The National Catholic Review
An economist considers Pope Francis’ critique of capitalism.

Jesus’ teachings offer good news for the righteous, whether they are the poor and marginalized or the rich who are generous with their bounty. All can find a place in the kingdom. Yet there is little comfort for those who expect that their wealth alone will save them. The story of Lazarus and the rich man is a reminder of the fate of the wealthy who ignore the poor in their midst (Lk 16:19-31).

So we should not be surprised by the highly divergent reactions to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.” On the one hand, people across the globe were immediately and powerfully drawn to the pope’s message of hope and social justice. They were stirred by his critique of “the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose,” and they were uplifted by his call for solidarity with the poor (No. 55).

Yet in the United States, a number of the famously rich, and commentators who routinely speak for them, were clearly incensed. “Marxist,” cried a few, and the charge echoed. The pope is “confused,” declared others. And still others tried to deflect the pope’s message by claiming that it was really directed to his own homeland, Argentina, rather than the United States. At least one wealthy individual threatened to withhold a donation for the renovation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Those who presumed to read in the pope’s words a specific economic plan were mistaken. Pope Francis, like Jesus, offered no such plan. (“This exhortation is not a social document,” writes the pope.) Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers not to implement a first-century Glass-Steagall Act, but rather to make a moral point—that the house of divine justice had become a den of thieves. Pope Francis carries Jesus’ message into the heart of today’s capitalism. He reminds us that we need a moral framework for our 21st-century economy.

That message is fundamentally subversive of prevailing attitudes in the corridors of American power, whether on Wall Street or in Washington. And it is crucial for exactly that reason. Far too many of the rich and powerful in the United States are in thrall to an economic ideology that places property rights over human dignity, even human survival. Too many believe that morality is the result of the marketplace.

That is no exaggeration. The doctrine of libertarianism, for example, as expounded by Ayn Rand and her followers, including Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, is based on the idea that economic justice is defined by the “liberty” of the marketplace. Liberty in this vision is the freedom to buy, sell and protect one’s property. Neither government, nor regulation, nor even moral self-restraint, should interfere. Taxes, for example, are viewed as a form of servitude to the state, even when the tax revenues are destined to feed the poor, sustain the unemployed, provide health to the indigent and protect the environment for all.

The Church and Property Rights

The church has rightly and consistently rejected the idea that private property rights are sacrosanct. Since the modern church first took up the economic question more than a century ago, notably in Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” (1891) during the first wave of industrialization (and the robber-baron era), it has favored a market economy, yet one in which the rights to private property are embedded in a moral framework. Morality and human dignity must be paramount; property rights should be responsive to the higher calling of justice.

Pope Leo XIII put it this way:

“It is lawful,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.” But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used?—the church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy doctor: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need…. To sum up, then, what has been said: Whoever has received from the divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and material, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God’s providence, for the benefit of others. (No. 22)

In the same vein, Leo XIII held that voluntary contracts may be deemed unjust when the contracting parties are too unequal in their wealth and power. As Pope Paul VI later put it in “Populorum Progressio” (1967), referring back to these teachings, “The rule of free consent remains subservient to the demands of the natural law.” And on a global scale, Pope Paul VI noted, free trade between nations must also be subject to the demands of social justice.

Church teaching describes the moral framework of property rights as the “universal destination of goods.” Yes, the church avers, property is and should be (mostly) privately owned. Private property boosts efficiency, protects the family and enables the middle class to resist the predations of the state. Yet property must also be understood as a public trust; the needs of humanity must take precedence over individual claims to property, especially when the needs of the poor or the environment are at stake.

In line with this great tradition, Pope Francis aims at nothing less than re-establishing a moral foundation for our local, national and global economic dealings, by spreading the church’s teachings of social justice, which has roots in Jewish teaching as well. But beyond specific doctrines, the pope is invoking universal themes that are shared by many major religions, as well as by agnostics and atheists, whom he recently invited to join in the quest for justice and peace. He writes that an interreligious dialogue “which seeks social peace and justice is in itself, beyond all merely practical considerations, an ethical commitment which brings about a new social situation” (No. 250).

