Common Good, Common Sense Economics
Given that the Church offers no exacting technical program for getting the job of the common good accomplished in any given state or global community. But does offer a blueprint of values and insights into the necessity of applying the Gospel to our social conditions- to include economics- I offer this past guest column I wrote shortly after my run for Florida state house. It addresses some conditions particular to the state of Florida, but it contains an outline of general responsibilities that could be applied at any level of governance.
I would appreciate any thoughtful critiques drawing specifically on the Pope’s new encyclical- I will not let stand any comments that are not based upon something taken from the encyclical- I am not trying to score points for democrats/socialists/liberals/republicans/libertarians/conservatives- I am trying to formulate a proper Catholic social doctrine worldview that puts the concrete situation of each and every human being at the center of my politics. I know that an appreciation for the Supernatural is a major key for any true Catholic political thought- I am not explicit in this particular writing on the need for this- but I am a major fan of non-profits and faith-based entities. Here is a sample of my attempt to incorporate my knowledge of Catholic social doctrine into something practical for use by public authorities:
February 21, 2007
It’s common-good economics
Government should make essentials affordable
GUEST COLUMNIST For Florida Today
Tim Shipe, Guest Columnist Shipe is a teacher at Melbourne Central Catholic High School who lives in Melbourne.
As a teacher of modest income, with a wife who is a real estate agent, I have become an avid student of real-life economic theory and practice.
I ran for the state Legislature last year on a platform dedicated to the premise that our political authorities must guarantee that our essential products and services are affordable for all Floridians.
This is not a socialist recipe. It is common-good, common-sense economics.
At a pre-election town hall meeting on the home insurance crisis, co-sponsored by FLORIDA TODAY, I learned two very interesting things.
First, the big insurance providers don’t truly compete against one another on price — which reminded me of how the big oil companies seem to “magically” arrive at similar gas prices and exceedingly generous profits for themselves.
Second, those who say the markets must have the final say have no answer to my question: “If average Floridians cannot afford an essential service like home insurance, what are we supposed to do? Foreclose? Sell and move out of the state?”
I am not against market economics. I think personal economic initiative and trade between persons, states, and nations is a proven winner. But the markets can be abused, manipulated, and dominated by very large players, such as the corporate conglomerates that have free run around the globe today.
And the only force ever created to defend the individual from such great powers is a government authority.
A good political authority will seek to harmonize the various interests that are competing all the time in society — the industries, the workers, individuals that “have” and those that “have not enough.”
Unrestrained markets work really well when it comes to most products and services — if a restaurant is too pricey, you can just drive past it.
But it’s different when we’re dealing with the things that all people must have to pursue their personal happiness in community with others.
Those include infrastructure, healthy air, food and water, military and police, health care, education, access to home ownership, energy at home and for transportation, even the right to life and related rights to family wages for full-time work in a useful profession.
Then, we need certain guarantees from someplace other than God alone or Social Darwinism.
This understanding of things is what created the social contract between citizens and their political leaders. It is common good common sense.
The state has the duty to examine how the markets are running. And if an essential product or service is being provided to the average person, and no immoral business practices with respect to workers and the environment are taking place, then the state should simply monitor things, not intervene.
But if the essentials are not available and affordable, the state must assess the reason. Too much collusion or profiteering and executive pay? Inability to make a profit?
Then the state should respond by regulating, subsidizing, or providing a non-profit entity to get the job done.