“Be ye warmed and filled”

Brandon McGinley, writing at Ethika Politika, has a very interesting piece about poverty and the limits of libertarianism—even so-called Christian libertarianism—in the context of his native Pittsburgh. Check it out.

If there is one unreservedly good thing about this Pope, it is that he has put the Church’s traditional social teaching front and center again. One would have to go back a long time to find such an engaging exponent of the Church’s social teaching. Would you be surprised to hear Francis say,

Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching. Destroying through forgetfulness or ignorance the social and moral character of economic life, it held that economic life must be considered and treated as altogether free from and independent of public authority, because in the market, i.e., in the free struggle of competitors, it would have a principle of self direction which governs it much more perfectly than would the intervention of any created intellect. But free competition, while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain limits, clearly cannot direct economic life – a truth which the outcome of the application in practice of the tenets of this evil individualistic spirit has more than sufficiently demonstrated. Therefore, it is most necessary that economic life be again subjected to and governed by a true and effective directing principle. This function is one that the economic dictatorship which has recently displaced free competition can still less perform, since it is a headstrong power and a violent energy that, to benefit people, needs to be strongly curbed and wisely ruled. But it cannot curb and rule itself. Loftier and nobler principles – social justice and social charity – must, therefore, be sought whereby this dictatorship may be governed firmly and fully. Hence, the institutions themselves of peoples and, particularly those of all social life, ought to be penetrated with this justice, and it is most necessary that it be truly effective, that is, establish a juridical and social order which will, as it were, give form and shape to all economic life. Social charity, moreover, ought to be as the soul of this order, an order which public authority ought to be ever ready effectively to protect and defend. It will be able to do this the more easily as it rids itself of those burdens which, as We have stated above, are not properly its own.

Of course not. The Holy Father, you may have heard, is a dreary, conventional leftist, who, like all of his ilk, misunderstands and mistrusts the free market, which is, after all, the only force for good in the world. But Francis did not say that. The great Pius XI (Santo subito!), did, in his groundbreaking 1931 social encyclical, Quadragesimo anno. As on so many matters, Papa Ratti foresaw the shipwreck before the rest of us even left port.

It is an unfortunate fact of life in the Church in the United States that the traditional social teaching of the Church is eschewed by the public defenders of orthodoxy, who, for what we suspect are largely political reasons, run after dreary, conventional liberalism.

McGinley’s piece is good medicine for that sad affliction.