Law, regulation and economic life – from “how much regulation?” to “who regulates?”

Catholic social teaching has a lot to say about the basic systems of law that should underlie a flourishing business economy. In recent years, Catholic social teaching has also commented on regulation. Although a distinction between law and regulation is not made explicitly in Catholic social teaching, such a distinction is helpful. It would help clear up confusion between the role of government in regulating economic life (where prudential judgement might be applied both in relation to who regulates and how much) and the role of government in providing the basic framework of governance.

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Can we eat, drink and be merry this Christmas?

A quick google search will reveal that Pope Francis warns us almost every year about the commercialisation of Christmas. This year, for example, he was quoted as saying: “The Christmas tree and Nativity crèche should evoke the joy and the peace of God’s love and not the selfish indulgence of consumerism and indifference”. Of course, this message is not unique to Pope Francis: almost every Christian minister warns of this danger.

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Economics and purposeful human action

Economics involves the study of purposeful human action. When economists write about “methodological individualism” as being at the basis of their subject, some Christians have a tendency to think that this is problematic: after all, we are called to live in society. However, methodological individualism simply means that it is only the individual that can act purposefully. We should not think of the economy as an abstraction. Economic decisions, outcomes and even complex social structures ultimately arise from the decisions of individuals. If there is dire poverty, oppression and corruption in a country, this does not happen without sinful actions by individuals in the economic sphere. Even if structures of sin exist, whereby the culture is so warped that we find it almost impossible to resist the temptation to sin ourselves (for example, if we simply cannot run our small business without paying a bribe), as St. John Paul II reminded us, such structures of sin always derive from the actions of individuals. That is true even if those actions were historical and interact with the actions of many others.

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Is there a right to die? Assisted suicide, assisted dying and changing the law

‘To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it’. These words from G.K. Chesterton’s A Short History of England are a salutary reminder to those who claim certain rights. And now, not for the first time, a new right has been proposed: the right to die. Over the last few years a number of bills advocating for a change in the law to allow for assisted dying or a right to die have been brought before Parliament. All have so far failed. Yet, the assisted suicide campaign continues.

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The meaning of the common good and social justice

What is the common good? The definition that is used in almost all discussion in Catholic circles in the English-speaking world is taken from paragraph 26 of Gaudium et spes which was a document arising from the Second Vatican Council. The common good was defined as “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment”. This is also the definition that is used in the English language translation of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

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