Acton Institute Powerblog

Skepticism of free markets grows within the Catholic Church

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At the top of the Catholic hierarchy, there has grown an abandonment of Capitalism. Criticism of free markets, and even profit in general, have caused others within the Catholic Church to become concerned.

As the debate grows, it’s helpful to clear up the main arguments of those who oppose and those who support Capitalism. In an article written for CatholicVote, Senior editor for the Acton Institute, Fr. Ben Johnson, did just that. Addressing the positions of First Things editor R. R. Reno and Acton Institute president Rev. Robert Sirico, Johnson lays out the main arguments on both sides of the debate.

“However, this issue is a matter of prudence guided by broad principles,” writes Johnson.  “To come to an informed position, each person must learn the laws of faith and economics.”

Read Johnson’s full piece, “Are Conservative Catholics Abandoning Capitalism?”.

Caroline Roberts Caroline Roberts has a B.A. in English from Grove City College and produces the Acton Institute’s podcast, Radio Free Acton.

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    Statement by H.E. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič
    Buenos Aires, 12 December 2017 at Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization

    Madam President,

    At the outset, my Delegation would like to thank the
    Government of Argentina for the effective organization of this timely
    conference and for its generous hospitality.

    Madam President,

    The world has gained an impressive, long record of
    momentum towards open trade. But now that momentum is slowing and
    affecting growth. Trade, in particular over the recent decades, has
    helped to lift a billion people out of poverty in developing
    countries and has improved the livelihood in many developed
    countries. An increasing number of developing and transition
    economies have managed to integrate into the world economy. This has
    resulted in an unprecedented expansion in international trade. Over
    the years, the world has witnessed, among other positive
    developments, a decline in global extreme poverty. These, however,
    have not been equally shared. The benefits of globalization, combined
    with a general improvement in macroeconomic management, have helped
    the graduation of some Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and the
    integration of many developing countries, into the global economy.

    The world is still facing, however, an unequal global
    distribution of resources and opportunities; today, we are better
    positioned to take concrete actions that can address inequality
    between and among countries and peoples. In 2015, world leaders
    agreed on how to situate better the international community to
    address some of the most pressing global challenges. Adhering to
    principles such as equity, inclusiveness, common but differentiated
    responsibility, special and differential treatment, less than full
    reciprocity and the right to development, is crucial to strengthening
    the role of developing countries in the global economy. Our action in
    a multilateral trade normative system should contribute toward the
    realization of common aspirations to achieve prosperity, dignity and
    a better planet for all. Balanced rules and trade liberalization are
    key, especially in securing the World Trade Organization’s (WTO)
    pre-eminent role in global trade and ensuring equitable benefits to
    all its members, especially the LDCs. The Nairobi Decision, the Hong
    Kong Ministerial Decision on Duty Free Quota Free market access for
    LDCs and Decision on the LDC services waiver stand before us as
    examples of the developmental objectives achieved over the last
    years.

    Looking at the current situation, the Holy See
    considers of particular importance the acknowledgment that trade can
    cause dislocation and uncertainty in some sectors and communities and
    that the benefits of trade have failed to reach as many people as
    they should. Our common action working here in Buenos Aires, as done
    in the previous two Ministerial Conferences, should not weaken the
    multilateral trade system, but making it work better. If we continue
    to look merely at the particular interest by shaping a closed
    economy, then, in the medium term, the economic growth could decline
    and the poorest would be hit the hardest. As already experienced,
    this would likely increase tensions between nations. A spirit of
    solidarity should guide our actions in these days to redouble our
    efforts to make trade truly inclusive and not to continue to defend
    privileged positions in international trade.

    A new logic is progressively emerging.

    The end of the bipolar dimension in world relations
    and the emergence of new actors in the economic and political arena
    has profoundly changed the scenario that we face. This more
    fragmented and unpredictable international landscape should favor
    dialogue and cooperation among countries, particularly within
    multilateral institutions. Meanwhile, a new logic has progressively
    emerged, a logic based on fragmented and partial agreements based
    more on an individualistic approach rather than an inclusive one.

    The trade agenda greatly reflects this new approach
    with the stalemate in multilateral negotiations and the growing
    number of Regional and Preferential Trade Agreements.

