as they got more what was seen to be “enough” grew with it (the growing glass), so that there isn’t as much spillover as promised. The way I read it, it was a condemnation of individual (or corporate, etc.) greed, rather than a high-level economic statement. I was a bit taken aback by your reading at first, but I see that it is a possible reading of that metaphor. That being said, my impression of Pope Francis is that he has a down-in-the-streets “what can I/you/we do about it” mentality rather than an eagle-eye-viewed “grand picture” mentality. Those two viewpoints don’t necessarily mix comfortably.

    Cardinal George has said that one of the reasons the cardinals voted for him was that he was seen as a detail-oriented manager/fixer rather than a big-picture visionary like his two predecessors and that he could make the mechanisms of the Church (esp. The Curia) function better. So that’s the way I try to understand him. I could very well be wrong, of course.

  19. Elizabeth D says:

    Fr Z I like the idea of micr0-lending of capital in the US, this would help some people though in the US there are credit cards for small sums. What seems so hard in the US is being an official business with all the complicated and expensive regulations and tax requirements. If I understand correctly, informal businesses (bazaar sellers, domestic workers, small farmers) are much the norm in third world countries. We have informal businesses and informal workers in the US too but it seems like they are more legally risky.

    One homeless man I have in mind had a plan to sell things like incense on State Street, and he bought an array of products to offer. He really wanted to do everything above board (he even wanted to pay taxes on whatever he earned) and sought help from me and others for permit fees and insurance that was required by the city to be allowed to do this, which would have amounted to several hundred dollars per month–it seemed to me more than he was likely to earn with this little business. Basically it seemed unfeasible to carry out his plan in accordance with regulations, even if he had help with capital (that was the least of the problem). This man’s situation really struck me that if he had an idea like that in a third world country he might be able to make it work, this was a motivated, optimistic and relatively practical person. In Madison, no.

    In a third world country it would be normal to be hired on informally for household cooking or cleaning, in Madison this happens also (this is what I do, for little money) but it is not legal. To do it as a business is far more complicated and expensive for everyone, prohibitively. These kinds of things that don’t really make a lot of money would be the kinds of informal businesses or employment most people would do, or things like selling stuff online (though major online marketplaces do report your earnings to the IRS). Many people who are marginally employable or not employable in the formal labor market are able to do some kind of informal work or informal business. Is this legitimate? I don’t even know the right questions

  20. wmeyer says:

    Speaking of fetters, however, one of the currently active fetters under the rule of law is the anti-trust act. This is the poster-child for why politicians cannot and will not provide the “needed” controls on the market. The Sherman Act has no objective meaning, and naturally enough, has been applied according to the political expediencies of the moment.

  21. robtbrown says:

    The reference to Trickle Down Economics in EG is simply misguided, and the attempt at damage control is not much better.

    1. TDE is not really a technical term but a pejorative used to denigrate any distributive effects of market economics.

    2. He seems to adopt the US political liberal diptych of rich/poor. The real problem now, however, is that middle class income has not kept up with economic growth, and this is a consequence of extraordinary advancements in technology.

    3. Although the Church must counsel the obligation of generosity to the poor, it seems to me counter productive for bishops and priests to make formal comments like these that are uninformed. This is especially true because there has been so little attention to the many internal problems in the Church. And while the problems in the Jesuits and other religious orders continue to fester, Rome decides to crack down on the Franciscans of the Immaculata.

    Calling Dr Howard . . . Dr Fine . . . Dr Howard

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Fukushima had nothing to do with unfettered capitalism, and a lot to do with the Japanese culture of consensus coupled with fear of being the nail that sticks up, and more than the rest, a lack of recent bad tsunamis. This is why a lot of towns and cities were apologizing at the tombs of those few engineers, politicians, and local historians who insisted on publicizing old tsunami levels, building anti-tsunami floodgates, and trying to get people to stop building in floodable areas.

