“Vaticanomics” results in deadly sins

Once more, Pope Veritas I is compelled to speak

Our Illustrious Senior Editor DLH recently posted a commentary in part about Pope Francis’  issuance of , Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones”, as said and praised by the Catholic left to be  “a new magisterial” (authoritative teaching) document about “economic and financial issues”  . . .   it is a synthesis of the teachings of the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, on this topic. It is “offered to all men and women of good will” (not just Catholics, . . .”  

This writer does not know the position of the Vatican  document in the pecking order of their emissions.  Out of curiosity we will try to find out but we note Pope Francis approved its circulation but did not sign it per se.  It is written in English, sort of,  but not literate economics as the critics below will point out. 

A synthesis of this Pope’s and his surroundlings economic ignorance it may be,  but in spite of the left’s enthusiasm it is not a synthesis of other Pope’s economic encyclicals issued as such. They, particularly Rerum Novarum,* the 1891 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII,  in our humble estimation was far more cognizant of the human condition and hunger for power contained in socialist presumptions, imbued in this latest from the shop of Pope Francis.

The following article appeared in LewRockwell.com a publication described as “anarchic capitalist” by its founder although not every contributor is thoroughly of that bent. As an intermittent reader we are not. Indeed their “anti-war” letterhead stance seems silly (who isn’t).  If it is strictly isolationist then it is not seriously protective of free markets or freedoms in general. Its inclusion of “anti-state” seems silly as well. In such case the homage to F A Hayek often invoked on the site is out of place as his writings were not “anti-state”.  But maybe there is an insider nuance in the parlance we are missing. That said, contributor there,  Thomas DiLorenzo has a trenchant critique of the Vatican document which we appreciate, although differing with him on some aspects.

Vaticanomics: Serving the “God” of the State        (excerpts)

The Vatican recently released a report on “the present economic-financial system” of the world that is typical of all pronouncements about economics from the Catholic Church bureaucracy:  It is astoundingly ignorant of even elementary economic concepts, and is written in the language of a C-/D+ high school writing assignment.  There is confusion over the definition of very simple economic concepts like profit and GDP.   There are 49 footnotes, but none of them makes reference to any economic literature.  They are mostly speeches by Catholic clergy who don’t seem to have much knowledge at all of the subject they are pontificating about.

Entitled “Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones”, the report expresses alarm about “the growing influence of financial markets on the material well-being of most of humankind” and urges more government intervention, more regulation, more politics, more welfarism, more central planning, more taxes, and less freedom.  As I said, it is typical of all such pronouncements about “Catholic social teaching” in the area of economics.

The first assumption the report makes is that there are no ethical guidelines in markets.  The report then declares that the economy “needs ethics in order to function correctly.”  And the kind of ethics needs to be “people-centred (sic),” says the Vatican.  Well, yah.  Is there any other kind of ethics other than human-centered?  Robot-centered??  Does no one in the business world have any ethical guidelines, as the Vatican asserts?

There are almost too many straw-man arguments in the Vatican report to count.  One of the first ones is the contention that in “our contemporary age” the “human person” is understood “individualistically,” which is assumed to be an immoral thing.  Worse yet, he is viewed “predominantly as a consumer, whose “profit” consists only in “the optimization of his or her income.” There may be a few people who judge others according to the size of their bank accounts, but to claim that this is a pervasive characteristic of “our contemporary age” is absurd.  Even mainstream economics models consumers as “utility” maximizers, not income maximizers.

One would think the Catholic Church would support the classical liberal philosophy of individualism, defined by F.A. Hayek in The Road to Serfdom as simply respect for the individual – all individuals – and rejection of the notion that individuals should become pawns or slaves of government authorities.  But no, as a collection of hardened collectivists and Marxist ideologues the Vatican denounces individualism.

The Vatican’s view of politics and politicians is that of a naïve five-year-old child who still believes in Santa Claus.  “Those entrusted with political authority” have as their vocation “servants of the common good” proclaims the Vatican.  Because of this, says the Vatican, society needs to be much more politicized than it already is:  “These factors make all the more imperative a renewed alliance between economic and political agents . . .”  This will serve “the common good,” a phrase that seems to appear dozens of times in this short report.  “Alliances” between “economic and political agents” is another word for crony capitalism, one of the great evils of contemporary society because it is a perversion of real, free-market capitalism.  The Vatican wants more of this.

