Pope talking ‘drivel’ on the role of markets, says NZ Initiative head

The latest papal encyclical is “offensive”, “infuriating” and “drivel” in its commentary on the operation of markets, says Oliver Hartwich, a self-professed Catholic and executive director of the New Zealand Initiative, a libertarian think tank.

The Laudato Si encyclical – a communication to bishops setting out the Pope’s views on a chosen set of issues – was published by Pope Francis to global acclaim because of its call to arms to combat climate change, but Hartwich questions whether the pope “actually understands what he is writing about.”

“Some of his observations are so far off the mark that they would be offensive if one took them seriously,” he said, referring particularly a passage in which Hartwich says the Pope equates “economists favouring markets” with “child molesters.”

The pope’s discussion of ‘relativism’, relating to the potential for people to treat one another as objects, Hartwich says is confused.

“This leads him to claim that this ‘kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage’.”

Says Hartwich: “With all due respect, this is utter, offensive nonsense. Economists favouring markets do not share the same level of morality as child molesters.”

He also contested the papal view that when people make themselves the centre of their considerations, they will always favour immediate convenience over long term good.

“Humanity being at the centre does not mean that immediate convenience rules – otherwise there would be no long-term planning, no saving, no investment,” said Hartwich in the Initiative’s weekly newsletter. “The pope clearly confuses anarchy with property rights.”

He was wrong also to claim that the only purpose of markets was to increase individual or corporate profits.

“Markets are not about increasing individual profits but about allocating scarce resources. They do so best when property rights are clearly defined. And then they effectively deal with those environmental problems that the pontiff can only preach about,” said Hartwich. “As a Catholic economist, reading this papal drivel masquerading as an encyclical is both embarrassing and infuriating. Thank God Catholics are free to disagree with this personal position of the Pope.”

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