Sunday, January 06, 2008

Pope decries world with luxury for few and poverty for many

VATICAN CITY :Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday criticized a world with luxury for a few and poverty for many and called for moderate lifestyles to ensure fair distribution of wealth amid a scramble for natural resources.

"One cannot say that globalization is synonymous with world order — it's the opposite," Benedict said in his homily in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the Catholic feast day of the Epiphany.

"The conflicts for economic supremacy, and the scramble for energy and water resources and raw materials render difficult the work of all those who strive to construct a more just and united world," Benedict said.

"We need a greater hope, which allows us to prefer the common good of all to the luxury of few and the poverty of many," the pontiff said.

"If true hope is lacking, you search for happiness in intoxication, in the superfluous, in excess, and you ruin yourself and the world," he said. "Moderation is not only an ascetic rule, but also a way of salvation for humanity."

"By now it is obvious that only by adopting a sober lifestyle, accompanied by a serious commitment to a fair distribution of wealth, will it be possible to install a just and sustainable model of development," Benedict said.

On the Epiphany, the Church marks the visit of the Three Magi, or Wise Men, to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, and Benedict praised their courage for undertaking a long journey guided only by the light of a star.

"We all need this courage, anchored to solid hope," the pope said.

Benedict's remarks reflected the 80-year-old German pontiff's worry for the environment, a developing theme of his papacy.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi elaborated on the pope's concerns in an interview with Vatican Radio.

"Until a little while ago, environmental issues seemed the concern of the rich rather than of the poor, of developed countries rather than of more backward ones for which economic development was instead the priority," Lombardi said.

"Now, frequent disasters due to environmental imbalances hit hard those who have few resources to defend themselves," the spokesman said. "Today, humanity fears for its future ecological balance, and to this observation, the pope links a strong moral call to solidarity," Lombardi said.


gemoftheocean said...

Ah, geez, the bunny hugging back-door Marxists got to him. Who's been poisoning his schnitzel. Yes, of course, people should have food to eat and running water and a roof over their heads. After that, it's time to grab your wallet because some socialist who knows how to pushy buttons to get the idiot liberals to "redistribute everything" are coming for you. Who gets to pick who's in charge of "redistributing?" The EU? The corrupt creeps who brought us "food for oil" allegedly concerned about the "poor Iraqis" while they lined their own pockets? Marxist ideology -- hasn't worked since the Acts of the Apostles, didn't work for the Soviet Union, doesn't work for China and the efforts to abort all their people and throw anyone with a brain in a "re-education camp." There's legitimate concern for the porr. And then there's buying into socialist claptrap. And unfortunately to me it sounds like more socialist claptrap. The pope should try a different angle. "Gee, if only we get the right Marxists in charge...." Grab your guns and get ready for a blood bath. The socialists of the world are coming to get you.


John C. said...

One of the great things about the papacy is that it's neither conservative nor liberal. Remember, if people find a man too tall and at the same time too short; too thin and at the same time too fat; too fair and still too dark he might be a monster, and he might just be the right shape.

God bless the Holy Father, he's reaffirming social and economic justice in the face of the intellectual disease of greed and gain that has taken hold of those who revere their conservatism over their Catholicism. Just because it might be difficult to "redistribute" the means of production (read: difficult to pry the means of generating wealth out of the hands of big business CEOs) doesn't mean that Benedict XVI is a Marxist for calling it just.

Remember what the social teachings say: the right to private property is a legitimate right, but not an absolute one. It is always subservient to the common good. Thomas Aquinas is clear on this, too. See ST II-II, q. 57, a. 3.

St. Thomas does defend private property, but only insofar as it is the most pragmatic way of caring for all people in society. See ST II-II, q. 66, a. 2.

Andrew said...

Did you catch the Mass, Father? The Apostles creed was sung instead of the Nicene. I wonder why?