    The image of a cup that never spills over is a fairly clear picture of a mostly-stagnant economy, coupled with corruption and high taxes that grab any profits, which is exactly the way Argentina has been. I seriously doubt that Argentinian businesses feel much need to hire new employees or expand their operations; and given the many economic crashes, I doubt that many Argentinians feel comfortable investing or buying things for the future.

  23. Vecchio di Londra says:

    “In my life I have known many marxists who are good as people, and because of this I don’t take offense [at being called a Marxist].’

    I found that a strange formulation.

    Can you have the deluded, obeisant and head-in-the-clouds mind-set of an idealistic, economically illiterate marxist who is prepared to accept a system that will impoverish and enslave the people, and be ‘good as a person’?
    Can you have the informed, cunning, ruthless, tyrannical, destructive, mendacious, insincere mind-set of the political careerist marxist, who secretly believes that the end justifies the means, and still be ‘good as a person’?
    Is goodness to be appreciated by an onlooker, like kindness, charm, good manners, personal loyalty, sexual fidelity, or some other individual, incidental trait of character – regardless of the value system and integrity of the person in question?
    How can personal goodness ‘as a person’ be separated from that same person’s complete commitment to beliefs and goals that are anything but good?
    Journalistically, all this reverential ‘good as a person’ stuff is the everyday cliché of the political obituaries of marxist revolutionaries. And la Stampa has newspapers to sell. But the Holy Father does not, and he can afford to take the time and the careful and self-edited means to impart these matters in a more nuanced and edifying way.
    I hope.

  24. Deacon Augustine says:

    I do wonder how much the Pope’s experience of economics is coloured by Argentina’s situation alone. He does not seem to be aware that “free market economics” have helped to lift millions of people out of poverty in Asia in a relatively short space of time, whereas in other parts of the world the benefits have not been so great. Even some African countries are now experiencing rapid rises in the standard of living as their economies develop.

    Perhaps the more pertinent question to ask about economic systems is why they work in some places and not in others? Why are some countries seeing poverty alleviated and others getting worse? Could it be that the real problems have more to do with widespread corruption, economic mismanagement by governments, excessive regulation creating high barriers to entry of markets, and punitive taxation regimes? Economics is a very simple science – it is all about people and what motivates them to get out of bed in the morning and do some creative work. When people lose motivation to put themselves and their assets to work, economies shrink and poverty grows. When people are motivated to put themselves and their assets to work, economies grow and poverty shrinks.

    Argentina is a case in point of economic mismanagement and corruption being a cause of demotivation for people to invest their time and resources there. Its no use blaming, as some do, the international money markets and multinational corporations for controlling the levers of power and refusing to invest there. The Argentinian government defaulted on its debt, welched on its obligations, and refuses to come to terms with its creditors to pay back what it owes. It has stolen their money. Of course nobody wants to invest there – its too risky. Nobody wants to lend their money to people on a promise it will be paid back when they know they are dealing with thieves – and so their economy shrinks and poverty grows. Solidarity demands that the poor are protected from the consequences as far as possible, but that can only be achieved by voluntary charity or involuntary charity (taxes) when an economy is shrinking.

    We all have an obligation to charitable giving, but charity won’t fix broken economies. It can actually exacerbate the problems when it is deployed unwisely, because it creates an underclass of people who become dependent upon it. Giving people hand-outs for doing nothing feeds the demotivation to work, the numbers of economically inactive grow, and the downward spiral becomes ever more vicious. When the numbers who achieve the “right” to put their hands into other people’s wallets become too great, then they constantly re-elect governments who promise to extend those “rights” and the problems just get worse.

    The key to eradicating poverty is to combat dishonesty, greed, sloth, envy, gluttony, pride and corruption. The Church should have a lot to say about all of these and Pope Francis mentioned some of them in his Exhortation – he said many good things. But who can remember when we last had a magisterial teaching on the sin of sloth?

  25. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr. Z ended, “I hope that when conservatives out there write about the Pope’s views they will weigh also the main point: por si’ mismo… di per se… by itself.”