The Pope’s Moral Code

Pope Francis is reinvigorating a widely if not universally shared moral code, one that has been suppressed by the glam and glitter of our media age and hijacked by the idolatry of private property (which the pope likens to the golden calf). With his joy and humility, Francis is trying to awaken us from our stupor, from what he calls “the globalization of indifference.”

Pope Francis appeals to us to reawaken our personal moral awareness. We know not what we do, he tells us, because:

Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all of this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. (No. 54)

My own profession of economics has exemplified this deepening demoralization. In its quest for “scientific rigor,” mainstream economics long ago shed its traditional interest in a moral framework. A profession that started out as a field of moral inquiry had, by the 20th century, become a cheerleader for egoistic materialism, with little or no concern for moral inquiry. Human well-being, once a central interest of the moral philosophy of the classical economists, in the hands of 20th-century economists became virtually synonymous with one’s purchases and possessions.

There have been three disastrous consequences of the globalization of indifference. First, society at large, including the elites of finance and academia, abandoned interest in the fate of the poor or even came to blame the poor for their condition. Second, financial markets were deregulated, and market trade became the test of morality itself. Even as the major Wall Street banks peddled toxic assets to unsuspecting foreign buyers, thereby stoking a financial bubble that burst in 2008, the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs declared that the firm was, after all, doing God’s work since it helped create wealth and jobs. Third, my own profession of economics aided and abetted this process by shedding its professional moral code as many rushed to lucrative jobs on Wall Street. The award-winning documentary movie “Inside Job” exposed an economics profession that had lost its moral compass.

The results are devastating. Income inequality in the United States is at the highest level in a century, if not more. Wall Street illegality and corruption nearly brought down the world economy. And at a time of unprecedented global wealth, impoverished people around the world have often been left to fend for their own survival against terrible odds.

Consider a recent shocking example. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is the world’s central institution to fund the fight against these three killer diseases. Through modern science, these diseases are treatable and often preventable. The Global Fund has saved millions of lives by dispensing medicines and preventive measures like anti-malaria bed nets. Yet when the Global Fund appealed for a replenishment of its funds this past year, asking $5 billion from the world’s governments and companies to tend to hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people, it came up short, raising only $4 billion.

The shortfall of $1 billion will cost considerable death and suffering, as clinics run out of life-saving commodities. Yet this $1 billion is less than the paychecks of several hedge fund owners in 2013. It is less than one day’s Pentagon spending. It is less than $1 per year for each person in the high-income world. Why did the Global Fund come up short? There is only one reason, and no justification: the globalization of indifference.

A reinvigoration of a global economic moral code can be our lifeline in the 21st century. At a time when our societies are riven by unprecedented inequality, when six million children under the age of 5 worldwide could be saved each year from premature death and when reckless destruction of the earth’s environment puts the lives of humans and millions of other species in peril, it will be our attitudes, our moral judgments, that will be the most important determinant of our fate.

At this stage of history, humanity is at a crossroads, with the future course of our own choosing. We have the technical means to solve our national and global problems—to banish poverty, fight disease, protect the environment and train the illiterate and unskilled. But we can and will do so only if we care enough to mount the effort.

We face a moral crisis much more than a financial or economic crisis. And for this reason we must offer our gratitude to Pope Francis. He has lovingly reminded us that our highest aspirations really are within our grasp.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University in New York City. He is also special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals and author of The End of Poverty (2005). His most recent book is To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (Random House, 2013). 


Jennifer Buttlerr | 9/17/2014 - 1:43pm

"Containment of money in few hands " not only can create big problems for the economy and on our life but it also unbalance the world. Richer nations or the persons will empower there selected persons so generations will suffer. On other hand instead of capitalization a good market research to set the things in such a way that poor people can take the advantage of it. Like when Looking to find some information about refrigerators you will see there are one or two brands which only have the expensive model but what if all models shift on that price.

