In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady gives us a foretaste of what’s to come: tyrants and enemies of liberty using as political cover Pope Francis’s intemperate, groundless attack on economic freedom in his new apostolic exhortation. Here’s a snippet:
[Venezuelan caudillo Nicolás Maduro] needs to pin it all on the market. Pope Francis seems eager to help. In the document released last week he admonished those who 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.” There is no empirical evidence for this, he wrote. It is instead “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Millions of the world’s poor and excluded who landed in the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries have been witnesses to the polar-opposite conclusion. Immigrants to the pope’s homeland, Argentina, during the same period have not done as well—precisely because they’ve had to plod along in an economy not unlike the one he advocates.
Heavy state intervention was supposed to produce justice for the poor in the breadbasket of South America. We all know how that turned out.
No Christian can doubt the love expressed in the pope’s message, which aims to shepherd the flock away from materialism. But the charge that grinding poverty in the world is the outgrowth of “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace” ignores reality. To be sure, even prosperous economies regulate markets. But those that have a lighter touch do better. Human history clearly demonstrates that when men and women, employing their free will and God-given talents, are able to innovate, produce, accumulate capital and trade even the weakest and most vulnerable are better off.
Instead the pope trusts the state, “charged with vigilance for the common good.” Why is it then that the world’s most desperate poor are concentrated in places where the state has gained an outsize role in the economy specifically on just such grounds?