Property and human dignity – the prophetic message of Pope Leo XIII

There is a temptation to play down those aspects of Rerum novarum which related to private property. This encyclical was really about labour, it is argued. Or it is suggested that the right to property is only a secondary right subject to the universal destination of goods and therefore not important. Still others say it was an encyclical that, in this respect, reflected its time – a period when the Church’s property was under attack from extreme socialists.

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Competition and co-operation – they are not alternatives

If you ask most people – perhaps Christians especially – what the opposite of competition is, they will suggest it is co-operation. So often you hear the phrase “co-operation not competition”. But co-operation is not the opposite of competition. Monopoly is the opposite of competition. I do wonder if any of the people who call for co-operation rather than competition have ever tried to run a businesses without co-operating with others: it would not be a success.

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The Real ‘Patria Grande’: Africa’s 55

As 2020 ended Pope Francis’s Fratelli tutti called with passion for the world to discover the energy to rediscover ‘lost dreams’. Building on his experience in Buenos Aires and his creation of a Pontifical Commission for Latin America to bring that region into the heart of the Roman Curia, he specifically suggested that a symbol of such a dream was a ‘patria grande’. The idea of ‘patria grande’, of course, has a long history in the Americas: part rallying cry of Simon Bolivar, part lament at the division of what had been ‘Spanish America’ and part radical social and economic project. Like many visions at scale it is fed by multiple sources.

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Catholic teaching on usury and interest – continuity amidst change

Carlo Crivelli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Finance and banking are institutions heavily associated in most people’s minds with modernity and the development of modern economies. While there is a certain truth to that, in the sense that the scale and reach of such institutions accelerated in the nineteenth century, it disguises the fact that most of the tools, methods and institutions associated with modern finance attained their mature form in the Catholic world of mediaeval Europe.

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Economists can join the brotherhood too

Fratelli Tutti

In his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis was reported to be highly critical of market economics and there was a strong press response on this issue. This post argues that there is much more to the encyclical than the short sections on economics. At the same time, there is much more to the arguments for market economies than the encyclical gave credit for. This post was first published in The Tablet and is reproduced with kind permission.

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Taking and returning liberties

AJP Taylor wrote in his Oxford History of England:

Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state beyond the post office and the policeman…He could travel abroad or leave his country forever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter a foreigner could spend his life in the country without permit and without informing the police…All this was changed by the impact of the Great War…The state established a hold over its citizens which though relaxed in peace time, was never to be removed and which the Second World War was again to increase. The history of the English people and the English State merged for the first time.

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Tax transparency: some moral and economic considerations

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Price transparency and visibility are vital components of consumer protection in fair markets: laws and regulations protect consumers’ rights by requiring businesses to ensure their prices are visible and transparent. This is especially important when people purchase complex financial products. However, when it comes to tax, the term ‘tax transparency’ has come to signify exclusively the transparency of taxpayers’ financial affairs (referring to initiatives such as cross–national exchange of tax–related information by tax authorities), while transparency of the tax burden borne by individuals themselves receives little attention. Most people are not aware of the total amount of tax they pay and studies show that they under-estimate the amount of tax they pay substantially.

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Subsidiarity post-covid

Subsidiarity post-covid

“[I]t is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.” (Quadragesimo anno, 79).

In the current crisis, there is much talk of “policy reset”. Some of that talk seems strange. We have the most centralised health service in the Western world and it has not obviously performed better than healthcare services in other countries. The NHS has also moved infected people out of hospitals and into care homes with disastrous consequences. Despite that, reliable sources in the UK government seem to be suggesting that, following the crisis, there will be a move to centralise political control of the NHS further and also that the NHS will take control of social care from local authorities.

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