Daniel Callahan | 3/21/2014 - 12:31am

Jeffrey Sachs article deftly communicates the gospel values promoted by Pope Francis in marketplace terms. Those who are attentive to the poor and willing to creatively include their care in societal economic equations can make a difference. It really is a matter of turning attention to those who are at the margins of society and consciously including them in the right relationships of our shared humanity that is the primary step for creating the right economic ethics. When monetary political or economic costs is the principle used to measure value it is inadequate because it is impossible to price human life itself. That's what the life and death of Jesus once and for all time established.

Michael Barberi | 3/21/2014 - 7:09pm


I agree with your comments. However, the issue is how to balance turning our attention to those at the margins of society and helping them with all other things that require our time and money. I believe we need to much more for those at the margins of our society than our society is doing at the moment, and that it starts with individuals with the right Christian motivation and attitude, leadership, self-sacrifice, compassion, love and sense of equality. Good abstract moral and social principles can point us in the right direction, but they don't resole the specific problems in existential reality. Nevertheless, we can and should do more.

Michael Barberi | 3/18/2014 - 3:26pm

There are many ideas that might work to resolve inequality and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. What is often forgotten is the fact that we live in a pluralistic society and a democratic system of representation. Some ideas are good and have good intentions, but lack a good design and understanding precisely how the idea will work.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a good example of an good idea in principle to eliminate the fact that as much as 40 million Americans, mostly the poor, had no healthcare coverage or could not afford health coverage. However, the design of the plan had serious problems that were untested from the outset as well as a lack of fundamental knowledge how the healthcare marketplace works. Witness the fact that the cost of the ACA two years ago, when Congress voted on the bill, was estimated to be $800 Billion. Today, according to the CBO, the cost is now estimated to be $2.7 Trillion and growing. When the bill was debated no one read it. During the past 2 years, all we heard was "if you like your plan and doctor, you can keep them", and "the average family of 4 will save $2500 per year". Nothing could be further from the truth. Had Congress known about this, they would never had passed the bill as constructed.

My point is this: I agree that the U.S. should do more to resolve inequality and poverty. What has been lacking is a comprehensive plan with accurate forecasts of costs and savings (and consequences) that most people can agree on. As a society we also have many problems that need to be prioritized and balanced against our means. If things were as simple as some of the proposed solutions on this blog, it would have been done by now.

The solution is to vote for those candidates that reflect your faith and beliefs as much as possible, given the fact that no one or two issues define a candidate. Some of the ideas proposed are good ones, some not so. Perhaps, it might the better to focus on 1 or 2 of them to ensure that "something" gets done for the people and fulfills the message of the Gospels. Nevertheless, our capitalistic system and form of government cannot be replaced by another existing system unless someone can prove that the existing alternative is worth it. It is foolish to criticize U.S. capitalism for some of its failures and paint with a wide negative brush how our society is going to hell in a hand basket, and not offer a compelling solution that most people can rally around. There are plenty of ideas, but what is needed is someone to fix Washington. That will take time, leadership and good ideas.

Tim O'Leary | 3/18/2014 - 8:38am

Some comments and proposed solutions:

The more "capitalistic" USA economy is providing by far the largest amount to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and the more "distributive" EU economies are the one's who are most behind in their pledges. President Obama could have covered their $1B shortfall with 0.1% of the so-called stimulus package. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet could have done it with <1% of their combined funds (already targeted for charitable causes).

To cure poverty, we need 1) to create wealth, and 2) to facilitate its distribution. Forcing distribution (through taxes and confiscation of other sorts) works in the short term but inhibits the creation of wealth and is counterproductive. Creating high incentives for charitable giving helps the soul of the giver and the body of the receiver. The poor should also be incentivized to participate in their recovery, as it will add to their own self-esteem and create more permanent solutions. So, several policies come to mind.

Simplify the tax code (Simpson Bowles is a good start), creating greater transparency and removing tax loopholes. But, increase deductions for charitable contributions, in 2 tiers. Tier 1 is for works of mercy (food, shelter and other very basic necessities for the poor) get double the tax break (like corporate matching). Tier 2 (the current one) should be for education and the arts and any religious and political causes.

Eliminate the minimum wage but replace it with a more generous earned income tax credit (EITC), so anyone near the poverty line (to be better defined) would get a refund to bring them up to a “just wage” annual income.

