Skip to comments.Rev. Sirico: Fighting Poverty through the Free Market
Posted on 05/07/2013 6:15:37 PM PDT by markomalley
At the beginning of the month, Rev. Robert Sirico traveled to El Salvador to speak at ENADE XIII (Encuentro Nacional de la Empresa Privada,). This event is put on every year by the National Association for Private Enterprise of El Salvador and its theme this year was bettering business, transforming lives. Rev. Sirico gave the closing presentation at the event and spoke about the effectiveness of businesses in the fight to end poverty.
He said that neither piety nor charity can ultimately end poverty. The best thing that businesses and entrepreneurs can do to break the circle of poverty is to be successful. It is a moral obligation, not a bad thing to be successful in business. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) illustrates this point. Whats more, entrepreneurs are given the same calling that Adam and Eve were given in the Garden of Eden: be fruitful and multiply. Labor is something sacred and not simply a means to wealth and riches.
The state has a role in helping the poor, but it is limited. Governments should work to create environments where businesses can thrive and provide opportunities for employment. Profitable private businesses are closely linked to poverty reduction and the overall progress of communities. He asked which is better: a powerful state with a powerful bureaucracy or a competitive and productive private sector that creates employment?
Drawing on another parable, Rev. Sirico explained the Biblical teaching about wealth and poverty with the story of Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell (Luke 16:19-31). Many people wrongly assume that Lazarus was in Heaven because he was poor while the rich man was in hell because of his wealth. Sirico points that that it was the rich mans pride that kept him out of the kingdom of Heaven while it was Lazarus humility that is exalted, not his poverty. One should never assume that the Bible teaches that wealth is something inherently evil.
While it is common to think that prosperity is the norm and poverty is the exception, the contrary is true. Countries do not become wealthy through natural resources, but instead through men and women who transform and utilize these elements through freedom and intelligence. In fact, Rev. Sirico defines wealth as the ability and freedom to transform natural resources with courage and intelligence.
He ended his presentation reminding the audience that generosity should still be a virtue of every entrepreneur.
You can read a Spanish summary of Rev. Siricos speech in El Salvadors National Newspaper, El Diaro de Hoy and in La Prensa Grafica.
Fr. Sirico is a good source. I wish more people listened to him.
Capitalism when understood, is the purest expression of human nature and is self correcting to provide choices for abuses that may occur.
The free market is the only way to fight poverty.
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I am not a fan.
You and I, in particular, are familiar with the deadening influence of atheistic libertarianism. However, Fr. Sirico, and generally the work of Acton Institute remind us of no less deadening press of the socialist machine. Both are foreign to Catholicism; but the freedom of enterprise immersed in a largely unregulated market, informed by the moral teaching of the Church — isn’t.
Well... If you look deep enough into Economic Teaching of the Catholic Church you will find the Acton Institute along with with old Lord Acton and modernist Thomas Woods types are not in line in many cases with economic teaching of the Church that were written by superior moral economic teachings of Pope Leo XIII,Pope Pius XI etc... Who wrote about the problems of Communism,Socialism and saw problems with capitalist free market systems as well because the elitist power corrupts and uses the poor for their own gain
A few good articles
Economic Science and Catholic Social Teaching
by Thomas Storck
Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism: Part I
Lord Acton Tends to Corrupt
Thomas Storck's article addresses the primacy of Catholic social (or any other) teaching over economic theories and I find myself in general agreement with Storck on that.
Dr. Peter Chojnowski's article rests on an incorrect understanding of capitalism. This:
The peculiarity about capitalistic man is that, in a certain manner, he has no concept of ends but only of means. The "end" for which capitalistic man strives, an ever more complete satisfaction of every conceivable need, is hypothetical and not real. It is simply the concept of human material satisfaction stripped of all limits. Since this "end" is merely hypothetical (i.e., no man has ever experienced a state of complete material and worldly satisfaction), true ends do not orient the life of the capitalist. He is an infinite material desire that is never sated. Wealth is not, than, even the end of capitalistic man. It is simply the means to the acquisition of further means to the acquisition of further means
The dominant spirit of capitalism insists that we work in such a way that will put our competitor out of business.
... is all wrong. That is, it may be correct about certain individual characters (chiefly from works of dickensian fiction such as "It's a Wonderful Life"); as a portrait of Capitalistic Man it is wrong. A typical entrepreneur has a set of economic goals and a set of spiritual goals, like any other human being. These economic goals vary: some would like to retire without burdening the younger relatives and the taxpayer; others would like to deliver a certain product; the third kind indeed enjoy building successful companies seemingly ad infinitum, -- but a company can only be successful if it delivers value to the customer. The parasitical element of course exists among capitalists but generally a free market tends to punish fraudulent representation of value. In any event, being a capitalist has the same place in human soul as being a farmer or a carpenter, -- and farmers and carpenters are not for some reason impugned by Dr. Chojnowski as only thinking of plowing the next field, milking the next cow, putting together the next cabinet, all the time dreaming how one day he will be the only one doing farming and carpentry. We see examples of rich people standing by their non-economic, and often spiritual values all the time. Further, the very root of capitalism is not turning the buck but investing: that is giving the wealth away strategically. This is intrinsically the opposite of greed, -- the condition rightly counted as sinful. A greedy capitalist is a contradiction in terms, -- he ends up on a floating mattress with a cocktail in hand and is no longer a capitalist.
