Caritas in Veritate 25, By the Numbers

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

My co-blogger Tim recently highlighted the following statement from Pope Benedict’s latest social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations.

Now in this passage, the Pope makes a number of factual and causal claims. First, he claims that the global market has led countries to “attempt to attract foreign businesses” by adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market.” Second, the Pope claims that these reforms (i.e. adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market”) have led to “a downsizing of social security systems” and “cuts in social spending.”

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0 Responses to Caritas in Veritate 25, By the Numbers

  • I believe in one social encyclical by JP II (can’t recall which one) it was noted that social teaching was subject to correction as historical, sociological etc.understanding advanced. Perhaps this is a case where evolving economic understanding would correct prudential assessments.

  • That’s a great post. It needs to be stressed really forcefully that the Pope’s comments in an encyclical like Caritas vary in nature quite dramatically, and many of his statements are simply the opinion of a wise but limited individual.

    Two other aspects of the document struck me as showing unusually clearly that the document drew from distinct, and to some extent opposed, sources. (1) On the one hand, the Pope suggests that globalization and its progeny have the danger of suppressing the distinct characters of separate peoples. On the other, he seems to laud the ability of people, labor, goods, and ideas to move freely around and mix, to the potential betterment of all. Well, you can’t have the latter without the former, so which is it?

    (2) In a like vein, the Pope makes it entirely clear that stronger world governance is needed, “with teeth”, and that the UN should take steps in dealing with the dramatic poverty caused by the 2008 crisis in short order – months to a year timeframe – steps that would in fact require such “teeth” as the UN does not possess. On the other hand, the Pope makes it clear that any world organization for governing must be organized with subsidiarity as a founding principle. But the UN, and especially the UN aspects that are the strongest in terms of “teeth”, exhibit nothing whatsoever in the nature of subsidiarity, and indeed the ruling class of bureaucrats in NY and Geneva, (and in Brussels and the Hague) are quite adamantly opposed to subsidiarity whenever they come up against it. So, again, which is it?

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Ash over Europe, Wilting Flowers and Produce in Kenya

Wednesday, April 21, AD 2010

Economics may be the “dismal science”, but I find this kind of story about the interconnectedness of the world endlessly fascinating. With flights restricted throughout the UK and Northern Europe because of the volcanic eruption, vegetable and flower growers in Kenya find themselves with mountains of produce with no market.

If farmers in Africa’s Great Rift Valley ever doubted that they were intricately tied into the global economy, they know now that they are. Because of a volcanic eruption more than 5,000 miles away, Kenyan horticulture, which as the top foreign exchange earner is a critical piece of the national economy, is losing $3 million a day and shedding jobs.

The pickers are not picking. The washers are not washing. Temporary workers have been told to go home because refrigerated warehouses at the airport are stuffed with ripening fruit, vegetables and flowers, and there is no room for more until planes can take away the produce. Already, millions of roses, lilies and carnations have wilted.

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