Skip to main content


Christian Judgment on Neo-liberalism

11/12/2006 - 2:15 PM PST

Advertisment

Address by Rodney Moss

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, NOV. 12, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the text of an address given by professor Rodney Moss, of St. Augustine College, at a theologians videoconference. The Oct. 31 videoconference was organized by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

* * *

Economics: Love of God, Production and Free Market
Christian Judgment on Neo-liberalism
By Rodney Moss

Neo-classical or neo-liberal economics upon which much free-market business practice is based differs rather radically from Catholic social thought.

Neo-liberal economics assumes that its economic theory is value-neutral and scientific in its analysis of concepts such as "production," "consumption," "money," "wealth," "capital" and "scarce" resources. Bannock, Baxter and Davis suggest that economics may be defined as "The study of production, distribution and consumption of wealth in human society."[1] Here the key ingredients in human economic activity would be individualism, hedonism and market competition. The human person is seen to be motivated by self-interest and wishes to maximize pleasure and avoid pain. There is no concern with the "common good."

Ideally the free market should, as Adam Smith suggested, work for the benefit of all members of society. Thus if each person follows their own self-interest in spite of not aiming to contribute to others, nevertheless, society as a whole will benefit. Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations"[2] calls this outcome "the invisible hand."

In this neo-liberal model, then, the common good is best served by the operation of the free-market system involving minimal government interference. Economic problems are best solved by promoting economic growth "generated by each individual's pursuit of self-interest in a free market regulated by the forces of market competition."[3] Development is seen in this model only in economic terms and is "economic centered," not "human centered."[4]

In contrast, then, what is the view of Catholic social thought on economics?

First, Catholic social thought does not view economics as concerned only with facts or being value-free/neutral as do the neo-classical/neo-liberal economists. Importantly, economic systems are seen as based on some set of values, whether that system be capitalist, socialist, Marxist or some other economic variant.

The importance of the dignity of the human person is central to Catholic social thought and to its view of economics and the economy. Economic choices, production and consumption involve human beings. Economics does not exist for its own sake: "The purpose of economics is the service of men, their material needs and those of their moral, spiritual and religious life. Economic activity is to be carried out according to its own method and laws but within the limits of morality."[5]

Economics and economic systems and activity cannot then be neutral or value-free, for they impact on human life and are also a product of human thought, creativity, choices and decisions. Like any other area of knowledge, economics has its particular laws and methods and a degree of autonomy but human beings are to have a priority and primary importance. In Catholic social thought economics is to be seen in the context of its contribution to the service of the human person as a whole being -- physical, spiritual, intellectual, moral and spiritual.

Secondly, in Catholic social thought, the scientific or qualitative aspects of economics are secondary to the human element. Therefore "[e]ven in social and economic life the dignity of the human person and the integrity of his vocation, along with the good of society as a whole, are to be recognized and furthered. Man is the author, the center and the end of all social and economic life."[6]

In other words, economics and economic life is to be at the service of human beings and not vice versa: "The ultimate and basic purpose of economic production does not consist merely in the increase of goods produced, nor in profit nor prestige; it is directed to the service of man, that is, in his totality, taking into account his material needs and the requirements of his intellectual, moral, spiritual, and religious life ..."[7]

Because the human person is viewed as a whole being -- physical, spiritual, intellectual, moral and spiritual -- he/she is not viewed as an "economic being," nor as an individualistic, purely rational being whose goal is material pleasure. Our goal is transcendent unity with God. "The highest reason for human dignity is man's vocation to communion with God."[8]

Thirdly, Catholic social thought is not based on the belief that individual self-interest should be pursued and that somehow this will contribute to the good of society. This was the assumption of Adam Smith. However, Wilber notes that "Scholarly ...

1 | 2  Next Page

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:1-6
I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you therefore to lead a life ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
[Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all it ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:54-59
He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud looming up ... Read More

Saint of the Day

October 24 Saint of the Day

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was born in Salient in ... Read More