The Official Vatican Position on the nature of markets is that “they can be compared to a giant organism through whose veins, like life-giving sap, flow huge amounts of money.”  Well, no, they cannot be characterized in such a ludicrous manner.  Money doesn’t grow on trees, the Vatican will be shocked to learn.  Profits are earned by successful entrepreneurs who combine land, labor, capital, technology, and knowledge of all kinds to produce products and services that fellow citizens value more than the value of all the resources that are used to create the products and services.  Economic value (and jobs, incomes, and poverty reduction) is constantly being created by the people the Vatican Marxists denounce as morally illegitimate.  It doesn’t just appear out of nowhere and “flow” randomly and “ungoverned” through some “giant organism.”   . . .

No mention at all is made of the Fed or any other central bank in the Vatican’s references to the “Great Recession” of 2008, only “immoral behavior of agents in the financial world.”  But in order for this “immoral behavior” to have been the cause of the recession one of two things has to be true:  Either 1) no such behavior existed prior to 2008; or 2) it did exist, but suddenly exploded and expanded exponentially.  Neither is a possibility to any sane mind.

There was no “deregulation” of financial markets in the early 2000s, as some dishonest commentators have said.  The Fed continued to enforce hundreds of regulations, as did dozens of other regulatory authorities.    . . .

This reality is simply ignored by the Vatican report which claims that “massive deregulation” caused “destructive collapse.”  The words “Federal Reserve” do not even appear in its lengthy discussion of the crash of 2008, nor is any other governmental entity named as having anything to do with it.  The claim is based on a false assumption, and the real interventionist causes of the recession are studiously ignored.   . . .

It is absurd and ridiculous that the Catholic Church hierarchy is so infatuated and obsessed with pursuing the further politicization of life since it is so contradicted by so many of the Church’s own teachings.  Take the Seven Deadly Sins of Catholicism, for example, first enunciated in the sixth century.  These are mortal sins that all break one or more of the Ten Commandments.  They are also defining characteristics of politics and politcians.    . . .

Envy poisons the heart of every crusader for “social justice” one of the Catholic Church’s favorite euphemisms for government-coerced income redistribution schemes.  Wrath is what one experiences if one criticize the ruling political class.  Such behavior is on display today in the form of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and all censorship and even physical attacks on conservative or libertarian college campus speakers, among other things.

Sloth has long been associated with government bureaucrats and bureaucracies, the image of which is one man working with a shovel on the side of the road and four more standing around doing nothing.  Or the welfare bum who makes no effort – ever – to find a job and become a part of working society.

Greed for power to dominate others and for the accumulation of wealth through political connections, not the market, is a hallmark of politics and politicians.  The Clintons, Kennedys, and Bushes would be the poster families for such sin.

Gluttony is frequently on display with image of “state dinners” at which millions of tax dollars are devoted to throwing parties for the ruling class, the palaces built to house our rulers, their lavish spending on international travel, wining and dining, and other perks of politics at the expense of the taxpayers.

Then there is the old “tradition” of (mostly but not exclusively) powerful men using their political power to commit the deadly sin of lust by harassing and sometimes assaulting the females around them.    . . .

By so relentlessly promoting the greater politicization of society the Vatican is promoting more sin, and more unethical behavior, while castigating the far more peaceful and ethical system of voluntary trade and exchange and the international division of labor with economically-illiterate and fact-less arguments.**

Here are other critiques of the latest from the Marxist outreach at the Vatican, albeit milder:

Sinful Derivatives Have Their Uses  by Matt Levine   at Bloomberg News

On finance, the Vatican can still do better     at Catholic World report

“Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones” outlines sound general principles, but also reflects the Church’s present struggle to comprehend modern finance.

And a somewhat related post as to Christianity and economic policy:

Jesus Never Charged a Co-pay: the Left is Using Religion to Sell Liberalism

R Mall

* See our Papal Pages at the top of the screen

** For the record, while we desire vibrant trade / low tariffs for its economic and peace benefit, we are more nationalistic, as in seeker of independence and economic security than libertarian theorists of the “international division of labor”.

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