Acton Institute Powerblog

An encyclical on China and the US?

Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent speech on capitalism and the common good, taking its point of departure in Rerum Novarum, has gotten a good bit of coverage. Yesterday he delivered remarks at the National Defense University and opened with these words:

This morning I am honored to speak here at the National Defense University to discuss the defining geopolitical relationship of this century: the one between the United States and China.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a papal encyclical on this topic.

No doubt he meant that at least in part as tongue-in-cheek.

But that remark got me to thinking; if Rerum Novarum remains relevant for domestic economic policy in the United States (and I think it does), then what might be the best encyclical to go to for insights into China and the US today?

I’d like to hear suggestions for Sen. Rubio in the comments.

For my part, first I thought perhaps Pacem et Terris. Then, I considered Populorum Progressio.

But after a bit more reflection, I think I have my recommendation for Sen. Rubio: Centesimus Annus, the centennial successor to Rerum Novarum. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical is in many ways directly relevant to contemporary considerations concerning China and the US. It has to do with capitalism and socialism, the Cold War, materialism, secularism, and religious faith in the modern world.

So that’s my recommendation…are there other good ones to consider?

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.