“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he said. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless,” he said. “Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” — Pope Francis I
What became popularized as “trickle-down” theories of economics became popular during the Ronald Reagan era. In a very rough summary, the idea was that by catering to the “wealth-producers” the “job creators” that the increase in their wealth would be like a wave that floats all boats. The freer the market became, the more that the free market would lower prices and increase consumption and employment. Instead the years since those policies began to be introduced in this country have not been years of increasing wealth for all, but rather of increasing wealth for only a few. The lack of regulation allowed a housing bubble to burst, causing tremendous economic damage to this country. Meanwhile, the lack of any credible enforcement of the laws against the type of speculation that had taken place gave a clear message to those who had that it was OK to mess up. The government would not come after you. Sadly, there were even those who argued that the crash was somehow, and mysteriously, the government’s fault for still having too much regulation.
Meanwhile, the gap between the richest and the poorest in this country has grown. While the top-tier of people in this country are earning larger and larger salaries, the bottom tier has not seen the minimum wage anywhere near keep up with the increase in the cost of living. Consistently, there have been those who argue that we should not increase the minimum wage because somehow this will wreck the country. The middle class has less and less disposable income, and our children are now not expected to be able to reach some of the inflation-adjusted wage levels that their parents were able to reach.
It is good to read the Pope speaking out and finally saying that these type of policies do NOT bring justice and are not righteous. Notice that he calls to task those who “sacralize” the “workings of the prevailing economic system.” And, he is right. In many ways, those who advocate a purely free market have made that free market out to somehow be a sacred system. Many are those who have preached from pulpits as though God has declared in the Bible and Holy Tradition that the free market was his desire. But, as the Pope has said, this is not so.
Let me again post below what he said in a very powerful paragraph. The paragraph is the official translation of the Vatican, not a news report. You can read the entire apostolic exhortation here on the Vatican website.
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Notice that Pope Francis puts the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” in the context of the economic damage that is brought by “trickle down theories.” And, he does this in order to “safeguard the value of human life.” Yes, safeguarding human life involves more than simply opposing abortion. It also involves opposing economic policies that devalue human life after birth. Thou shalt not kill, therefore we must oppose elective abortion. Thou shalt not kill, therefore we must oppose any economic system that equates the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest. Both are wrong.
Thank you, Pope Francis