Pope Francis believes that joblessness “wounds” human dignity.
In a speech today commemorating the 120th anniversary of an Italian steel manufacturer, the pontiffs highlighted the essential nature of work for both the good of an individual’s self-esteem and the advancement of society.
Free market capitalism is not without flaws obviously. In those prior comments, the pope may have been to some degree alluding to so-called crony capitalism and/or corporate socialism, trends which have been increasing under Big Government initiatives in the industrialized countries, including our own.
In America (and in Europe), both individual welfare and corporate welfare have exploded, and long-term unemployment continues to be a serious systemic problem. As many have observed, we are rapidly reaching the tipping point where there will be more people in the wagon then pulling the wagon. For the truly needy, a safety net is a permanent part of the social contract. As Bono has observed, however, entrepreneurial capitalism is a pathway out of poverty.
And at some juncture, Uncle Sam — i.e., the US taxpayer — will no longer be able to afford to write further checks absent a growing economy.
Pope Francis has won worldwide acclaim for among other things his acts of compassion, his open-mindedness and outreach efforts, and for his modest personal lifestyle.
In seemingly praising the free market, the pontiff today addressed the importance of the work ethic as a component of the shared responsibility of economic justice:
It is necessary to reaffirm that employment is necessary for society, for families and for individuals. Its primary value is the good of the human person, as it allows the individual to be fully realized as such, with his or her attitudes and intellectual, creative and manual capacities. Therefore, it follows that work has not only the economic objective of profit, but above all a purpose that regards man and his dignity. And if there is no work, this dignity is wounded! Indeed, the unemployed and underemployed risk being relegated to the margins of society, becoming victims of social exclusion.”
Continued the pope: “What can we say, when faced with the very serious problem of unemployment that affects various European countries? It is the consequence of an economic system that is no longer able to create work, because it has placed at its center the idol of money. Therefore, the various political, social and economic actors are called upon to promote a different approach, based on justice and solidarity, to ensure the possibility of dignified work for all. Work is an asset for all, and must be available to all. Phases of serious difficulties and unemployment must be faced with the tools of creativity and solidarity. The creativity of courageous businesspeople and craftspeople, who look to the future with trust and hope. And solidarity between all the elements of society, who all give something up, adopting a more sober lifestyle, to help those in need.”
In commenting on the pope’s exposition, HotAir.com noted that the pope’s remarks about job creation “challenges policymakers to focus on Main Street instead of Wall Street, to use a slogan of our own times here in the US, but emphasizes that human dignity and self-sufficiency are connected with each other … We should look for ways to reform our regulatory and tax regimes to protect consumers but stop favoring the biggest players in the markets. There is plenty of room in here for people of both political parties to find common ground.”
In his speech about the work ethic, Pope Francis also stressed the importance of faith and encouraged individuals to avoid the “vortex of pessimism” in this time of economic turmoil.
[image credit: presidencia.gov.ar]