It was a brilliant setting, nicely executed, by the more manly voices instead of the usual Sistine kids. But still, the Apostles instead of the Nicene?

gemoftheocean said...

Look, no one is defending 100% laissez-faire capitalism here. But the man is no economist. Reasonable "market forces" are FAR better able to supply the needs of the people. What gets in the way are central planning nomenkultura of ANY stripe trying to tell you "they know best." Who elected THEM "King Zip?" Benedict for Pope, but he doesn't have my vote for Chairman of the Federal reserve. If he wants to do some good he can tell those people in those 3rd world hell holes to throw out their dictators and get democracy. Republics are even better. Democracies can too often also be "mob rule."

And although there is such a thing as "good stewardship" he should be smarter than to fall a lot of the junk science that makes **** poor attempts and being a g-string for the back door Marxist ANTI people policies. You show me some greens, and I'll show you someone who's more likely than not pro abortion and pro artificial contraception, because these elitists HATE people.

Yeah, the earth is "warming up" Pope Benedict. It's been doing that in cycles for billions of years long before SUVs were invented. Sheesh. Get a grip. Benedict has his points, but the man's been studying theology, and while people *should* give to those in need, when talk rolls around about "redistributing" things, just be careful what you wish for. Someone may want to "redistribute" what's in the Vatican. That's a lot of "wealthy treasure" for just a relative handful of people.

Anonymous said...

i think there is much to ponder there Fr..will take a look later..

Anonymous said...

Hey John..that's what my blog says!

John C. said...

Ah, I see. So the pope can go stay in the corner and talk about theology, but that better not have anything to do with morals, if the morals mention money, or science, if the science mentions global warming, or politics, if the politics mentions conservative ideology.

Basically, the pope should conform to your ideas instead of the other way around.

As for the wealth accrued in the Vatican, though many of the artwork is very beautiful, I see no need for it to be there. Remember, the price Catholicism paid for St. Peter's construction was Northern Europe in the form of the Protestant Reformation.

I wouldn't have any problem at all if BXVI decided tomorrow that he wanted to redistribute those. As long as he kept enough to celebrate the Mass in proper beauty.

Physiocrat said...

Gemoftheocean - market forces are unable to produce a just outcome without prior equity. This means that everyone must have equal access to land and other natural resources which are God-given. Whilst Marxist systems of economics produce tyranny and poverty, and Socialist ones have the same effect but do it in a softer way, the mode of economic organisation usually referred to as "Capitalist" invariably leads to a division between a small number of very rich and a mass of poor. That is its nature, just as it is in the nature of some fish to go about in shoals.

In the absence of free access to land and a genuinely free market, the notion of "Free Market" is a cover-up for a fundamentally unjust state of affairs. Free markets would, for example, rule out things such as restrictions on trading between people in different countries, subsidies, for example, to farmers, intellectual property rights, and many other practices which advocates of the free market conveniently forget to mention when putting their case.

The Pope is no economist and one would not expect him to be. But if systems of economic organisation do not give everyone the right to the basic necessities of life - air, water, land - then there is something fundamentally wrong and it does not need anyone to be an economist to condemn that state of affairs.

That said, the Catholic Church has produced a body of teaching on economic matters, which, whilst it is all right as far as it goes, is deficient and it would be no bad thing if the Pope was to see to it that those deficiencies were addressed.

gemoftheocean said...

"Socialist ones have the same effect but do it in a softer way, the mode of economic organisation usually referred to as "Capitalist" invariably leads to a division between a small number of very rich and a mass of poor."

Oh, I see. Gradually raise the temperature on the lobster. Got news for you: either way he's DEAD.

Henry, evidently you and Pope didn't get very good grades in Econ 101. Your assertion that socialism is "soft" is a hoot and a half. Kill you by measure. Socialists are just polite Marxists who don't pull out their gusn but have the force of "law" behind them to throw you in jail if you object to the way they and their hoary hands "redistribute things." Things that sound benign on the surface often have ulterior motives. If you don't know that at your age you NEVER will. The man who says "Hi I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" is often "here to help" himself and his little nomenklatura friends FIRST and you "suckers" last.