When defining the poverty line, include not only wages but all government subsidies, such as food stamps, healthcare and EITC. When making global comparisons, count not just income but all private and public benefits. The EU is way behind on private donations and they should be encouraged to increase their giving.

Reform Wall Street (esp. Hedge fund rules and computer trading) and be swift in dealing with stock manipulation and insider trading. Any actual defrauding (managers in Freddie and Fannie, Banks, Traders) should meet swift justice.

Change the poverty culture, discouraging reliance on welfare and encouraging/incentivizing strong families and communities. Restore a strong sense of pride in work and shame in laziness. Hollywood sex habits are disastrous for poor communities. Discourage divorce and premarital sex and encourage strong families (increase deduction for each child on taxes).

Michael Barberi | 3/17/2014 - 4:35pm

If we have a moral crisis more that a financial and economic crisis, then we need a better education in business ethics, financial and social policy as well moral method, and a strong faith and reason to apply what we learn (in schools and religious faith) to do the good and avoid evil. The Catholic Church has a role to play in this and this means not issuing abstract principles but more concrete practical solutions.

The literature is replete with academic theorists and others who point to all the problems in the U.S. and around the globe but rarely ever propose a plan that will resolve the dilemma. When I was a partner in a worldwide consulting firm I participated in a worldwide analysis of healthcare systems at the time when the Clintons were pushing their healthcare agenda in the early 1990s. It became quite clear that while there were positive consequences and benefits in various healthcare systems in other countries, there were also many serious and fundamental problems that few Americans would tolerate.

It is easy to point to our problems but highly difficult and most complex to point to a practical solutions. A success in one part of one country might provide food for reflection where it might eventually become part of a larger solution, but it is foolish and unproductive to think such ideas are an answer to our pressing problems.

Clearly, U.S. capitalism and our system of government is not perfect but I challenge anyone to substantiate how any other form of capitalism or form of government is doing any better across a wide series of economic, financial, social, legal and justice measures (et al) and the many other issues that are inter-related. This does not mean that we should not strive to improve our deficiencies and shortcomings or our injustices and sense of morality in the spirit of the Gospels. The social teachings of the Catholic Church provides us with general principles and a broad ethical framework that appropriately directs our behaviors and decision-making. Nevertheless, what is often missing are not enough of concrete solutions and substantiated evidence to move the conversation forward toward a system that will dramatically eliminate poverty and provide substantial opportunities for people to better flourish. Obviously, this will take time, even a long time. In the meantime, beating the drum of inequality and injustice and criticizing moral, financial and economic problems without putting forth concrete practical solutions that take into account the many consequences of system changes often results in a nice narrative for an article but little more.

CLAIRE BANGASSER MS | 3/16/2014 - 12:50pm

Thank you, Mr. Sachs. A moral crisis. Oh, yes. Strange how hard it is to face it :-)

Mike Van Vranken | 3/28/2014 - 3:12pm

Yes, it IS a moral crisis. We love to point our fingers at the economic structure of business. The Church needs to teach generosity to every Christian. When the apostles told Jesus he needed to let the people go into town to buy food, he said: "You feed them." Why are we asking some civil government to change its laws when we are not being taught to share our own wealth? All it takes are two fish and some barley loaves. Jesus will do the rest. But, we are not willing to give up our two fish. I contend we are not even being taught to give our two fish. It is the Church's (mine and yours) responsibility to feed the hungry. The Pope seemed to be saying that our economic structure doesn't focus on human beings. That means, we are not using the current structure to enable each of us to focus on human beings. We need to change our hearts first. Jesus will then give us the economic structure to go with our new, loving hearts.

Timothy Martin | 3/15/2014 - 4:15pm

I am not quite sure what the premise of this article is. Was it trying to that a market based economy is bad or that the participants in the economy are not acting well? That taxes are good or taxes are not being used correctly? I honestly think the article is an intellectual and moral mess. The accumulation of wealth is not inherently bad. One could make the choice of buying a Bentley or providing scholarship to the needy. Banks behaving badly is not part of a market economy, it is making poor choices no matter the system.

