Via Frank Weathers, I learn that the Pope has ruffled the feathers at Forbes with the following tweet:
My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) May 2, 2013
Here's a portion of what was written by Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler:
By suggesting he is uncomfortable with the moral dimensions of capitalism, Pope Francis has created a mini-furor among both free market types who are offended, and neo-socialists seeking support from the most powerful spiritual leader in Christianity. But would it be better, if popes refrained from interceding on such highly-charged secular matters?
No, but perhaps they should better explain what they mean. Admittedly it’s hard to avoid ambiguity in Twitter’s 140 characters. Even so, the short-hand version of the Pope’s critique suggesting, as it did, that profit-seeking drives unemployment, is at best a caricature of the zero-sum anti-capitalist creed. It boils down to: profit-driven companies make more money if they have fewer workers and thus lower labor costs (our spin, not the Pope’s). The implication is that the drive for profits must be tempered by social concerns like the well-being of workers, communities, and nations. Make a little less money in profits, give someone a ‘living wage’ that keeps them out of poverty and ensures social peace.
Part of this is just a truism (no one lives by profits alone, and modern corporations spend lots of cash persuading the public how much they are ‘giving back’ in terms of charitable works, philanthropic donations, and public-spirited workplace practices (recycling, childcare, low carbon emissions, and so forth). That same cash, of course, could be deployed to creating more jobs as the Pope suggests. But we digress.
Wholly missing from the papal argument is the fact that business expansion, and the attraction of investment therein, is based on profits. Greater profits don’t necessarily guarantee more jobs in existing business and businesses of the future, but you can’t expect those jobs to materializeabsent profit. Profit isn’t what drives poverty, profit is what overcomes poverty. The argument is easier to make where profits are invested in medical advances that can save lives and increased productivity that will make further inroads in steadily decreasing world hunger. Or where investment and experimentation made possible entire new fields of human endeavor we can’t possibly foresee (personal computing, remote health monitoring…). But the argument holds just the same if profits were to go to seemingly frivolous smart phone apps or dividends. The short of the matter is that capitalism is the engine of the general betterment of the human condition and profits its essential tool.
Most recently Pope Francis has returned to tweeting on core religious issues. “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance, says Jesus. This is where true wealth is found, not in material things!” This is not an issue of economics, but a matter of the soul. A topic squarely in the realm of Francis’ expertise.
Actually Misters Lauerson and Pieler, Pope Francis speaks within the realm of of his expertise, with matters of the soul and, to your apparent chagrin, with matters of mammon.
From the Catechism comes that which clearly buttresses, supports and gives credence to the Pope's tweet:
2432 Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations.218 They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.
2433 Access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination: men and women, healthy and disabled, natives and immigrants.219 For its part society should, according to circumstances, help citizens find work and employment.220
2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.221 In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. "Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good."222 Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.
2435 Recourse to a strike is morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit. It becomes morally unacceptable when accompanied by violence, or when objectives are included that are not directly linked to working conditions or are contrary to the common good.
2436 It is unjust not to pay the social security contributions required by legitimate authority.
Unemployment almost always wounds its victim's dignity and threatens the equilibrium of his life. Besides the harm done to him personally, it entails many risks for his family.223
I don't know whether the Forbes fellers are Catholic and if they are not, then they have an excuse but if they are, the sooner they each understand that the Catholic faith, and her doctrines and dogmas, cannot be compartmentalized and held in isolation, the better off they'll be and the more thoughtful perhaps they'll become.
I've come to learn, and am still learning, that Catholic thinking encompasses all that makes up life... and living that life well and with purpose.
It is why I'm striving to embrace Catholicism fully, even... and in fact especially, when it appears to rub up against some thought or process or idea I've long held as gospel.
It's that which I've come to believe makes a catholic Catholic.