It is not *I* who think the Vatican has "too much wealth" but your little socialist anti-catholic mob rule socialists are likely to think along those lines. They've already got the Catholic church in the UK throwing in the towel about running adoption agencies, because the Catholics don't like gays guess what? The "socialists" -- who know oh, so much better than you, have gotten what they wanted without a shot being fired.

For a guy who lived under Nazi Germany as Benedict did, he sure seems to have the "forget" gene really well.

Remind me again which societies have the general standard of living vis a vis money in their OWN pockets to spend on what they like is it the "socialists and the Marxists" socieities? No.

The Pope should catch a clue about human nature, global geopolitics, and REAL science before he plays into the hands of the people who'd love to ssee him swing.

Remind me again how well the Communists with their boots on everyone's throat in China don't have their elitist cadres with special stores, or why the common herd in Russia was prohibited from traveling abroad without a hostage held at home. Get back to me when you figure it out.

No wonder you were suckered into the EU. Try not to whine when you're outvoted though, and some poor schlub gets arrested and tossed in jail for having a scale in ounces and pounds or the French say you can't make bangers the way you want them -- or a bunch of clods decide you have too many children "taking up space."

BTW, you might want to check out which countries do a better job overall of taking care of the environment -- let me give you a clue, it's not the Marxist/socialist ones.

I'm sorry, but to me the Pope comes off as a simpleton when he tries to make the case for socialist style "redistribution." A little practicality and a look at the actual cold concrete facts come in handy.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

In this context, private property is analogous to the human body.

You must not abuse it.

Physiocrat said...

Gem, It would be a good idea if you read what people were actually saying instead of sounding off against people for saying what you imagine they have said.

The Pope was not calling for RE-distribution. He was calling for proper distribution. There is a difference. Socialists advocate RE-distribution. That is what is ultimately wrong with that system, because it implies an acceptance of an initial MAL-distribution.

Anyone who uses the term DISTRIBUTION is marking themselves off as being in opposition to Socialism, so there is no justification for accusing them of being Socialists. You are setting up a straw man and then attacking. If it sounds like socialist claptrap, you need to read it more carefully, as it most definitely is not Socialist.

The economic stance of the Catholic church has been DISTRIBUTIST since Rerum Novarum was issued in 1891. Socialist it most definitely is not. In fact, Rerum Novarum was deliberately put into circulation as a counter to Socialist notions. You might dislike that but you are putting yourself in opposition to the official views of the Catholic Church. Which you have a perfect right to do, of course.

Distributism means that the God-given natural resources of the should be fairly distributed and available to all. Once that has been done, and only then, it is essentially Libertarian. It is a subtle position.

The other issue is that there is such a thing as a public realm, which US style Libertarians, and the Thatcherites who still dominate in "New Labour" Britain, seem to have forgotten. And so you get generations of unemployed or mentally ill people wandering the cities and sleeping in shop doorways, and squalid and unkempt public facilities, alongside smart wine bars and shops filled with luxury goods that most people cannot afford. I am sure you would approve of the inequalities now to be found in Britain and would certainly not regard our country as soft and socialist if you actually saw it.

But there are a lot of us, starting with the Pople, who do not find that state of affairs acceptable. And were are not necessarily Socialists.

gemoftheocean said...

you said,
"The Pope was not calling for RE-distribution. He was calling for proper distribution. There is a difference. Socialists advocate RE-distribution. That is what is ultimately wrong with that system, because it implies an acceptance of an initial MAL-distribution."

1) let me say upfront I can't abide libertarians of the Ayn Rand stripe. They are essentially soulless.