    Is Pope Francis addressing some ‘classic’ Adam Smith writing about ‘the invisible hand’, as if the nature of (free) economy is a sort of mechanical analogue of or substitute for Divine Providence – all sorts of clever people can be as selfish and greedy as they like, and ‘the “invisible hand” of the economic way things are’ will have the as-it-were ‘Providential’ effect of bringing totally unthought of, unintended benefits for many others as a by-product?

  26. PA mom says:

    “in my life I have known many Marxists…”
    Isn’t the real question how many free market conservatives he has known?

    We were watching Robin Hood (Disney) again the other night, and what struck me is it isnt really as simple as the rich vs the poor. The ” rich” that Robin Hood has to steal from is in fact the Government (Prince John) because that Government and its cronies had taxed all of the money out of the working poor.

    Maybe Argentina has never in his lifetime experienced the extravagant kind of growth that the US does at times, where it can’t seem to help but run over. Or maybe the US’ more upwardly mobile society leads to more middle class and wealthy who still remember poverty and are desirous of assisting others out of it, and who then use their businesses as a vehicle for that assistance, rather than preferring to maintain the status quo.

    Someone please help him meet some charitable, virtuous free market entrepreneurs, so that the discussion can continue to develop.

  27. moon1234 says:

    This may be hard for some to hear, but not everyone is capable of starting their own business. Either it is lack of intellect, lack of will or lack of resources. Some will just never be able to make a business their own. Is this bad? No!

    I never understand why people think they are OWED anything from someone else. If they see a successful businessman, they are upset that he does not GIVE them more of his wealth. They are upset if their employer does not GIVE them more of his wealth. Where does this mentality of being OWED something come from?

    Socialist and Marxist governments and ideologies come directly from the “I am owed” something mentality. The “poor” in the United States would be some of the richest people in a third world country. “Capitalism” has produced more wealth for more people than any other system of government that has ever existed.

    What we have in MANY places today is not capitalism, but Marxism. The government telling private business how it will run, how much it will pay, what is can produce, etc. That IS marxism. When there is a surplus of labor, then wages go down or are flat. When labor is scarce, wages go up. There in lies the problem with unfettered immigration. Unless there is unlimited consumption the labor poor will exceed the number of jobs. This forces wages down. Why should an employer pay a family man MORE when a single man will do the same job for less pay. The single man has fewer expenses so less pay may be MORE to him than the higher pay the family man earned.

    Is this unfair? No! It is a direct result of market forces determining the labor rate.

    “Trickle down” economics only works when there is not corruption in capitalist system. That is the “flaw” in the thinking that capitalism is bad. Capitalism works just fine when the system can not be exploited as it is in so many places today. The answer is not Communism or Marxism. Both of those systems have been tried and found to destroy the person and the economy. China today is not really a socialist country. It is very much Nazi’esque Marxism. There are very wealthy people who do what the government tells them. Capitalist’s in the USA exploit this corrupt system and then give capitalism a bad name.

    A small business is VERY easy to start in the USA. I live in Wisconsin, just like Elizabeth. I started growing veggies and selling them at a roadside stand along the highway. I paid no fees for any permits, did not apply for permission as none was needed. I paid my income taxes at the end of the year. It has become more successful EACH year. The flaw in the thinking about the “poor” selling on state street is that “state street” is filled with business already. Those businesses paid for the the “real estate” in front of their stores. To assume someone can just setup shop in that location without needing a TON of permits, in my mind, is the theory that someone OWES someone else.

    Many of the “homeless” in Madison exploit their situation. Someone who is “homeless” in Madison can get free food at a food panty, free room and board in the evening at MANY locations and can get free clothing at numerous charities. This would be unthinkable in most third world countries where there is no food, no clothing, no free running water, no free toilets, no neighbors with money to hand out charity.

    The only true answer is to push Christian morals. When a society has nor morals, then why care about anyone else? That is what we are getting in this country. We have a love of money and not of God. Traditionally God gave money and power to those who have the knowledge and understanding of how to use it to help their fellow man. The fact that these men have ignored God’s call to skillfully manage and use that money is NOT the fault of Capitalism. It is the fault of man’s fallen nature.

