Pope Exhibits Shocking Ignorance of Economics and Logic: Claims 'Market Forces' Fail To Provide 'Social Benefits'

P. Gardner Goldsmith | October 6, 2020
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The man who controls billions of dollars, who is both “head of state” in Rome and is said to be the “leader of the Catholic Church," and who lives behind massive, towering walls on property claimed by him and his Church, just saw fit to attack free will, voluntary market exchange, and private property, claiming that free markets don’t produce the “social benefits” that their proponents claim.

Philip Pullella reports for Reuters:

Pope Francis said on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was the latest crisis to prove that market forces alone and ‘trickle-down’ economic policies had failed to produce the social benefits their proponents claim.

Sadly, Pope Francis exhibits not just a tendency to engage in theatrical shows of hyperbolic ignorance, he displays a profoundly troubling inability to employ logic. So, before we explore his other claims, let’s note that the only way any medical supplies, doctors’ skills, funds, or added time can be devoted to fighting COVID19 is thanks to the resource creation, division of labor, surplus (i.e. profit), voluntary exchange (market trade), competition, and free will (i.e. individual valuation and peaceful choice) that comprise the market.

In other words, the only way that political collectivists like Francis can use the state to take from people things to “help” other people is if those victims of state theft actually produce them in the first place. In fact, the only way Francis’ “state” can exist at all is through the forced expropriation of labor, time, capital, and property of its victims in order to fund the agents of the state.

It’s pretty simple. But, very, very clearly, Pope Francis doesn’t grasp that axiomatic point.

Writes Pullella:

In an encyclical (entitled ‘Fratelli Tutti’) on the theme of human fraternity, Francis also said private property cannot be considered an absolute right in all cases where some lived extravagantly while others had nothing.

Which shows that Francis could learn a few things about ethics.

So, again, here’s a lesson for the Pope.

Morality is the understanding of what is right and wrong, good and evil. Ethics is the outward action, the projection of morality, chosen by each individual. An easy thumbnail is: “Morality is knowing that stealing from one’s neighbor is wrong; ethics comes in not stealing from one’s neighbor or advocating that others do so.”

Along those lines, Francis might want to take a refresher course on the nature of the term “private property.”

It stems from the concept of mutual respect and the manifest reality of ownership of one’s self among others. This is, as Emmanuel Kant explained, the fundamental universalizable principle of human existence. Each of us owns himself or herself, and the only universalizables in human ethics are the principles of peace based on that fact. You own yourself, I own myself; we have “private property” in ourselves, our individual free will and peaceful activity, and what we create through those peaceful means. We don’t threaten each other’s life-property, time-property, free will to engage in peaceful activities, or the things one might have exchanged with others. And we don’t advocate for others to engage in those aggressive activities.

And from these fundamental ethics comes the free market.

In fact, they are one-and-the-same. Fundamental human ethics is the reality that men and women have natural rights to property in themselves and their peaceful choices. These choices lead to division of labor, surplus, and additional free choices to engage in trade for profit, a profit that is, by its nature, subjectively based, and, to bring it back around, founded on free will and self-ownership. It all converges, and Francis doesn’t get it.

In fact, in his troubling encyclical, Francis rephrases Marx’s collectivist attempt to excuse theft and the abolition of self-ownership, the poisonous statist notion: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Said the Pope:

The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods.

“The universal destination of created goods.”

That assumes the creation of those goods, Francis, and the individual free will for someone to define for himself or herself what is a good. It also assumes that one has a claim on the work of others to CREATE those goods, Francis.

Which assumes an ethical right to enslave others, Francis.


If one understands the origin and logic of the term “private property,” one knows that it is a description of self-ownership, free will, voluntary association, and what one acquires when peacefully engaging with others. There is no right to the private property of others, because that connotes a right to the life, preferences, and labor of others, and is, as noted above, a claim to be able to enslave others.

That’s not ethical, moral, or universalizable, Francis.

And to think that there is a “universal destination of created goods” puts the cart before the horse. As Bradley Thomas, a contributor at the Foundation for Economic Education, The Mises Institute, and The Libertarian Institute, recently Tweeted:

Nature is very stingy. It has restricted the supply of those things necessary to support human life; while requiring effort to transform its raw materials into useful things.

‘Work or starve’ is not a product of capitalism, but a force of nature.

Bluntly put, what Francis expressed in his encyclical on “fraternity” has nothing to do with brotherhood, friendship, family, or fraternity. It has nothing to do with free will, or economics, or help for the indigent, or the betterment of one’s health.

It is a direct attack on the fundamental strictures in the Ten Commandments, specifically the admonitions against theft (a moral and ethical prohibition expressed in Commandment Eight), and against coveting “anything that belongs to your neighbor” (a moral prohibition safeguarding against one’s own thoughts straying into those dark realms, expressed in Commandment Ten ). In fact, explicit in Commandment Ten is the idea that private property can belong to one’s neighbor, that, contrary to Francis’ idiotic claim, private property is a PRIMARY RIGHT.

In fact, even the distinction between what Francis appears to want to call “primary” and “secondary” rights is nonsensical and reveals a profound and dangerous misunderstanding of human life.

As I’ve mentioned before, the use of the term “right” to apply to the universal idea of leaving one’s neighbor alone to live in peace and retain the fruits of his labor stems from Medieval Europe, specifically, Medieval Germanic and British. It is based on the idea of “right-handedness”, which, in that era, was seen as “proper”. As a result, the term “right” came to be attached to the ancient concept of proper – or ethical – treatment of one’s neighbor in society.

Francis’ idea that free markets don't produce socially positive results is completely vacuous.

That's the definition of free market capitalism. The only way a business can get any money from a consumer is if it satisfies what that person wants, via a social interaction. Period. This is a very simple and powerful message.

What Francis says is towering, errant nonsense and shows utter contempt for free will.

And the only alternative to free markets is to institute one or more forms of state tyranny, threats, and theft -- all of which are verboten in the Old and New Testaments.

One would hope that, someday, Francis might focus on that message.