2. The problem with how the Pope comes off is that he seems to think that there EVER was an equal distribution of material resources to begin with. Mere material resources play a part for sure, but what's not in his equasion (a deep flaw, IMO) is the human resources. Remind me again the land mass of, say Switzerland? Small. Remind me again how well they do with banking? Excellent. Remind me again how much arable land Saudi Arabia has? Or, right. They have to import their food. Are they or Kuwait poor as a country in the oil resources? No. They sell their oil to buy other things. Japan? Small amount of arable land, but commendable in their use of resources - they also build trade, especially since WWII when democracy was essentially forced on them.

Let's look at Mexico and the US. Mexico - dirt poor and their worthless ruling creeps don't give a damn about the people, they want it all for themselves. BUT they had even MORE natural mineral resources in the US. It's not that the country itself didn't have enough, but they've been under the boot of socialists and socialistic thinking for generations. All graft and corruption. Mondern democracies have that too in developed countries, here and there, no society is perfect. But the peasants are cowed. The Mexican elite does NOTHING for their poor.

It's all about building a MIDDLE class. Show me a country without a decent middle class, and I'll show you a country that's messed up.

It's all going to be moot anyway, if the western societies stop having babies. Then the arabs will have it all and it's all going to be Sharia with the Muzziez getting their 72 virgins a piece.

In order to "distribute" something, someone has to be in charge. Well, who decides THAT? The mob? Central planning has NEVER worked large scale over long period of time. The only place it works is small scale....for instance, a monestary where "under obedience" St. Therese exchanges her nice little vase for a cracked one every now and again so as not to get too "attached." And even then she had the right to say "I'm outta here." Kulaks didn't get to decide whether they'd be starved to death or not, the "central planners" who claimed to be doing the "distributing" for "the people" ended up killing as many of them as they could.

The Hottentot is more than welcome to his dwelling, food and water and air. But if he wants an HP computer, he's going to have to pony up the money, or find a way to sell a good/service. The people with money have to recognize that it does the country as a whole NO GOOD in the long run if they cut off the opportunity for the Hottentot to further his lot in life. If you don't give him an education so he can help the whole society improve, then "the ruling classes" shouldn't be surprised if the Hottentot literally comes for their heads.

BILLIONS of people trying to through initiative etc. improving things are a lot more prudent and make better decisions than some sort of elite. It goes part and parcel with someone like William F. Buckley Jr. saying years ago that he'd rather be governed by the 1st 400 people out of the phone book than by 400 Harvard faculty members. And I'd agree with that.

ALL governments should be taken with a grain of skepticism, because even in the best ones, there are people who will try to screw the people. And sorry to be so blunt, but it's a fact. Strong democracies, where people take their citizenship seriously do their best to keep the evil ones from any position of power. Checks and balances, baby, checks and balances. Or throw THOSE bums out.


Physiocrat said...

Gem - the nub of the problem can be expressed by these two parables.

(I) A ship arrives on an uninhabited and fertile island. The people disembark and discover a chest containing title deeds to all the land on the island. They share it out between them. Then a second shipload of people arrive. They have no option but to accept a labour contract from those who got there first.

(II) Four people sit down for a game of Monopoly. When all the sites have been sold, a fifth player joins the game. He quickly finds that wherever he lands, he has to pay rent to one of the other players. He complains that he is having to play on unfair terms as he had no opportunity to obtain a site.

In most developed countries, land is monopolised in this way. The US government sold it all off or gave it away in railroad grants a century ago, though whose was it to dispose of? Where is the equity or morality there, and what of subsequent generations and descendants of those who were not around to take advantage of this distribution of largesse, whose value goes on appreciating?

Given that the distribution has taken place, how might the initial wrong be redressed?

The Capitalist way is to just accept the situation, as a few people can always pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. But the result will be a dwindling middle class and a drift towards tyrannical and corrupt government.