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    What I tried to say about Adam Smith above reminded me of various things in T.S. Eliot’s pageant play, The Rock, such as:

    Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
    She tells them of life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
    . . .
    They constantly try to escape
    From the darkness outside and within
    By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
    But the man that is will shadow
    The man that pretends to be.

    The play has more elaboration on the theme of “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good” – I wish it were more widely available (it’s not all as wonderful as the Choruses, but it is all well worth reading! – see if any accessible library has a copy and give it a try!).

  29. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “[Fill in the blank] ideology is wrong. In my life I have known many [fill in the blank] who are good as people, and because of this I don’t take offense.”

    Did he really say what is attributed to him, here? (O, interviews!)
    What terms would be ‘permissible’ for filling in those blanks, and what terms would never, ever be permissible, would be howled down with outraged ridicule, etc.?
    Who would be ‘permitted’ to formulate in such a way, and by whom?
    Are these two sentences an example of ‘damage control’? If so, what are the implications of any success as such?

  30. Phil_NL says:

    Venerator Sti Lot,

    The glass can be seen as a quarter full, at least His Holiness would be offended by being called a Marxist, if only the substance of that ideology would matter. Whether the fact that otherwise decent people may succumb to it, should lend it any saving graces, I leave up to Francis; one could as eadily argue that the mistakes of a decent man are worse, as they tend to impart undeserved decency on the mistake.

    But that Marxism is out of bounds, is at least something.

  31. ray from mn says:

    Poverty in the Third World is largely due to corruption in countries both socialist and capitalist. See Transparency International’s corruption ratings. http://www.transparency.org/country

  32. terryprest says:

    “I suspect that the Holy Father has a limited perspective: the disaster that is Argentina, indeed South America.”

    He is being interviewed by an Italian newspaper read by Italians

    He may in fact have a closer perspective like the readers of the interview. Italy may only now be coming out of a long and painful recession. See http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304744304579249841952070888

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    I will be the first to admit that I really do not understand economics. Unlike physical laws, which are stable and reproducible, economics seems like it is being made up as we go along. Does the free market even exist? If it does, is it a neutral thing? I look at t.v., which used to require that actors playing married couples sleep in separate beds with one foot on the floor at all times. It used to be that one sponsor picked up the tab for the entire hour of programming, with a commercial at the beginning and end. They supported the best quality programming because they wanted only the best programs associated with their brand name. In 1965 t. v. advertising was deregulated. The result was that single sponsor programming, except for specials, was, essentially done with. T. V. was opened to the free market (or was it?). Because advertisers paid for programming, the stations had to court the advertisers. The result was that both programming and advertisements began to pander to the baser instincts: sex and violence. Is the market really free? Have they not enslaved an entire generation?

    The correct question, with regards to economics is, what, really constitutes freedom? Freedom does not and cannot simply mean that people are free to choose without understanding either the cost or the purpose of that freedom. St. Paul said (Gal 5:1):

    “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery,”

    and, yet, in many instances of a free market, people, freely, choose to be slaves. One of the biggest marketing tricks in recent times is to attempt to create stable buying habits in consumers. These are, apparently, free markets we are talking about.

    The free market is a myth. What the ideal is, really, is the rational market. This is what idealistic economists mean when they speak of free markets. The problem is that unless the population is made up of baptized saints, almost no one within the buying population is truly free. There are problems of ignorance, lust, greed, gluttony – all of the problems of Original Sin. It would be hard enough for a country composed of Catholic saints to make up a free market. No such thing is even possible in the rest of the world. Laws will only compensate to some extent, but this is a little like reversing the Old Testament and the New, with freedom being replaced by the Law because we cannot handle the freedom we have been give.

    Yet, economists behave as if such a population of rational thinkers exists. This is their first, fatal error. Until every economist is required to take a graduate course in Catholic moral theology, there will never be a uniform outlook on man that can form the basis for a realistic and genuinely helpful economic theory.

