Acton Institute Powerblog

‘Man is man’s greatest resource’

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Join the Discussion: recently asked me to comment on statements made by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank, about the economic effects of demographic decline in Western industrialized countries. Tedeschi told the Zenit news service that the “true cause” of the financial crisis is the low birth rate in these countries.

“Instead of stimulating families and society to again believe in the future and have children […] we have stopped having children and have created a situation, a negative economic context decrease,” Gotti Tedeschi observed. “And decrease means greater austerity.”

“With the decline in births,” he explained, “there are fewer young people that productively enter the working world. And there are many more elderly people that leave the system of production and become a cost for the collective.

“In practice the fixed costs of this economic and social structure increase. How dramatically they increase depends on how evidently unbalanced the structure of the population is and how much wealth it has. The fixed costs however increase: The costs of health increase and the social costs increase.”

This is from reporter Peter J. Smith’s article on

Sirico explained that the Vatican economist’s view opposes that of population control groups, who subscribe to a different vision of economic activity: what he called a Marxist or “redistributivist” paradigm: “If there is a pie and there are more people added to the pie then there is more poverty.” But the reality, Sirico says is that “the pie is dynamic.”

“Mr. Tedeschi is saying is that: no, the human person is himself creative. Human beings are not mouths that consume, but minds that produce,” he said. Sirico added that John Paul II hit on this very point in his social encyclical Centesimus Annus, when he wrote that “Man is man’s greatest resource.”

Because human beings are also creative producers, the excess of what they produce becomes the basis for trade in the economy, and the creation of wealth, said Sirico. Contrary to population controllers obsessed with overpopulation, he noted, it is incredibly population dense cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong that are incredibly rich, while sparsely populated areas of the globe such as Angola are comparatively very poor.

Read “President of the Vatican Bank: Zero Population Growth Responsible for World-wide Recession” on

Rev. Robert Sirico Rev. Robert A. Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America, following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990. As president of the Acton Institute, Fr. Sirico lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Fr. Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNN, ABC, the BBC, NPR, and CBS' 60 Minutes, among others. In April of 1999, Fr. Sirico was awarded an honorary doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in May of 2001, Universidad Francisco Marroquin awarded him an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences. He is a member of the prestigious Mont Pèlerin Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Philadelphia Society, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague. Father Sirico also served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. He is also currently serving on the pastoral staff of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fr. Sirico's pastoral ministry has included a chaplaincy to AIDS patients at the National Institute of Health and the recent founding of a new community, St. Philip Neri House in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Roger McKinney

    Excellent rebuttle to those who fear population growth! Thanks! For some reason, most people see wealth as something that exists outside of man, like land, that fixed and has to be distributed. They don’t see man as the producer of wealth, only as the consumer. Odd.

  • Patrick

    Reflecting on today’s Gospel reading; it has struck me as odd that in the Parable of the Prodigal Son at the Elder Son’s complaint was that the Father had never held a feast for him and his friends, rather than the Father giving away half of the inheritance. Apparently the Jesus and the Prodigal Family weren’t afflicted with the zero-sum thinking common to today’s socialists.

    I can’t wait to see what happens to the Environmentalists when the Gospel asks the questions: “What does it gain a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

  • Peter Monro

    Really? Man’s wealth is based not solely on his creativity but on the underlying natural resources, which are finite. The idea that ever more people generate ever more wealth is a fantasy that assumes the earth’s carrying capacity is infinite. Limiting our population is thus a spiritual value, whether based solely on self-restraint or helped by mechanical aids. Let’s get beyond fighting over the use of these aids. Our planetary house is literally burning up partly because of manmade church doctrines that counter basic spiritual values.

  • I suggest Mr. Monro read Julian Simon’s helpful study of the role the human mind plays in creativity, “The Ultimate Resource” rather than promoting the discredited humanophobia of Malthus and Margret Sanger expressed in this comment. It is not some kind of “manmade church doctrine” that is at root here, but the Natural Law itself – which Church doctrine merely attempts to outline and amplify.