The Pope and the Left

pope-francis

Pope Francis has made it very clear since he took over the reigns of the Catholic Church that his ideological agenda is rooted on the left. While advocating for the poor and the less privileged in society has always been part of the Catholic doctrine, the means and routes proposed by the current pope to lift these segments of the population are as lefty and as populist as we have seen in the history of the Church.

Recently, at the intriguing World Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis sounded exactly like a “piquetero” or street protester in his native Argentina. He called the popular movements to “keep up the fight” and to “say together with our heart: no family without a roof, no peasant farmer without land, no worker without rights and no person without dignified labor.” He then went on to call that these demands “sacred rights.”

The problem is not that Pope Francis has an ideological agenda. After all, all religious leaders have one. The problem is that this particular ideological agenda is wrong. When people demand things such as “no family without a roof,” “no peasant farmer without land” or “no person without a job,” they typically mean it in a literal sense. That is, they mean that having a roof, a piece of land or a job are, indeed, rights, and families, farmers and workers are entitled to them. This ideology is dangerous because it goes agains the natural condition of human existence: scarcity. Because resources are scarce, not everybody can have a roof, a piece of land or a job. Pretending otherwise is plain populism and forcing this outcome (through expropriations or heavy taxation, for example) is highly inefficient.

People defending the pope will argue that if the massive amounts of wealth that the world’s economy has accumulated over time were more evenly split, everybody could have a roof, a piece of land and/or a job. True. But the major problem with this argument is that once the re-distribution of wealth is done, the world’s economy will not be likely to generate the same amount of wealth in the future. The incentives for accumulation will no longer be there. Think about it, if we assign the average grade to all students in a class, students earning higher grades will have no incentives to keep their high performance and students earning lower grades will have no incentives to improve it (they will receive the average grade anyway). As a result, the class average will drop in the future and everybody will fail the class.

Pope Francis, like many other religious leaders, is well-intentioned. Unfortunately, the ideological route that he has taken is not sound and will not advance the cause of the poor and unprivileged in a sustained manner.

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