One of the interesting aspects of the Vatican since Vatican II is the overall poor job that the Popes have done in leading the Catholic Church, with the partial exception of John Paul II, and, to a lesser extent, Pope Benedict, and the attention that the Vatican has paid to matters in which clerics have no special competence. No where is this more the case that in the area of economics, where Catholics who know something about the dismal science have to blush with shame at most of the droppings from the Vatican on that subject.
These musings usually read as if they were parodies written by someone imitating Saint Thomas More writing about Utopia: texts to belabor current conditions without containing a clue as to how realistic change for the better could possibly be initiated. They usually contain genie-like invocations of the power of the State to control the economy, seemingly oblivious to the disasters such control has often led to throughout history and particularly during the last century. They are usually written in the most cloying, unctuous language frequently deploying BOMFOG at length. The late Nelson Rockefeller used to work into many of his speeches that his chief goal was “The Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God!” To people who know much about his political career, that invocation could be either considered to be a sick joke or a dark comedy. His aides used to refer to these statements as BOMFOG. The more high-falutin’ the language, the closer you need to read any concrete proposals embedded within. Cardinal Turkson, the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and what George Orwell could have done with that title, is a prominent purveyor of this type of humbug:
The event, titled “The Economy according to Pope Francis,” was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the embassies of Germany, the Netherlands and Austria to the Holy See. In his speech, Cardinal Turkson highlighted the pope’s warnings on the “liquid economy,” or an economy judged by the ease with which assets can be converted into cash, and therefore focusing more on finance than on labor and the production of goods. This type of economy, he said, is one that “refuses to put the human being at the centre of economic life.”
“For Pope Francis, a liquid economy goes hand-in-hand with a throwaway culture. This is the ultimate economy of exclusion,” Cardinal Turkson said. The pope’s call for the world to move from a liquid economy to a social economy, one that “invests in persons by creating jobs and providing training,” is a solution that shifts the priority “from economic growth and financial health to human flourishing and the ability to live well,” he said.
To achieve this, the cardinal continued, the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good highlighted in Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” can be applied to the modern market economy. Also citing Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Cardinal Turkson explained that solidarity can lead to the “creation of a new mindset” that places “priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.”
These principles, he added, also can be applied to global problems “that do not respect national boundaries” and therefore call for a unified response.
“Climate change is an obvious example,” he said. “The same is true for other environmental problems, including the loss of biodiversity, the strain on water supplies, and pollution of the air, the soil, the water.”
Global issues such as unemployment, inequality and environmental degradation can be remedied by moving toward a social market economy, Cardinal Turkson said. However, global and business leaders also must come to terms with the causes of such problems.
While technological advances have improved efficiency, he said, they also have created problems with employment, which is “an essential source of human dignity.” “More and more people are being discarded as machines take up their tasks. And as technology gets more and more advanced, what will a ‘robot economy’ mean for workers?” the cardinal asked. In order to serve the common good, Cardinal Turkson said, businesses must “put the creation of employment ahead of a fixation of profits.”
Government policies that provide tax cuts to the wealthy while “fraying social safety nets and weakening unions,” he said, also have contributed to a growing inequality that has given the wealthy “too much influence over policy.”
Societies that become too unequal, he added, “lose a sense of shared purpose necessary for deliberating on the common good.”
A new social economy, he said, must be respectful of nature instead of relying on “old-school industrialisation,” making the world dependent on oil, coal and gas. Extreme pollution, climate change and the destruction of vital ecosystems caused by such industrialisation will continue to push people into extreme poverty “if we fail to act,” he said.
Everyone must “play their part” in ensuring an economy that is sustainable, equal and respectful of human dignity, he said. “Let’s not fall into the trap of assuming that the state alone is responsible for the common good while ‘the business of business is business.'”
Go here to read the rest. This isn’t the first foray of Cardinal Turkson into the economics of Utopia. Go here to read an earlier effort. PopeWatch guesses that if the powers that be at the Vatican were doing a good job at leading the Church, he might be inclined to give them more slack in regard to matters in which they manifestly are bone ignorant. However, when they are doing an obviously lousy job guiding the Church, what little patience for nonsense PopeWatch has goes right out the window. It might be amusing, though, to observe the consequences of the adoption of such congealed folly as an actual global economic policy, if it could be observed from a safe distance, say another star system.