Economy as an antidote to violence

Reprinted from Law and Freedom

Fr. Robert Sirico’s new book, The economy of example, It opens with a reflection of why Jesus so often chose the economic picture for his illustration. In the Gospels, we hear stories of investment, trade, planting, and estate management (the book covers a baker’s dozen of these illustrations), though not composing songs, studying for tests, or playing sports. Fr. The answer to Sirico is that economics is a universal human experience প্রত্যেক every person faces limited time and resources-thus the economic picture is suitable for analogies intended to last throughout history. This is a point familiar to economists; In fact, my favorite introductory textbook (appropriately titled Universal Economics) The story of Adam and Eve begins:

Since the discouraging fiasco in the Garden of Eden, the whole world has become a place for the lack of its resources, which has greatly contributed to the abundance of various sorrows and sins. People have had to adapt and adapt to the limitations of what is available to fulfill unlimited desires. Some individuals and societies have been far more successful than others in doing so.

Fr. Sirico’s approach to understanding the economic lessons in Jesus’ parable is primarily priestly, and a close reader can understand his sincere efforts to follow the example set by Pope Francis, who has become known for his ability to apply spiritual truth to hard, everyday life. The spiritual significance of the parables is deepened, he argues, by a clear understanding of the economic forces involved in the game. Thus Fr. Cyrico uses material reality to draw his reader to the past.

This article focuses on a theme that runs throughout the book, specifically how understanding economics can counteract the temptation of violence. The great Peter Crift quotes: “Violence, though not the greatest sin, gives no pleasure to the only sinner, not even false and temporary satisfaction.” When it becomes clear where the value (and wages) come from, what is the role of private property in society and what is meant by profit and loss, jealousy is exposed as irrationality. Economists from the 16th-century School of Salamanca have understood the process behind this market event, but these lessons depend on each generation not to be forgotten. This latest book by Fr. Sirico is proof that he is doing his part.

I would like to start by defining economics, as was done at the beginning of the book (and hopefully to clear it out for the current intelligent students in their college major!) In Fr. In Sirico’s words, economics is “a discipline that explains the effects of scarcity on the material world: the completely complex nature of exchange, trade, and human action.” Although it deals with issues such as money and financial markets, economists are also very interested in law, family and religion, as they facilitate trade and undergrade the economy.

A common frustration with economics, capitalism, or the “market” is how things are evaluated. Economists adhere to the thematic theory of quality, which simply means that products and services have value in the market because things — you and I — value them. Jesus also guessed this in his parable of the Pearl of the Great Price, as Fr. Sirico acknowledges in his chapter:

The pearl was a luxurious well and the analogy is presented with no condemnation. Instead, Jesus portrayed the merchant as intelligent because he had the right to sell what he needed to have enough property to get it. What can be seen as a meaningless material good, by others it can be seen as something wonderful, even a reflection of the beauty of creation. People’s perspectives, and thus the values ​​they place on objects, are different.

If high prices tempt us to view all of our business people as greedy, or if we are angry that teachers and nurses are not paid as much as CEOs, then we realize that the only sustainable way to change market results is to change people. Value assessments can be wrong (and often are), and income does not say anything about the objective value of individuals. The important moral question is not where the economic value and price come from, but what value we should pay.

The example of the workers in the vineyard illustrates this tension. It was not mere effort or time for harvesting that determined the market wages of the workers (a denarius), Rather what was the value of their production in the market. Landowners also paid their daily wages to those who started their work later in the day, probably because their last-minute contributions were more valuable to him, or to be generous if he needed them again in the future. Building good habits like generosity and charity takes place before the market, such as Fr. Sirico’s emphasizes: “Market exchange introduces the thematic value of a product, not of objective values ​​which are called good quality. The important task of building character and conscience depends largely on the parents, spiritual director and guide and other authorities of the household, not on the financial institution.

Another common misconception about economics that invites violence is about private property. However, it reflects a modern oblivion, and Fr. Sirico reminds us that St. Thomas Aquinas directed the social work of private property in the 13th century:

[It] It is not only lawful for a person to have his own thing, it is also necessary for human life and for three reasons. First, because each person has a harder time caring for something that is his or her sole responsibility than the general or many others – because in this case each person avoids the task and leaves the responsibility on someone else, which happens when many officials are involved. Second, because human affairs are more efficiently organized if each person has his or her own responsibilities to perform; There will be chaos if everyone takes care of everything. Third, because men live together in greater peace where everyone is satisfied with their work.

Every instance related to economic matters assumes the legitimacy of private property. This is especially true of the two debtor illustrations that Jesus described when a woman used her property (a precious perfume) to honor him when those in power looked down on her. In this parable, God is portrayed as a moneylender who forgives many things despite having a legitimate claim to pay off debts. Fr. Cyrico also uses the example of Savar, which explains how scattered seeds give different results in different situations, how a system of private property is the fertile soil needed for economic development. When this system of private property expands to include more people (usually through population growth or immigration), the signs of property ownership, contracts, capital markets, and profit-loss encourage honest behavior, such as long-term thinking and delayed satisfaction, that Aquinas. There were notes.

Yet, violence can tempt us to support redistribution policies that are ultimately counterproductive. Fr. Siriko also addresses this temptation when discussing the example of the rich fool: “[Redistribution] Only revolves around already created assets. . . There are times when it is a good idea to do so, especially within the family. But if the redistribution is arranged by officials who move away from a specific context, or are motivated by greed, covetousness, or violence, it can be a sin. ” The probable sum of the losses may be greater than the gains.

Finally, it is easy to misunderstand the role of profit-loss signals in a market economy. Profits occur when entrepreneurs manage their time and resources wisely in the face of endless uncertainty about the future. Furthermore, “wealth is dynamic in a market economy because being ‘rich’ is the opposite, because any review of the various lists of rich people will show up year after year.” There may also be economic losses due to our natural limitations. However, it is important to note that there is no gain or loss for Fr. Cirico refers to any moral success or failure.

One example that makes this clear is the example of genius: “Entrepreneurs should be recognized with all those religious organizations whose job it is to build moral consensus – a profession, a call for formation, maturity.” , And the clarity of the mission. “The parable of the king’s war and the parable of the house on the rock are also full of lessons about entrepreneurship. Many unfair market outcomes are the result of basic institutions such as families, churches and schools that do not fulfill their responsibility to build a good, true and beautiful character. But unfortunately this is not the world we live in. Economics reveals how we depend on God and man for our daily needs.

When I was a graduate student at Creighton University, the French Cyrico came on campus to talk about his first book, Protecting the free market. I was leaving for a semester abroad in the Dominican Republic (a significant part of which was intended to open our eyes to the flaws of capitalism), so I thought I should open myself up to another perspective. Fr. Sirico’s speech was the first time I had faced a clear moral case for economic freedom and caused some stir in me. I didn’t know it yet, but it would also be a message I would sacrifice my life to share His book came with me to the Dominican Republic, and of course enough, I saw with my own eyes how economic restrictions and controls (both sick-and-purpose) hurt the people there. The rest is history.

As a Catholic Christian and an economist, Fr. Sirico’s new book has my strong recommendation. The economy of example An excellent contribution to a growing literature where scholars take both their beliefs and economics seriously (among other notable examples Faith and freedom, Christian perspective economicsAnd Bible games) The book contains much more than I could address, such as interest and interest, government debt, business cycles, and so on. My only word of advice is that Fr. Sirico should be considered next work in the Old Testament!

Clara e piano

Clara Piano is an assistant professor of quantitative analysis at Samford University, a fellow at the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy, and a member of its editorial board. Journal of Markets and Morality.

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