    Until them, we slog along, discovering, with each new theory, another way of exposing sin.

    The Chicken

  34. Elizabeth D says:

    “A small business is VERY easy to start in the USA. I live in Wisconsin, just like Elizabeth. I started growing veggies and selling them at a roadside stand along the highway.”

    You are very fortunate to have land and a roadside stand on a highway, you have done well with it. This is a particularly low regulated thing to be involved in since there is not sales tax involved. And this pays for the land and your living expenses? We do not all have this kind of opportunity.

    “The flaw in the thinking about the “poor” selling on state street is that “state street” is filled with business already. Those businesses paid for the the “real estate” in front of their stores. To assume someone can just setup shop in that location without needing a TON of permits, in my mind, is the theory that someone OWES someone else.”

    So those who do not live on a farm cannot engage in a simple form of economic activity in the place where they happen to be, which in their poverty is necessarily in the city. They would be competing with the high-overhead businesses of much wealthier people. Understandable. They can beg (at certain locations), or try to get a job from a business, but Lazarus at their doorstep cannot informally do business to pull himself up by his bootstraps. That would be as if someone “owed them” (actually I have no idea what you mean by this). So of course it should be a crime? And it is also deplorable that they exploit the generosity of others (people like myself) who feed, aid, and counsel them? This largely ill (mentally and physically), addicted, poorly-educated, poorly-formed, misfortunate lot deserve no pity or help and no leeway to try to start an informal micro business in the place where they live? I doggedly evangelize them by the way, though I am very frustrated how little will other Catholics have to do so. It is not quite as simple you seem to think and there is not quite as good reason to be angry with them as you seem to think.

    I would probably despair to hear your theory on my own situation.

  35. robtbrown says:

    The Masked Chicken says:

    I will be the first to admit that I really do not understand economics. Unlike physical laws, which are stable and reproducible, economics seems like it is being made up as we go along.

    There are push-pull forces in economic phenomena, which produce ambiguity and make way for political ideology.

  36. wmeyer says:

    “The problem is that unless the population is made up of baptized saints, almost no one within the buying population is truly free.”

    Equally, unless the population of regulators is made up of baptized saints who are utterly free from all temptation, then the regulations will neither cure nor prevent the evils which sinners may commit. In fact, the regulations may often push businesses in the direction of finding ways to sidestep those same regulations, lest they be unable to compete.

    As to understanding economics, Chicken, if you wish to understand the mechanics, then consult Hazlitt, Sowell, and Rose and Milton Friedman. Keynes and the NYT Friedman will be of no value, but will confound logic.

  37. Legisperitus says:

    Masked Chicken: Thanks for your thoughts. If I haven’t already done so, I’d highly recommend “The Church and the Libertarian” by Christopher Ferrara for a look at just how far certain followers of Ludwig von Mises have gone toward “sacralizing” (Pope Francis’ term) the workings of the market.

  38. The Masked Chicken says:

    “As to understanding economics, Chicken, if you wish to understand the mechanics, then consult Hazlitt, Sowell, and Rose and Milton Friedman.”

    Unless they can do it predictively, with mathematics, which is the standard, or should be, for all measured phenomena, economics might as well be a branch of philosophy. I know a fair amount of math and I see nothing but assumptions which are largely unproven when I look at economic theory. Ironically, one of the reasons we can’t apply math successfully to economics is because man has free will. It is, exactly, the same reason why no theory of evolution will every be completely applied to man. Man is beyond evolution. No, I don’t mean this in some LCWR sense, but, rather that man can make choices that are counter-evolutionary. Man can resist the tide of evolution, if he chooses. He could choose to allow only red-haired people to live (this will become much clearer as genetic selection microbiology advances). Likewise, he can resist the order that any mathematics must depend on to make predictions in economics.

    As to understanding economics, Chicken, if you wish to understand the mechanics, then consult Hazlitt, Sowell, and Rose and Milton Friedman.

