Commentary

Pope Francis' Charity Goggles Ignore the Power of Capitalism


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According to the World Giving Index, Americans rank second worldwide in terms of donating money, volunteering time and helping strangers. In 2014, private giving in the United States amounted to $358 billion, a full 72% from individuals. Christian values, which Pope Francis often emphasizes, are a motivation.

Pope Francis has said: “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians . . . it is a commandment.”

But private donations are not the charitable “giving” the Pope often speaks of. Instead, he advocates for government-to-government transfers and a larger role for international organizations to facilitate those transfers.

Other key factors in giving are economic freedom and private property rights, essential ingredients of capitalism, which the Pope attacks constantly. Pope Francis spends much time lambasting private markets, writing in this May that those who favor the invisible hand of markets suffer from the same mindset that leads to slavery, the sexual exploitation of children and the abandonment of the elderly. The pope’s anti-market fervor stands at some distance from the facts.

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Lawrence J. McQuillan is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute, and author of the Independent book, California Dreaming: Lessons on How to Solve America's Public Pension Crisis.

Hayeon Carol Park is a former Policy Researcher at the Independent Institute. She graduated with a M.A. in International and Development Economics from Yale University. She also earned a B.A. from the University of Toronto, double majoring in Economics and International Relations.


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In California Dreaming, Lawrence J. McQuillan pulls back the curtains covering this unfunded liability crisis. He describes the true extent of the problem, explains the critical factors that are driving public pension debt sky-high, and exposes the perverse incentives of lawmakers and pension officials that reward them for not fixing the problem and letting it escalate.