That's the clever title they gave my piece at the WSJ. It is a look at the recent papal encyclical, which is full of claims about economics. There is plenty there to object to, but I didn't think it nearly as "left-wing" as did many other market-oriented commentators. In fact I was surprised how positive or at least neutral it was about markets, once you cut through some of the rhetoric. It was pro-micro-credit, it repeatedly noted that globalization can have a positive side, and it stressed the idea that businesses are, in the right setting, capable of doing a lot of social good.
We should probably not expect too much to come from the encyclical's call for more state power.
Most of the encyclical, appropriately, expresses a desire for
ethical conduct. The importance of ethics for civilization is obvious,
but of course good ethics, consistently applied, are hard to come by.
People are very good at ethical and psychological compartmentalization,
and so it is possible for them to offer the church nominal authority
over the ethical realm while continuing their dubious economic behavior.
Although it was just issued, the encyclical already feels dated.
Globalization is one of the main concerns in the document. Yet because
of the financial crisis, international trade has been falling apart.
The real worry is not how to manage the economic globalization we have
but how to stop the world's rapid deglobalization, which is at a pace
that matches the collapse of trade in the 1930s. For better or worse,
economic rather than ethical factors will determine the outcome here.
The end of my piece covers what the Encyclical should have discussed, namely the importance of the non-Christian nature of China and India and what that means for the future of the world.
The English-language text of the encyclical is here.