Saturday, July 23, 2011

50 years ago: Pope John XXIII poses as an economist

On July 14, 1961, the English translation of a 25,000-word encyclical originally issued in Italian on May 15 by Pope John XXIII (heretofore regarded as a religious leader, but now coming out as an economist) titled Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) was published, calling on productive nations to aid backward nations without attaching political strings which would create "a new form of colonialism." The pope noted "the immeasurably sorrowful spectacle of vast numbers of workers in many lands and entire continents who are paid wages which condemn them and their families to subhuman conditions of life," and said that wages must "be determined according to justice and equity." He also restated the Roman Catholic opposition to birth control. Then as now, there were some (including this blogger) who mourned the passing of the old form of colonialism.

On taxation the pope wrote: "The fundamental principle in a system of taxation based on justice and equity is that burdens be proportioned to the capacity of people to contribute." He advocated social and actions, including price protection, to improve farm conditions and halt the exodus from agriculture.

Lest anyone suspect that the pope was about to give away any of the Roman Catholic Church's land or wealth, John XXIII defended the ownership of private property as "a natural right which the state cannot suppress," and said, "History and experience testify that in those political regimes which do not recognize the rights of private ownership of goods, the fundamental manifestations of freedom are suppressed or stifled."

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