    The Holy See wishes to warn about the dangers
    associated with the marginalization of multilateralism. Despite its
    limitations and complexity, the multilateral framework gives
    pluralism a universal dimension and facilitates an inclusive
    dialogue. More importantly, the multilateral approach provides an
    enhanced and safer framework within which weaker and smaller
    countries may be better safeguarded than in a regional or bilateral
    setting, where an asymmetric situation inevitably tends to favor
    large and strong economies.

    We should not forget that the main goal of
    multilateral institutions is to seek the common good by respecting
    the dignity of every single person. Starting from the original
    aspiration for truth, love, and justice, shared by every man and
    woman, every individual and country should be given the opportunity
    to give its contribution to the common goal; the multilateral
    institutions must provide the setting wherein such a constructive
    dialogue is facilitated.

    Agriculture

    Despite the generally fast growth of agricultural
    trade, most of the food consumed in many countries is produced
    domestically; net imports are within the range of 0-20 percent of the
    domestic food supply in many instances1. With more than 800 million
    hungry and undernourished people in the world, the problem of
    ensuring food security remains an enduring challenge, especially for
    developing countries. Many of them face daunting challenges,
    including a stagnant farm sector, inadequate domestic food stocks,
    volatility in food prices in international markets and low food
    purchasing power among the poor and needy. Two years ago, the UN
    General Assembly, through the adoption of SDG 2, called for action on
    trade restrictions and distortions in agriculture as one means to
    achieving the goal of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030. The
    2030 Agenda acknowledges that progress towards many other SDGs will
    depend on the extent to which food insecurity and malnutrition are
    effectively reduced and sustainable agriculture is promoted.
    Conversely, progress towards SDG 2 will depend on advancement
    made toward several other goals.

    The Holy See considers it critically important to
    address the problem of food insecurity with due regard to a long-term
    perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it
    and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries.
    Small-scale agriculture, as the mainstay of the rural economy, must
    certainly play a key role in growth. Boosting the productivity of
    small-scale agriculture is necessary to allow increased staple food
    production for household consumption and for the market when
    addressing challenges to improving infrastructure. Rural areas play a
    crucial role in the economic growth of LDCs. Thus, transforming rural
    economies by boosting agricultural productivity and by developing
    viable non-farm activities, while maximizing synergies between the
    two through greater access to technology and finance, is crucial for
    poverty eradication, job creation and sustainable development. The
    rural setting in itself does not provide the necessary opportunities
    for a sensible improvement of their working and living situations.
    “Their attempts to move to other, more diversified, means of
    production prove fruitless because of the difficulty of linkage with
    regional and global markets, or because the infrastructure for sales
    and transport is geared to larger businesses. Civil authorities have
    the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of
    small producers and differentiated production.”2

    Women

    It is clear that trade plays a central role in
    economic development. The positive effect of trade, moreover, can be
    magnified by policies that favor the inclusion of all members of
    society in economic development. Policies aimed at women empowerment
    in the process of development may play a key role on this regard.

    The Holy See has always stressed the importance of
    the contribution of women to society. Women are central not only in
    the development of the family but also for the development of the
    entire economic system. As Pope Francis recently stated: “The
    covenant between man and woman is called to be a guiding force for
    society as a whole. We are invited to be responsible for the world,
    in the realms of culture and politics, in the world of work and
    economic life, as well as in the Church. This is not merely a
    matter of equal opportunities or mutual appreciation. It
    involves the way men and women understand the very meaning of life
    and human progress.”3 Plenty of studies confirm that a higher
    participation rate of women is associated with stronger economic
    growth and with more equitable societies.

    Agriculture is at the center of the 2030 Agenda, in
    this respect rural women play an essential role in ensuring household
    food security and nutrition, including through the preservation of
    biodiversity and plant genetic resources. Nevertheless, women are all
    too often discriminated and marginalized by societies in ways that
    offend their dignity. Women are overrepresented among working
    poor, in informal employment and also account for most of unpaid
    work.

    Perhaps the worst type of discrimination occurs in
    education where, in several countries, girls are prevented from
    attending schools, which exacerbates the vicious circle of poverty,
    exclusion and marginalization. Ensuring to all girls and women
    equitable access to education is not only a great opportunity for
    putting to good use their full talent, but it is also a crucial
    factor affecting the choices of future generations. Better educated
    women understand the full benefit of education and are more likely to
    improve the schooling of their own children, thus greatly
    contributing to the advancement of society. The Holy See strongly
    encourages the promotion of the female workforce through training and
    skills development and investing in time-saving, labor-saving
    technologies that respond to women’s needs.