    The classic rebuttal to free market thinking might be found in an old black-and-white Outer Limits episode called, A Feasibility Study. At the end, the As to understanding economics, Chicken, if you wish to understand the mechanics, then consult Hazlitt, Sowell, and Rose and Milton Friedman. population of a town chooses to become infected with a deadly disease rather than become slaves to alien monsters. No free market would ever reach this cost-benefit analysis. In fact, there are many sub-populations of constrained markets. One need only think of religious under vows of poverty. They are, largely, immune to free market forces because they have imposed an internal restraint of their sub-population.

    Mathematics is very poor at modeling free will.

    The Chicken

  39. wmeyer says:

    Chicken: With respect to predictability, I suppose then that you reject statistics as mathematical?

    I would hold that economics is comparable to statistics. Neither is deterministic, with respect to individuals, but both may be useful with respect to groups. Admittedly, even that limited application is dependent on the perception of the people in the sample. As witness Obamacare, huge numbers of people can be persuaded that they can both have their cake and consume it.

    Mises acknowledged the limits of prediction in his magnum opus Human Action. The title itself indicates his awareness that a) it is not a deterministic science, and yet b) it has utility, in much the way that statistics have utility.

  40. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Chicken: With respect to predictability, I suppose then that you reject statistics as mathematical?”

    Not mathematical, but predictive in this case, since one of the foundational postulates of statistics, ergodicity (the ability of all states to be reached in infinite time) is not satisfied where people can, for even arbitrary reasons, constraint a system. The entire state space is not traversable. One can do reduced statistics, but this can amount to a reduction of choices to exactly one, which does not allow for statistics. Generally, people do not choose to act in a cooperatively constrained fashion (cf., prohibition), but, in theory, they can – and, paradoxically, it is still a free system.

    I am aware of Von Mises, although I have not studied him. His theories were the basis for Ramsey theory.

    The Chicken

  41. The Masked Chicken,

    As W. Meyer asserts, economics is a social science, and hence not susceptible to the sort of deterministic mathematical predictions as are the physical sciences, a tangible result of the readily observable fact that people (the actors in the economic arena) are, and behave as, unique individuals—something not true of atomic particles, molecules, or manufactured building materials which are the “actors” in physics, chemistry, engineering and the other physical sciences.

    The overwhelming body of useful economic theory is the result of a priori reasoning. If anyone wishes to understand the utility of economics, they will be best served by reading F. A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, the two most prominent economists of the Austrian school. However, I would not recommend beginning such a journey with Mises’s magnum opus, Human Action, unless one is willing and able to devote considerable time to reading it.

    A good source for free Austrian School writings are the free Literature and Audio/Video pages of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Most of the books and papers in the Literature section are available in PDF, and some are also in the ePub (ebook) format.

    Understanding economics from an Austrian school perspective, even as an autodidact like myself, makes more readily apparent a plethora of the dishonest claims made by our elected representatives when they are engaging in mulcting the budget (local, state, or Federal) in order to curry favor (and, as they fondly hope, votes for their personal reelection).

    Other personal recommendations I would offer (likely available from your public library) include:
    • The Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek
    • Lessons for the Young Economist, Robert P. Murphy
    • The Church and The Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  42. Legisperitus,

    The Church and the Libertarian is a largely ignorant and intemperate screed, by a dedicated distributist. Now, I have nothing personal against those who wish to practice distributism, provided they don’t wish to use the coercive power of the state to limit our choice to their preferred system. In fact, my invariable reaction to anyone who advocates adopting distributist economics, is “what’s stopping you? Just don’t attempt to coerce others into mandatorily following your lead.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  43. wmeyer says:

    Martial Artist, the sticking point for me with distributism is that there appears to be a requirement for some enforcement authority, and in that case, the system is as likely to be perverted as is capitalism, and by the same people.

  44. Legisperitus says:

    Martial Artist: Thank you for your opinion. I do hope your empty and gratuitous insults toward Mr. Ferrara’s measured and intelligent defense of Catholic social teaching will not prevent people of good will from reading his well-reasoned book and making up their own minds.