A better premise might be that market based economies produce winners and losers and it is the responsibility of everyone to protect and care for the poor. Do the poor exist because of the market economy or should the economy accept responsibility to lift them and give them dignity? Do governments do more for the poor or through war and social injustice create and oppress the poor.

As Jesus said, there will always be the poor but I am only here for a short time. Show me a system that has done more to elevate the poor than a market based economy. That doesn't mean there isn't work to be done. But can that be done be free people taking a moral course or by government confiscating wealth?

Stanley Kopacz | 3/17/2014 - 12:16pm

What if instead of "confiscating wealth", we just took away limited liability and corporate bankruptcy. That way, if you made $432 off of stocks during a period that the company dumped a thousand tons of waste into the watershed that eventually made 100,000 people chronically ill, they can come after the management, workers and you as a co-conspirator stockholder for all you're worth. That'll make for a REALLY fair game of capitalism.

Charles Erlinger | 3/15/2014 - 12:37pm

Professor Sachs, perhaps there is an opportunity for you, possibly in collaboration with others, to do some rigorous research and analysis within your field of expertise in the general area of economic "optimization" within a moral framework, or at least within a framework of justice and prudence. We often speak, sometimes disparagingly, about profit "optimization," without knowing or even thinking about the mathematical optimization process itself. The use of the "optimization" term related to other financial and economic objectives is also common. We know, however, that optimization analysis that is of any practical worth is that which is performed subject to constraints. I am thinking of the well-known productivity and efficiency models using linear programming or quadratic programming techniques, for example. Now suppose one were to construct a model with the purpose of maximizing some objective function of economic importance, subject to constraints that are relevant, not merely to some financial or economic outcome, but also to some measurable social good that would serve the ends of justice and prudence, but which also had some intuitive or self-evident appeal in terms of making society better in some way.

Maybe this has already been done, but if not, maybe you can get some colleagues and grad students interested in it.

E.Patrick Mosman | 3/15/2014 - 8:04am

Several of the comments have quoted Popes on property rights, redistribution of wealth and helping the poor but none provided any guidance as to who would and how this would be done. Are they advocating a return to the Communist, "workers's paradise" of the USSR and its pre-1989 hegemony over the countries of Eastern Europe? Or would today's ruling Marxist class in Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba or the socialist governments in Greece, Italy and Spain be models for redistributing wealth and helping the poor?

Having lived and worked in three European socialist countries, religious and non-governmental secular charities and charitable giving are essentially unknown.The government takes care of everything. Obama's vision is a proposal to cut or cap charitable deductions which will eventually eliminate all non-government entities, charitable organization,civic and cultural organizations and threaten the economic viability of many religious organizations, the ultimate goal of socialism and Marxism. Apparently several Popes have forgotten the lessons of the past.

As an example of personal charity Warren Buffett could write a check to the US treasury at any time for any additional amount he deemed necessary but doesn't do so for the following "Buffett Position" on the tax-free foundations he established for his family members or contributes to via Bill Gates.
"In a 2007 CNBC interview, when asked why he shelters his money through tax-free strategies rather than writing big checks to Uncle Sam, Mr. Buffett responded: "I think that on balance the Gates Foundation, my daughter's foundation, my two sons' foundations will do a better job with lower administrative costs and better selection of beneficiaries than the government."
So Mr. Buffett thinks he and his family can put their money to better use than the government can. I guess he's really not so different from the rest of us who would rather direct our contributions to our own charitable institutions rather than passing them through high overhead government agencies.

Michael Gillman | 3/15/2014 - 6:20pm

It's not all about "helping the poor" it's about justice for the poor (Lk 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free." "It makes a mockery of love to paper over with charity that which is owed by justice." Oscar Romero; "I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them." Caritas in Veritate) When someone steals something from you, you don't beg for them to give it back. You demand justice. It is the same for unjust structures. The poor should get justice and it should be exacted from the wealthy through law. The government doesn't get involved because it can claim that it will be the best at "helping the poor" the government is involved because that's the institution that we use to set the rules of our society. This is why Pope Benedict has consistently called for the redistribution of wealth by the government.

