OAKLAND, CASometimes called “the People’s Pope” for his stress on serving the poor, Pope Francis has invited an open dialogue about economic progress, the environment, charity, and the destiny of the world.
A conversation with economists is especially urgent. That’s because Pope Francis’s views are out of step with those of most economists, according to contributors of a recent symposium, “Pope Francis and the Economy,” in the Winter 2017 issue of The Independent Review.
Economic historian Robert Whaples (Wake Forest University) kicks off the symposium by examining the gap separating Pope Francis and the economists, especially as they relate to the poor and the rich. Pope Francis focuses on capitalism’s weaknesses but unfairly discounts its strengths, he argues.
Andrew Yuengert (St. John’s University, Winnipeg) contends that Pope Francis’s hostility toward the market economywhich goes beyond the unease voiced by his papal predecessorsmay be discouraging, rather than facilitating, constructive dialogue with business leaders, entrepreneurs and market advocates. Even worse, he argues, is that it may be helping to promote government policies that can drive vulnerable countries into an economic ditch.
To shed light on the origins of Pope Francis’s anti-market attitudes, Samuel Gregg (Acton Institute) examines the economic failures that have plagued the pontiff’s country of birth, Argentina. The pope’s politico-economic outlook, Gregg argues, represents a variant of one major, early cause of those failures: the legacy of Juan Peron’s coercive collectivism, cronyism, and corruption.
Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on social obligation and the environmental crisis, perhaps the most talked about papal statement since 1968, merits close examination. A.M.C. Waterman (Princeton University/Pepperdine University) argues that it overlooks the good that open markets do by channeling self-interest to serve the common good and conserve natural resources by overcoming socialism’s inherent “tragedy of the commons.”
The encyclical also neglects the merits of property rights, a hallowed institution in Catholic natural-law, social teaching. This neglect is disheartening, according to Philip Booth (St. Mary’s University, United Kingdom), because property rights can be arranged to empower communities to manage common pool resources in ways consistent with Church doctrine.
Lawrence McQuillan (Independent Institute) and Hayeon Carol Park close the symposium by examining Pope Francis’s assessments of charitable giving under capitalism. Contrary to the pope’s pronouncements, they stress that capitalism and its core institutionsprivate-property rights and economic freedomare enablers of philanthropy, not enemies. Moreover, they argue, the government-coerced redistribution favored by Pope Francis hinders economic well-being and undermines effective, private charitable giving.
The Independent Review is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by Independent Institute, a non-profit devoted to boldly advancing peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For media inquiries, contact Rob Ade at [email protected] or 510-632-1366 x114.