  45. SKAY says:

    The mainstream media was putting an interesting spin on what they think the Pope is responding too on their weekend shows.
    They must make it fit their template here in the US and then they conveniently ignore what they do not like.

  46. Imrahil says:

    Dear @moon1234,

    I think you are contradicting yourself in the very first two sentences of your comment.

    This may be hard for some to hear, but not everyone is capable of starting their own business. Either it is lack of intellect, lack of will or lack of resources.

    Hence, not everyone is capable of starting their own business. Some lack intellect. Some lack will. (Here you might say that it is their own fault, however, I’d even here say that there’s a situation where but for a half-miracle or a decent encouragement and kick-in-the-[censored] from the outside* we should not expect them to make up their will. *By this I do not mean bureaucratical measures, but personal actions.) And some, by your own admission, lack resources! And still, even though with some it’s merely lack of resources, you say that everyone is capable. Forgive me, but I do not understand that.

    As for noone owing anything, by the Catholic teaching (St. Thomas, popularized here in Germany with the name of Cdl. Frings), you are allowed to steal your bare necessities if you don’t otherwise have them. (Not only food, but in hard winters even coals – as Cdl Frings noted.)

    Does, thus, noone really owe anybody anything?

    Also, what should someone do to one whom nobody owes anything and who has nothing?

    (As this is a theoretical case, you cannot appeal to charity here. Charity which is not owed may come or may not, and hence for the sake of clearing the theoretical question, we assume it comes not, and not at all.)

    I guess, if we assume him to be in the full common-sense of everyday people and thus still holding himself to be personally un-worthless (something I’d wish but somewhat, but for the grace of God, doubt for myself were I in that situation), I guess he’s going to take St. Thomas’s advice and go stealing.

    Forgive me, and I’m (believe me) not being sarcastic or ironic, but the logical conclusion of the “noone owes me anything” doctrine would seem to be, in such a case, if the economy has judged me worthless, to kill myself. Maybe starving while begging does not constitute the sin of suicide… though the begging probably already breaks some law.

    On a more lighter note, from the greatest propaganda [neutral sense] movie ever made (to my knowledge) for the capitalist cause:

    “The principle of capitalism. Everybody owes everybody.” (One Two Three by Billy Wilder)

  47. Imrahil says:

    Sorry! It was I who misunderstood you!

    You said not everybody was capable to start his own business. Yes, you are right.

    But that makes the question all the more burning what they should be supposed to do who can’t, and haven’t labour either, and are not owed anything.

  48. pjthom81 says:

    Ultraconservative? Wait..does this mean that people like me who believe in supply side economics can now be called…as were supporters of Charles X of France the Ultras?

  49. RuariJM says:

    “Damage control”? Only if some thought that Rush Limbaugh’s ranting was somehow damaging. [I think what Rush said was damaging, when he brought Marxism in the way he did.]

    I pointed out earlier that Pope Francis was not and is not a Marxist (in economic terms) and only someone who does not know what Marxism is would think he was.

    Describing Pope Francis’ clarification as “damage control” is itself seeking to control the damage that could be caused by a public display of silliness. Anyone who described Pope Francis as Marxist was just plain silly.

    He did, however, make pretty much the same points as were made in Rerum Novarum, over a century ago. So, nothing new. Those who are privileged to have greater share and control of wealth and riches are under the obligation to ensure that those who contribute to the creation of it receive their fair reward.

    I recall hearing justifications of wealth from the Victorian era in England, in history. It was a non-Catholic idea, akin to “wealth theology”. One would expect Catholics to have a higher level of understanding.

  50. av8er says:

    I may be mistaken but I thought “trickle down economics” was a disparaging term for “Supply side economics” that Reagan’s economist Art Laffer refined with his “Laffer Curve.” seemed to have been successful.

  51. Pat says:

    Father, check this out: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2013/11/sspx-disrupts-interfaith-service-at-buenos-aires-cathedral/
    I suspect that this incident makes Pope Francis think about ALL traditionalists (he may identify them with the SSPX). I pray for you: you have a lot of work to do under this Pontificate.

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