As for guidance for how this could be done, look to Laborem Exercens:

"Thus, merely converting the means of production into State property in the collectivist system is by no means equivalent to "socializing" that property. We can speak of socializing only when the subject character of society is ensured, that is to say, when on the basis of his work each person is fully entitled to consider himself a part-owner of the great workbench at which he is working with every one else. A way towards that goal could be found by associating labour with the ownership of capital, as far as possible, and by producing a wide range of intermediate bodies with economic, social and cultural purposes; they would be bodies enjoying real autonomy with regard to the public powers, pursuing their specific aims in honest collaboration with each other and in subordination to the demands of the common good, and they would be living communities both in form and in substance, in the sense that the members of each body would be looked upon and treated as persons and encouraged to take an active part in the life of the body."

A concrete example of this system can be found in the Mondragon Corporation in Spain.

E.Patrick Mosman | 3/16/2014 - 7:18am

Charles Kettering inventor American engineer whose 140 patents included the electric starter, car lighting and ignition systems.
Quotes by Charles F. Kettering

"The opportunities of man are limited only by his imagination. But so few have imagination that there are ten thousand fiddlers to one composer."
Retired Navy Captain
"Ships have only one Captain, they could not function if operated by a committee."
Employee ownership has been tried in the US at a financially troubled steel manufacturing company. It ultimately failed.

Stanley Kopacz | 3/20/2014 - 11:09am

Regular businesses fail, too. Your anecdote proves nothing. Mondragon is still going strong. Scott-Bader has been around for over a half century. As far as your Ayn Rand riff is concerned, was Steve Jobs smarter than the one-in-ten-thousand solid state physicists who figured out how to squeeze more components onto a square cm of silicon and made Jobs' fortune possible? As far as Kettering is concerned, how many uncreative fiddlers made a lot more money than he did running large corporations. I can only remember how long it took for US car manufacturers to start using Deming's process control principles. Some captains.

E.Patrick Mosman | 3/23/2014 - 5:11pm

You might wish to do a little research on your co-ops:

Apparently Scott-Bader refers to their workforce as employees not owners. All shares in the company are in a charitable trust held on behalf of the employees.
Working for Scott Bader

What We Want From Our Employees
Scott Bader is far more than just a place to work. Of course, we're committed to delivering high-quality products and a second-to-none service to our customers. But we also stand for fairness, teamwork, commitment and responsibility.
We're proud of our involvement with the local community and our charitable work. We want you to be as enthusiastic about being part of our team as you are about your job. And we want all our colleagues at Scott Bader all over the world to be dedicated to our principles and values.
What We Offer In Return
We don’t simply rely on basic salary to reward performance. We also offer a generous benefits package which caters for the individual needs of our people. Core benefits include:

a defined contribution pension scheme
variable performance-based pay of up to 15% of your salary
private medical insurance
a wide range of discounts and benefits
on-site indoor swimming pool set within the fantastic grounds at our head office

Except for the indoor pool at the head office,the working "owners' apparently don't rate an indoor or outdoor pool, it reads like any S&P 500 company.

Stanley Kopacz | 3/29/2014 - 4:05am

Carl Zeiss was also set up as an institute or Stiftung. Nevertheless, co-ops were also caught up in the Wall Street megashenanigans. I will also agree that the sociopathic hierarchical organizations you adore do have certain advantages. Dedication to profit without social responsibility. They can avail themselves of foreign slave labor in horrid working conditions.

David Magnani | 3/14/2014 - 5:48pm

We in the US operate under an economic system - driven by stock trading - that requires not just profits, but efforts at profit maximization - under such a structure no amount of moral evocation will dramatically shift our trends toward inequality - only economic structures that reward collaboration - like worker cooperatives - our consumer cooperatives can do that - the system of Mondragon cooperatives in Spain shows that an economy - on a broad scale - structured as such - can succeed and excel and dramatically reduce inequality while producing goods and services competitive with traditional market capital economies - it allows markets in goods and services, but not in labor, and finances new firms out of bank loans from central banks - that are made up of coop members - , not by issuing stocks - growth is slower, but still occurs. Firms grow only to sizes that maximize their efficiency. We need to create economic structures that take advantage of the best instincts of each of us - not those that exploit the worst.

