Many are questioning (some are not even questioning) if the Pope is calling for socialism when he talks about economic fairness and granting access to those who have not been able to participate in the economy. I’m not so sure that he is – just that those who view socialism as the answer to all of society’s woes take the Pope’s words as affirmation of their views. Many people get so fixated on a method of achieving a goal that they forget the original goal.
If the goal is to give people access to the economy, socialism is not the solution. In fact, socialism is exactly the problem that has caused the doors to economic fairness to be closed to many people in many places in the world. (Other reasons are religious, where only those of a particular faith can participate, or classism, where only those of a particular class or caste have access to the economy.) The vast majority of places in the world where only a few people have the ability to gain wealth, while many others have no opportunity, are either socialist or monarchies. When it is the government that is deciding who gets to open a business or run a factory , as well as who can only work in those factories and never become an owner, political influence decides access to the economy. In some cases, many are not even able to work at all unless they are a “in the party” or otherwise favored people of the government.
In places like America and Taiwan, where there is a free enterprise system open to all, everyone has access to the economic system. Because so many people are producing in those countries, there is also a lot more wealth to go around. Sure, those who are most productive end up with a larger share of the wealth, but even those who produce nothing are far better off in free enterprise societies than they are in places where the government controls who gets access to the economic system. In America, even someone who does not work at all can expect to have a substantial shelter, food, quality medical care, access to education, a cell phone, a television, and transportation. In Vietnam and North Korea, unless you’re in the favored class or the Party, you’ll have none of these things unless you work very hard for them yourself. Even then, hard work is often not enough because either your earnings are taken away or things just aren’t available. It seems odd that, in a country like Vietnam, supposedly based on an economic system where everyone shares equally, nothing is shared at all.
In free enterprise economies, where there are jobs and the ability to create new businesses available to those who seek them, it is just a matter of whether people choose to access the economic system or not. Access requires one to think beyond oneself, because the way that you do well economically is to do things that other people need. You do things for others, who in turn do things for you of equal value. The more people you help, the more wealth you earn.
Another advantage of a free enterprise system is that more wealth is created. In a place like Cuba where there is no incentive to make more than you need because it will just be taken away, people do the bare minimum needed to survive. If others are not producing enough to cover what they are consuming, there will not be enough to go around, leading to shortages. If you get to keep a portion of the excess you produce, there is an incentive to produce more, and also a drive to find ways to make production as efficient as possible. With a shovel, it would take a year or more to create a swimming pool, making them very expensive and only the things very wealthy people would have. With the creation of a backhoe by someone wanting to be more productive, a swimming pool can be created in a week or less, making them affordable for anyone with even a moderate income.
Another way to improve the lives of all is to not give charity to those who are able to produce for themselves. In a system where you need to at least do something to get the food you need to eat, people have an incentive to spend their time doing things other people need, which causes more wealth to be created. If one person were growing the food for an entire neighborhood, everyone in that neighborhood would be starving because one person would not be able to produce enough. If everyone were spending the majority of their time growing food, there would be more than enough to go around. More wealth would be produced, meaning everyone would be wealthier.
So, the way to bring about the Pope’s vision is not to go out and start taking money and possessions away from the wealthy and distributing them in the streets. That would be like thinking that you could solve hunger by gathering up all of the seed corn in the silos and doling it out. Instead, access to the economy by all is accomplished by removing the barriers to entry, most of which are put up by government officials and rulers who use their power to control access. Anyone who wants to start a business should only need to do what is needed to ensure his activities won’t negatively affect others and pay for any harm that is done. Anyone who wants to work should be free to market himself as desired and agree to wages and benefits with his employer. It is access to multiple employers brought about by the ease of opening a business that leads to fair wages and benefits, not legislation.
The Pope’s vision is also accomplished by insisting on the best from people, which is exactly what is done under free enterprise. Encourage people to spend their time doing productive things by not giving hand-outs, even for basic necessities, to people who are mentally and physically able to contribute. Instead, give opportunities to earn what is needed, either by helping other individuals or by helping society as a whole.
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