The Marxist way is to start off with a tyrannical and corrupt government and use robbery with violence as an instrument of policy. The Socialist way is to do the same thing, but with a smile. That way, as in Scandinavia, you end up with nearly everyone middle class and almost nobody rich or poor. This is a very good outcome but it is not sustainable, as there is a disincentive to enterprise. The wealthiest man in Sweden is Ingvar Kamprad - IKEA Founder and one of the world's richest Men. Only the company is not in Sweden and Kamprad had to live as a tax exile.

But there is another way altogether. You leave private value in private hands but collect public value for public purposes. What is public value? It is the value of God-given land and natural resources, which acquires a value only as a result of the presence and actions of the community. It was the American economist Henry George who proposed that the rental value of land should be collected and used for public purposes or distributed to all.

This is the kind of fiscal arrangement that would be in alignment with what the Pope is calling for.

Read about Henry George's proposals here

gemoftheocean said...

Henry you've constructed scenarios that don't exist in real life. There are a few small countries where dictators and their buddies own a vast majority of the land (see Central America for instance.) If you had a democracy there, you could get in some decent laws which address the issue. i.e. You want to own land? Fine. For everything in excess of X, you'll be taxed Y...however, if you sell some of the land .... it will be to your benefit.

I'm not sure what on earth you mean by public/private. We. Get. Taxed. For. Lots. Of. Necessary. Public. Services. To. Pay. For. Things. Like. Schools. Roads. Fire Departments. I trust government taxation isn't unknown in the UK.

Physiocrat said...

Gem - It makes no difference in principle whether land is owned by a handful of some dictator's cronies or is a bit better distributed. In most developed countries, the vast majority of the land, by value, is owned by a tiny minority, and all of it is owned by someone. So the scenario is a genuine reflection of real life.

From your previous postings I would have thought you would have been opposed to the taxation of people's hard-earned wages, so there seems to be an inconsistency here. It is a pity, too, that you do not know the difference between public and private, but that is not unusual.

You mention a whole lot of things that are paid for by the government out of tax. Cui bono?

One example illustrates the point. In London, a new underground railway was constructed to enable the development of land to the east of the city, in the area previously occupied by the docks. This railway, the Jubilee Line Extension, cost £3 billion. Once it opened, areas like Canary Wharf could at last be used for office skyscraper developments which would have been virtually unwanted without this essential infrastructure. Now served by a rapid transit tube railway, the area became valuable real estate. And so, infrastructure, paid for by taxes taken from "hard working families", added zillions to the land values of a previously neglected part of London and were pocketed by canny landowners, such as the Port of London Authority and Olympia & York, who had done nothing to earn this largesse.

A report published in June 2004 by Transport for London (TfL) suggested that the uplift in land values attributed to the Jubilee Line Extension was in the region of £2.8billion in the proximity of Canary Wharf and Southwark Underground stations.

The pilot study, conducted by globally integrated real estate services and money management firm Jones Lang LaSalle, found that there had been a positive impact on local property market values.

The conclusions of the report, 'Land & Property Value Study - Assessing the Change in Land & Property Values Attributable to the Jubilee Line Extension' were that the estimated uplift in land values was in a wide range, but in the order of:
* £2billion around Canary Wharf Underground station;
* £800million around Southwark Underground station.

Jones Lang LaSalle were commissioned by TfL to undertake a pilot study and assess the impact of the Jubilee Line Extension (JLE) on land values at two stations, Southwark and Canary Wharf.

Taking the line as a whole, the land value uplift for residential property alone was estimated to be £9 billion (Lincoln Institute).

That is what happens in the real world. All the things you mention ultimately go to sustaining and enhancing land values. These land values, which are created by the presence and activities of the community at large, including, I will say this again, taxes on the wages of hard-working families, are public values which turn up as land rentals and are pocketed by land owners. A charge on these land rental values, and not taxes on wages, are the just and proper source of public revenue. Which your fellow countryman Henry George pointed out in his book Progress and Poverty in 1880. And George was no socialist.

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