Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Universal Destination of Goods

171. Among the numerous implications of the common good, immediate significance is taken on by the principle of the universal destination of goods.
-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
Combined with:

177. Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute and untouchable.

leads some to the conclusion that the mandatory redistribution of wealth by the state through the use of taxes or other methods of property confiscation is in conformance to Catholic Social Justice Doctrine.

In Rerum Novarum Pope Leo XIII outlines why this is not true. Such actions rob the lawful owner, hurt the recipient in the long run and distorts the role of the state.

The wealthy have an obligation to the poor, but this is a personal duty which must be exercised through just treatment of ones employees, fair treatment of tradesmen and acts of personal charity.

One hundred years after Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum John Paul II wrote Centesimus Annus, which is Latin for "hundredth year", supporting the continued relavence of Leo's encyclical. He had already in 1987 published Sollicitudo rei socialis which addressed authentic human development, the true solution to poverty.

Socialism envisions wealth as a zero sum game. As such its distribution always comes down to redistribution of existing wealth from the rich to the poor. Authentic economic theory understands that wealth is related to productivity. That is, wealth is produced from a confluence of materal and labor. Wealth is not like a finite bag of beans, which must be divided, but rather like a field of bean plants, which will, with proper cultivation, produce a never ending supply of beans which is available to anyone who is able to harvest the field. The efforts of the wealthy on the part of the poor consists of helping to provide beans in the short run and enabling the poor to engage in the harvest in the long run. This is a personal responsibility and under the principle of Subsidarity (to be discussed next) is not the responsibility of government but of citizens.

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