    E-commerce

    The digital revolution has created development
    opportunities that were once impossible. The explosive growth of
    Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the digital
    economy are transforming economies at an unprecedented pace. The
    mobile revolution, expanded internet access and new online platforms,
    force enterprises to adapt their business practices. Technology has
    reshaped global value chains and trade patterns. It democratizes
    opportunities by enabling consumers and producers to buy and sell
    what they want, to and from whomever they want, making trade more
    inclusive. It also gives greater freedom of choice to make
    transactions at lower costs, making trade much more competitive. The
    governance of e-commerce must, therefore, guarantee the protection of
    consumers and producers, through transparent rules and norms, so as
    to render trade more fair and equitable. Within this spectrum, our
    common interest is to shape together in the WTO a global,
    multilateral and sustainable regulation that governs e-commerce and
    facilitates the inclusion of the most vulnerable people into the
    digital market. In this regard, it will be fundamental to increase
    affordable ICT connectivity in the developing world and to bolster
    the human capital, the physical infrastructure and the policy
    framework, that underpins ICT use.

    Fisheries

    Within the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, SDG 14 is
    exclusively dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of
    oceans, seas, and marine resources. Millions of people around the
    world rely on fisheries and aquaculture for income and livelihood.
    The most recent estimates indicate that 56.6 million people are
    engaged in the primary sector of capture fisheries and aquaculture.4
    Around 350 million jobs are directly or indirectly created by the
    oceans economy. A large population of developing countries, LDCs,
    coastal economies and small island nations directly depend on
    fisheries. Therefore, the issue of subsidies is particularly
    sensitive for small and poor nations. This creates a new momentum at
    the multilateral level to address unsustainable practices in the
    fisheries sector, encompassing a specific target (SDG 14.6) to
    prohibit by 2020 those fisheries subsidies that lead to overcapacity
    and overfishing, to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal,
    unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to refrain from adopting
    such subsidies.

    Regulating fisheries subsidies cannot be seen as a
    stand-alone issue. As is known, fisheries subsidies are projected to
    be as high as $35 billion worldwide, of which about $20 billion are
    categorized as capacity-enhancing and they directly contribute to
    overfishing. It is vital to adopt a holistic approach for the
    sector’s development that also addresses market access (tariffs and
    non-tariff measures) and capacity constraints in implementing
    sustainable fisheries-related measures. Failure to address these
    subsidies will jeopardize the livelihoods of coastal populations,
    particularly in countries and communities most dependent upon fish
    production.

    Acknowledging the great obstacles that negotiations
    are facing, the Holy See supports the adoption of a pragmatic
    approach which allows the consolidation made so far. The longer we
    wait to conclude the current agreement, the fewer will be the
    benefits of the progress achieved, which, in some areas, are truly
    significant. Inaction would not only jeopardize all the efforts made
    so far but, most importantly, it would have a negative effect on the
    poorest countries which would be prevented from reaping the benefits
    of trade liberalization. The finalization of the current agreement
    would, moreover, allow countries and the WTO itself to deal more
    effectively on new important issues that have recently emerged.

    In conclusion, trade is unbalanced and unjust when it
    complements the landscape of social exclusion and inequality; when it
    transgresses somebody’s dignity anywhere in the world; when it
    neglects the common good of the whole of humanity. As Pope Francis
    has repeatedly stated that “it is becoming increasingly difficult
    to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm
    local politics with difficulties to resolve. If we really want to
    achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of
    history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard
    for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being
    of all countries, not just of a few”.5

    All the world’s eyes will be on our deliberations
    during these days. If we fail to reiterate our commitment to
    multilateralism, development and inclusiveness, our silence will send
    a message to the world which will be louder than words. The effects
    of a no decision will have repercussions on the credibility of the
    organization for years to come. Let me close, Madam President, by
    assuring this Conference of the Holy See’s commitment to
    strengthening multilateralism and constructively engaging in the
    discussions on all areas of the work of the WTO.

    Thank you, Madam President.

    +++

    • H.E. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič demonstrates a gross ignorance of reality, economics, especially developmental econ, and economic history. The main problem of poor countries is envy. See Schoeck’s “Envy: a Theory of Social Behavior.” Envy causes people to create institutions that stifle development. Nothing but Christianity will help countries so enslaved by envy. Besides, trade does not cause development; it is a consequence of development. For example, China and India did not begin to trade internationally until slightly freer markets produced something to trade with.