The third article I liked the best. The accusation
this is the ultimate goal of Actons contemporary followers: to make it seem that God created and redeemed the world in order to make it safe for the exercise of a raw power masquerading as true freedom.
sounds to me as a very valid condemnation of doctrinaire libertarianism, -- that is libertarianism that confuses well-ordered market (and that is the only kind that can be free) with raw power. I would put it succinctly like this: a doctrinaire libertarian thinks that he owns himself, and that is his error: God owns him. But that has little to do with a sweeping condemnation of pro-market Catholic thought.
Let us remember that American Catholics do not exist in a political vacuum where the choice is "are you with Fr. Sirico or are you with St. Francis"? Instead we have the American Catholic masses that keep supporting the Leviathan that taxes everything it can, subverts every market and inserts its cronies at key junctures, tirelessly corrupts the young and the old, and uses the proceeds to fight wars the primary victim of which are Christians. They are not with St. Francis: they are with the Kennedy shyster mafia, and with the abortionists in Congress. Unless you like the present American regime, in great part sustained by the Catholic voter, send Fr. Sirico flowers every day and pray that God gives him strength.
Thanks for reading the articles,Alex. Your analysis of them are very good
I understand Dr. Peter Chojnowski’s article as raw capitalism as in someone like Ayn Rand saw it.Thus , he is not wrong in that understanding. I’m glad that you expanded on it beyond raw capitalism because there are some who use capitalism to promote good for others.
Unfortunately, I think this is the minority of individuals in a capitalist system as time goes on
It is not wrong to condemn Rand’s understanding of capitalism. There is, further, wide room to argue what exactly is capitalism in its present married to big democratic government form.
It is however important to realize that free market — not raw power but free exercise of informed will in everyday matters — is an essential element of individual dignity and a foundation of a just society. It must not negate religion and right authority, but neither must it not be negated by them.
Your copy must be missing the part where the master told the servant who turned ten talents into twenty that he should give his money to the poor disadvantaged guy who only had one, so as to make things "fair".
Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away. (Matthew 25:28-29)
Obviously your copy must be defective.
Actually, I think an agricultural analogy may be a good one: suppose some people in a society are better at farming than others. Dividing land and seeds equally among people regardless of their skill at farming will result in a lot of land and seed corn being given to people who cannot use it effectively. If those who are better at farming are allowed to use their extra production to buy land from those who are less adept, that will enable them to produce even more the following year. Allowing farmland and seeds to be accumulated by those who use them most effectively will result in a substantial increase in agricultural production. By contrast, if such resources are continually redistributed so everyone--regardless of their skill at farming--gets a "fair share", production will stagnate.
The same principles apply with modern economics. Those who are best able to identify what investments will generate the most wealth will inherently become more wealthy than those who are not. Further, the more wealth such people have to invest, the more wealth will be generated as a consequence of their investment. Raising tax rates is often recognized as bad because it discourages those who could create wealth from doing so. Less appreciated is the fact that taking wealth from those who would use it most effectively to generate more will impede wealth creation even if the taking is done in such a way that the wealth creators don't see it coming and can't alter their behavior to avoid it, since the wealth creators can't invest money they don't have.
Right. That is, I believe the general principle of comparative advantage that you are describing.
However, we must keep in mind very serious warnings throughout the gospels against wealth and about the blessings of poverty. Economic expedience does not override it. A capitalist must work on his salvation with fear and trembling, as it is easy for him to fall into greed and lose his soul. If he chooses the vocation of entrepreneurial life, provided that he has aptitude, - that is then his “talent” and he must trade hard, but he needs also to pray hard.
I consider it in some ways unfortunate that the Parable of the Talents didn't cover a few more scenarios. I would guess, for example, that a servant who was satisfied turning 100 talents into 103, for example, might have been viewed less kindly than one who turned two talents into four.
I think regarding the role of the servant as producing wealth for the master (not necessarily flowing back to his own account), and regarding one's obligation to produce wealth as being somewhat proportional to the amount of wealth one controls, will yield a reasonably good perspective. Those who have more incur greater responsibility to use it effectively. Giving money to a good person who is down on his luck but will be able to use it to generate wealth is a good thing. Giving money to someone who is poor because he's simply lazy is not.
Yes, of course. I agree.