Pope Speaks About Economics Again, "It's the Natural Law, Stupid"

After calling for Catholics to be liberated from their pet ideologies, Pope Benedict is helping flesh out a moral economic vision that puts the standard Left- socialism/Right- Free Markets debate into the dust bin for faithful Catholics.  The bottom-line seems obvious to me- you can’t demonize government and you can’t demonize business- both bring difficulties into play- over-regulation can harm economic development, but lack of regulation can lead to corporate dominance which is a problem when one considers that corporations typically are upfront about being in existence to pad their investor’s bank accounts, not being much concerned with the universal common good. Our Pope clarifies the inherent morality(read Natural Law) in the economy in this article from one of my favorite web sites Zenit.org:

Pontiff Calls for Re-Plan of Economics

Says Governing Principles Can Be Found in Natural Law

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says it is clear the market cannot regulate itself, but the principles that should regulate it are accessible with reasoned reflection.The Pope affirmed this today when he addressed the 16th plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The academy’s assembly is focused on “Crisis in a Global Economy. Re-planning the Journey.” It began today and concludes Tuesday.

The Holy Father observed, “The worldwide financial breakdown has, as we know, demonstrated the fragility of the present economic system and the institutions linked to it. It has also shown the error of the assumption that the market is capable of regulating itself, apart from public intervention and the support of internalized moral standards.”

He said this erroneous assumption is based on an “impoverished notion of economic life as a sort of self-calibrating mechanism driven by self-interest and profit-seeking.”

Instead, he explained, economics has an essentially ethical nature as “an activity of and for human beings.”

“Rather than a spiral of production and consumption in view of narrowly-defined human needs, economic life should properly be seen as an exercise of human responsibility, intrinsically oriented towards the promotion of the dignity of the person, the pursuit of the common good and the integral development — political, cultural and spiritual — of individuals, families and societies,” he clarified. Charity in truth

Benedict XVI acknowledged that re-planning the system means “looking to comprehensive and objective standards against which to judge the structures, institutions and concrete decisions which guide and direct economic life.”

These principles have an ultimate source in natural law, he said. And thus, “the principles of this ethical order, inscribed in creation itself, are accessible to human reason and, as such, must be adopted as the basis for practical choices.”

One of the indispensable principles shaping such an integral ethical approach to economic life is promotion of the common good, the Holy Father explained.

He added: “In the end, however, all economic decisions and policies must be directed towards ‘charity in truth,’ inasmuch as truth preserves and channels the liberating power of charity amid ever-contingent human events and structures.

“For ‘without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation.’”

8 Responses to Pope Speaks About Economics Again, "It's the Natural Law, Stupid"

  • I love the Holy Father.

  • The Austrian and Chicago school economists heads will explode.

  • I’m glad you posted this, Eric! Er… Tim. :-)

    Sorry, this morning I saw Eric’s comment, and mistakenly typed his name, Tim. :-)

  • I don’t think so, Jim. Both Austrian and Chicago school economists understand the limits of markets self-regulating. In particular they admit that the capacity for perfect self-regulation is inevitably inhibited by (i) imperfect information and (ii) imperfect rational behavior. As such the risk of errors and even so-called “bubbles” caused by deceit and simple mistakes is very real and in requires some government regulation. How much is a prudential question given that government regulation is also inherently very imperfect and one must recognize the reality that such regulation often makes things worse either by exacerbating a problem or creating new ones.
    The heads that would explode would be the Ayn Randians who view market theory as a dogma for how to live one’s life rather than simply a useful explanation of how resources are efficiently allocated. To be sure Randians are often greatly influenced by classical economic theories, but overall they represent a small subset of economists and thinkers who generally regard themselves as so-called Chicagoans or Austrians.

  • Here is Shaw’s ‘theology’ of the money: “You can’t take it with you. It will burn.”

    As St. Augistine wrote in The City of God: ” . . . the possession of those temporal goods which virtuous and blameless men may lawfully enjoy; still, there is more self-seeking here than becomes men who are mere sojourners in this world and who profess hope of a home in heaven.”

  • Tim posted this Chris. I’d be wrong to take credit.

  • I’m not sure why someone edited the title from It’s the Natural Law, – Stupid- to -Gomer- I was playing off the famous expression It’s the Economy, Stupid- I wasn’t calling folks out as being stupid if they didn’t agree with the Pope’s commentary- anyone know about this editing?

  • Should there be negative consequences for stupid decisions? Or should the market be regulated to make sure no one can make a stupid decision?

    I can’t tell from this teaching. What is the governments legitimate power, specifically? Isn’t that detail kind of important?

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