William Atkinson | 3/14/2014 - 3:51pm

I think what is best for mankind, weather, one considers the kingdom is here and other than here is a good mix of all the different "isms" and what is bad (not evil) for mankind is the social structure of any one "ism" that is imposed and forced on peoples (families, clans, groups, communities, small/medium/large governances. .

Ray Tapajna | 3/14/2014 - 1:08pm

As an advocate for workers dignity and local value added economies, we have thousands of references related to the global economy, the "economic sins" of our times and globalization. We explore the latent response of religion and philosophy to the global economic arena and point to the common understanding of human nature. As long as we believe that it is only human nature to shop for the lowest price no matter what and how the prices are arrived at, we have a mixed up and unbalanced geopolitical and a terrible spiritual setting. We must bring the Sunday Gospel to the whole week of work and commerce.

Free trade is still the major cause behind this and our economic crisis. First of all free trade is not trade. It is more about moving production from place to place for the sake of cheaper labor markets down to the lowest levels of wage slave and even child labor. With more than a billion people in the world willing to work for practically nothing to survive, It is indeed a race to the bottom. The race is an automatic result of the free trade process.

Big money interests now act on their own divorced from production. We now have economies based on making money on money instead of making things. These two elements of any good economy have been separated and Wall Street can make money no matter where the production takes place or what the value of labor is.

Even so, our economies based on making money on money are burning away. President Obama followed the other free trader presidents and was forced to bail out the process when he took office. But, he only bailed out big money, the financial communities, banks, Wall Street and the "the too big to fail" corporations while ignoring the suffering of all those who lost everything due to the free trade process.

The value of workers and labor, being separated from money on money economics, has been degraded and deflated. This represent trillions of dollars in value lost forever with the trade deficit doing the same. Actually the value of workers and labor is a better money standard than all the funny money manipulations in the world today. This is the value that should be upgraded to shore up what it takes to provide the proper geopolitical balance settings , good societies and the continuous search for the life ideal on earth based on the perfect love of God.

Search under ray tapajna net for more resources and references. See Add most any related term or word to, tapart news, ray tapajna net, tapsearcher etc. For example search under tapsearch economic philosophy or ray tapajna free trade or tapsearch religion and philosophy

E.Patrick Mosman | 3/14/2014 - 12:54pm

Pope Francis also wrote in "Evangelii Gaudium"
“The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life,” wrote the pope. “Today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”
His criticism of capitalism, referring to it as a killer, was enhanced by a call for "Governments to create more jobs..." which every experience, including the US government's recent almost trillion dollar "Jobs program', which was a dismal failure in creating jobs but the money, mostly borrowed, was spent, have failed. Governments do not create jobs, individual and corporate efforts under capitalism do.
Pope Francis lived under both dictatorial and socialist regimes in Argentina but unlike Pope John Paul II who lived under communism, Pope Francis failed to understand the economic failures were caused by the governments policies not by capitalism.
China's emergence as an economic power was the result of introducing capitalism into its economic policies which created millions of jobs in a relative short time.
The seven practices of charity toward our neighbor, based on Christ’s prophecy of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:35), that will determine each person’s, not presidents, politicians, nor government bureaucrats, final destiny was taught us from the Baltimore Catechism: 1. Feed the hungry 2. Give drink to the thirsty 3. Clothe the naked 4. Shelter the homeless 5. Visit the sick 6. Visit those in prison 7. Bury the dead For those who claim that Jesus was a big-government socialist provider with regard to helping those in need and reducing individuals personal responsibility to only “Love the Neighbor’ and replacing it with government programs is a misreading of His message. Jesus Christ made the point “to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” with no guidelines as to how the Romans were
to spend the tax monies. “For you will have the poor always with you” Matthew 26.11 and nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus Christ lay the responsibility for caring for the poor, the sick the hungry or thirsty, the homeless or any oppressed people on any governmental body. He did not cite King Herod, the priests of the temple, the local politicians or the Roman powers as the source of Charity. He made it an individual responsibility time after time in His sermons, in His parables and in His own acts. The Good Samaritan was not an example of “Love thy neighbor” because he stopped at the inn to make a 911 call but because he acted, providing aid, comfort and financial assistance to his neighbor. Jesus Christ’s teachings cannot be used be used to support states or famous economists becoming the major or only source of charitable acts.
For the record Mr Sach's Millennium Project in Africa has questionable results to date and its future financial sustainability is said to be not assured.

