Michael R. Strain: Pope Francis Should Praise Free Markets More Often

Poverty is a serious obstacle to human potential. Free enterprise can help fight it.

Michael R. Strainimrs.php writes: Washington, D.C., where I live and work, is abuzz with talk of Pope Francis’s upcoming visit, commencing Tuesday. But what matters much more for the universal church will take place seven days after the pope departs the United States for the Vatican, when the Synod of Bishops on the Family begins.

Free enterprise dramatically reduces extreme poverty. In 1970, over one-quarter of the world lived on less than one dollar per day. By 2006, about one in 20 people lived in extreme poverty — an 80 percent reduction. We have the adoption of free markets across the developing world to thank for this massive reduction. That it happened in less than four decades is all the more impressive.

Due to a recent move by the pope, the upcoming synod may include a discussion of broader issues than did last year’s. I sure hope so. Hot-button issues related to divorce and homosexuality are obviously important and need to be discussed, but so do many other issues. The synod bishops and critics of the Church alike should spend more time on those issues. And I hope one such issue will be the relationship between economics and the family, the topic of a great panel I sat on at Georgetown University earlier this month. The Church’s understanding of this relationship — or, more accurately, this Catholic’s understanding of the Church’s understanding — may be instructive and edifying to our national conversation.

Crumbling Havana

“Poverty is obviously a serious obstacle to the flourishing life – it is hard to reach your full potential if you don’t have enough to eat, and it is hard to meet your obligations to your family, as well. By reducing poverty in the developing world, free markets help to strengthen families.”

We must begin with the human person — that is always the starting point. And we must begin with the understanding that each of us is called to love God and to love others. I do not refer here to sentimentality, but rather to a deep, abiding commitment, rooted in duty — to live for others, our families not the least. This is the central human calling, and the benchmark against which to judge the efficacy of social and economic systems.

CubaCars

“If I’m reading him correctly, the Holy Father’s view is a shame, because dramatically rolling back free markets would weaken the greatest anti-poverty tool in human history. It would, of course, extract a large toll from families.”

The free enterprise system, then, is good insofar as it enables individuals to fulfill this central human vocation. It does this quite well.

First, free enterprise dramatically reduces extreme poverty. In 1970, over one-quarter of the world lived on less than one dollar per day. By 2006, about one in 20 people lived in extreme poverty — an 80 percent reduction. We have the adoption of free markets across the developing world to thank for this massive reduction. That it happened in less than four decades is all the more impressive.

0111_cuba21

Poverty is obviously a serious obstacle to the flourishing life – it is hard to reach your full potential if you don’t have enough to eat, and it is hard to meet your obligations to your family, as well. By reducing poverty in the developing world, free markets help to strengthen families.

[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]

The effect of liberalizing markets on extreme poverty and the good this does for families is a fact I wish the Holy Father discussed more often, and that I hope will be part of the upcoming synod. Reading His Holiness’s encyclical on the environment, I was left with the impression that the pope’s primary socio-environmental concern is not pollution per se, but rather mankind’s ability to generate pollution — an ability which is the consequence of industrialization and market economies. If I’m reading him correctly, the Holy Father’s view is a shame, because dramatically rolling back free markets would weaken the greatest anti-poverty tool in human history. It would, of course, extract a large toll from families. Hopefully the Holy Father sees that markets generate solutions to intractable problems, in addition to causing problems of their own.

Free markets also enable flourishing lives through meaningful work. Pope John Paul II writes in Laborem Exercens that man is “called to work.” “Man is the image of God,” writes Saint John Paul, “partly through the mandate received from his Creator to subdue, to dominate, the earth. In carrying out this mandate, man, every human being, reflects the very action of the Creator of the universe.” In our ordinary tasks — in our day jobs — we are, according to the Church, “unfolding the Creator’s work.”

The free enterprise system allows…(read more)

Source: The Washington Post



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