YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Bishops' Letter on Economic Rights

November 24, 1986

Be it spoken from a liberal political platform or a self-righteous pulpit, condemnations of capitalism, such as that authored by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, demonstrate a wanton disregard for the principles of economics--and morality.

The bishops term the unequal distribution of income "A social and moral scandal." As most half-baked redistributionist indictments of American capitalism, this statement fails to comprehend the moral and social implications of the alternatives.

From a moral standpoint, the redistribution of income involves an undeniable benefit to the "indigent," but also entails an unabashed violation of the benefactor's property rights.

Persons invest resources, most commonly time and human capital, to earn income, so to strip him of his earned income is a clear violation of his property rights and a subtle form of indentured servitude. We consider it an inexcusable encroachment on one's "human dignity" to force him to employ his time and talents to benefit another.

However, when one's time and talents are spent to earn income and the income is stripped from him to benefit another, we term it a noble step toward "economic justice" rather than the subtle, institutionalized form of slavery that it is.

Secondly, from a social welfare standpoint, redistributionists fail to understand that it is the same differential incentives that give rise to this woefully unequal distribution of income that act as the cornerstone of a capitalistic incentive system, which provides for the excellent absolute standard of living enjoyed by the citizenry of developed capitalist systems.

In capitalist systems, persons are paid in accordance with the value of their product, and a substantial incentive exists for him to incur the disutility associated with being productive, in the benefits he/she reaps from the sale of their "goods" (on either a labor or goods market).

Redistribution of income undermines these incentives by lessening the benefits one recognizes from his labors. In the simplest of terms one cannot expect a rational, self-interested economic agent to work as hard for another as he does for himself. So when the incentives to work and be productive are lessened by redistributionism the aggregate productivity suffers.

Redistributionists fail to understand that when the economic pie is shared equally (without regard for productivity) the total pie necessarily dwindles in size, as evidenced by the inferior standard of living in socialist states.

End of sermon.


Santa Ana

Los Angeles Times Articles