Jim Lein | 3/14/2014 - 1:42pm

Of course it is not either/or. You can help people directly or through government programs or through private programs. All are needed and they don't cancel each other out. But in a huge society, individual efforts fall way short, as do private programs. 95% of food for the poor is via SNAP, formerly food stamps. But if individuals and private programs really step up their game, we won't need SNAP. Just cutting SNAP right now, however, is taking food away from people and letting people starve, including pregnant women and those most dependent on constant nourishment, the unborn. How is that Christian?

Leonard Villa | 3/14/2014 - 11:50am

Why did Professor Sachs stop with Pope Paul VI in citing papal teaching on the subject as if it stopped there when Blessed John Paul II issued three major encyclicals on the subject: Laborem Exercens, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, and Centesimus Annus? Also Professor Sachs fails to cite the Federal government's role in the economic crisis wherein he cites Wall Street only thereby neglecting Leviathan-government's role in income inequality through overegulation /confiscatory taxation /crony capitalism and the resultant loss of jobs and opportunity to climb out of income disparity. (Government's Fanny Mae/Freddy Mac pushed and profited from sub-prime mortgages in the name of helping the poor and fighting racism)Also consider government policies which have destroyed the family where it paid to be on welfare or where it pays not to work. There is also the element of human freedom in income-inequality because of bad choices and moral defects like laziness content to live off others. There is no statist-solution to income-inequality where the cure is not worse than the disease and some are not more equal than others. (See Obamacare and the plethora of exemptions from the pain for cronies!!) The USA with all its flaws is still the most generous country in the world when it comes to aid to the poor and developing nations. By the great literary example of the moral free-enterprise Catholic is Les Miserables' Jean Valjean. There are more like him than you think.

Michael Gillman | 3/14/2014 - 1:05pm


Here's some quotes from JPII and BXVI to fill in the gaps.

JPII bemoans an "economism" that has been at the heart of both capitalism and socialism, it is the error of putting things over people. Sachs similarly decries how the discipline of economics has abandoned all moral convictions:

"The same error, which is now part of history, and which was connected with the period of primitive capitalism and liberalism, can nevertheless be repeated in other circumstances of time and place, if people's thinking starts from the same theoretical or practical premises. The only chance there seems to be for radically overcoming this error is through adequate changes both in theory and in practice, changes in line with the definite conviction of the primacy of the person over things, and of human labour over capital as a whole collection of means of production." Laborem Exercens, ch. 13.

And here's JPII on private property rights

"Christian tradition has never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone." Laborem Exercens, ch. 14.

As for your contention that "there is no statist-solution to income-inequality," we turn to Benedict XVI who reminds us that one of the purposes of government is wealth redistribution:

"Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country's international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development." Caritas in Veritate, 32.

"Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution." Caritas in Veritate, 36.

"Economic life undoubtedly requires contracts, in order to regulate relations of exchange between goods of equivalent value. But it also needs just laws and forms of redistribution governed by politics, and what is more, it needs works redolent of the spirit of gift. The economy in the global era seems to privilege the former logic, that of contractual exchange, but directly or indirectly it also demonstrates its need for the other two: political logic, and the logic of the unconditional gift." Caritas in Veritate, 37.

On Paul VI:

"In this way he was applying on a global scale the insights and aspirations contained in Rerum Novarum, written when, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the idea was first proposed — somewhat ahead of its time — that the civil order, for its self-regulation, also needed intervention from the State for purposes of redistribution." Caritas, 39

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