Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Social Doctrine of the Church - Capitalism

Capitalism and the free market are recognized as good things in the social doctrine of the Church:
The Church's social doctrine appreciates the secure advantages that the mechanisms of the free market offer, making it possible as they do to utilize resources better and facilitating the exchange of products (Compendium, 347).
But this endorsement (which may be found not just in this passage, but rather throughout the Compendium) is conditional in important ways.
Freedom in the economic sector, however, must be regulated by appropriate legal norms so that it will be placed at the service of integral human freedom. "Economic freedom is only one element of human freedom. When it becomes autonomous, when man is seen more as a producer or consumer of goods than as a subject who produces and consumes in order to live, then economic freedom loses its necessary relationship to the human person and ends up by alienating and oppressing him" (ibid., 350).
The important thing is to remember that the free market must be put to the service of people, not merely exploited as a means for accumulating wealth. Customers are people and must be treated as such. The same goes for employees. Most conservatives agree with the obvious proposition that the free market must be regulated at least as far as is necessary to eliminate fraud, theft, and the like, but the Church says that we must go further, so that the markets are put to the service of people, rather than using people in the service of wealth accumulation.

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