25 September 2012

States and Markets. . .a via media?

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield gave a post-Red Mass talk to an assembly of lawyers and judges.  In that talk he used a paragraph from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church to criticize the commonly held belief among "social justice" Catholics that a preferential option for the poor necessarily entails opting for expensive, wasteful, bureaucratic institutions that tend to thrive quite well on the very problem they were created to solve.

Here's the two paragraphs in full (italics in the original): 

354. The State can encourage citizens and businesses to promote the common good by enacting an economic policy that fosters the participation of all citizens in the activities of production. Respect of the principle of subsidiarity must prompt public authorities to seek conditions that encourage the development of individual capacities of initiative, autonomy and personal responsibility in citizens, avoiding any interference which would unduly condition business forces.

With a view to the common good, it is necessary to pursue always and with untiring determination the goal of a proper equilibrium between private freedom and public action, understood both as direct intervention in economic matters and as activity supportive of economic development. In any case, public intervention must be carried out with equity, rationality and effectiveness, and without replacing the action of individuals, which would be contrary to their right to the free exercise of economic initiative. In such cases, the State becomes detrimental to society: a direct intervention that is too extensive ends up depriving citizens of responsibility and creates excessive growth in public agencies guided more by bureaucratic logic than by the goal of satisfying the needs of the person.

As usual, the Church's magisterium guides us through the mire to an equitable, sensible via media that avoids the totalitarianism of the Nanny State and the social irresponsibility of the Lone Wolf markets.  To my mind, both extremes work overtime to render the individual blameless for the  excesses that inevitably result from collectivism and personal atomism. 

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