Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Social Justice of the Free Market

Msgr. Charles Pope writes on social justice,

We need to uphold the concept of private property which is an efficient way to deploy the goods of this earth and link them to to an enlightened self-interest. But we cannot allow private property to overrule the more basic truth that everything belongs to God and it is his will that his property benefit all. Hence, whatever I have I ought to use to benefit others, beginning with my family but not ending there. Maybe it is raw capital or entrepreneurial opportunities that I can turn into job opportunities for others. Maybe it is savings that I consistently set aside for my kids college one day, maybe it is simply the fact that I have money to spend which then enters the economy and creates markets which create jobs and incomes for others. But the bottom line is that my money is not simply my money. My talents are not simply my talents. My gifts are not simply mine. All these are given to me not only for me but for others. If I have two coats, perhaps one belongs to the poor. If I have excess money perhaps it can benefit others. This need not be in a simplistic sort of way which merely gives it away indiscriminately. Perhaps I can invest in way that helps it grow so that, down the line even more can benefit. But the bottom line is that I should be thinking that this money, or these talents, or these things are not just mine. . . .

If I have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor and I ought to generously return it to its owner. . . . No one, especially the government, ought to be able to come and merely take your stuff. It’s yours viz a viz them. (emphasis added)

This latter point, of course, makes all the difference in the world, and a point that is sorely missed all too often. Yes, we have a duty of charity and justice to give to the poor. But that duty to give does not mean that the government has the rightful authority to take, much less to take it and then give it to whom they dictate is to have it, some favored few, rather than who really deserves it (and then only after government takes it’s cut of the goods). The Good Samaritan helped the poor man in the ditch himself, he did not go chase down the other two who had passed by him and, in the manner of a tax collector, seize their money to pay for the poor man's care.

If an individual is wrongfully greedy and materialistic, why should that person all of the sudden be deemed to be virtuous simply because he is a government bureaucrat? The sad experience of government throughout human history is that, however bad individuals might be, governments invariably end up being worse.

We need only look at the last few months, when government took hundreds of billions of dollars out of the hands of employers and businesses and individuals, obstensibly in order for the government to create “or save” jobs, and the whole fiasco has only ended costing jobs, with soaring unemployment. How much better might it be, instead of taking money from employers, to allow them to keep that money so that they might hire people??

Even consider that greedy rich guy — nobody keeps their money buried in the yard anymore. These are not feudal times, we do not have nobles who hide away their gold in treasure rooms in their castles. Rather, people invest their wealth, which provides capital for businesses to grow and hire people. Or they buy things, perhaps totally useless things. But somebody has to make those useless things, and that creates jobs. Jobs which feed and clothe and shelter people. Instead of getting a government check, which robs him of his dignity, the poor guy can go and get one of those jobs, which respects and enhances his dignity as a human person.

And those who cannot work for whatever reason, individuals have the monetary resources to help them. Individuals have the ability to personally do charity and justice to their neighbors, rather than having that charity and justice usurped by government. You actively doing and giving yourself is a virtue. You passively watching government take your money by tax withholding is no virtue at all.


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