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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Access Points And Ends

Even if we grant that the pope may have been speaking inexpertly and hastily in paragraph 54 of his recent letter, as some have suggested, (and elsewhere) charity suggests a more favorable view. I, for one, do not believe in unfettered capitalism; I don't know anyone who does. We don't live in a country that has it, and I can't think of anywhere in the First World that does. Elsewhere, there may be nations with inadequate safeties for the poor, or insufficient rules for the conduct of business. But this is a key point: if we take the pope at his word(s), he is attacking a position that is not under serious consideration (even theoretically) by the leaders of wealthy nations.
Also, we are in agreement that extremes of income distribution are not only undesirable, but unjust, especially so long as profound poverty remains a reality. So the free market advocate can in fact convincingly argue that the continued persistence of such extremes points to a market that is not free. Whatever we term it, the voluntary, mutually beneficial exchange of goods or services can only exist within a society ordered to the common good, which is the sum of all the conditions necessary for each person to reach the end for which they were made. It seems to me, then, that the main task of those who govern is to protect the access-points to the system of free exchange, and to ensure that the results of those exchanges is not contrary in itself to the common good.
It also seems to me that the architects of the innumerable assistance programs and entitlements have not cared about whether those programs function as intended, or what adverse impacts it would have on other economic arrangements; the politics of concern is the politics of self-congratulation.

I do not doubt the right and duty of the civil authority to intervene for the common good; I question both the means and the ends for which they have done so. I do not doubt the goodness and justice of government as such; I question the ongoing relevance of government as constituted and empowered, to actually be an instrument of the common good.

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