See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The other day when the Pope released Evangelii Gaudium, I was immediately directed by some to the paragraph deriding free-market economics and ‘trickle-down’ theories.
The paragraph I read said 54.
In this context, some people continue to
defend trickle-down theories which assume that
economic growth, encouraged by a free market,
will inevitably succeed in bringing about great
-er justice and inclusiveness in the world. This
opinion, which has never been confirmed by the
facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the
goodness of those wielding economic power
and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing
economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are
still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes
others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish
ideal, a globalization of indifference has devel
oped. Almost without being aware of it, we end
up being incapable of feeling compassion at the
outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s
pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though
all this were someone else’s responsibility and
not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens
My immediate thought was that this was silly formulation. As somebody who believes free markets are a very useful tool for spreading economic benefits, I don’t any people, particularly Catholics, who think that free markets in and of themselves are the sufficient and exclusive method of helping the poor. Also, I believe that relinquishing more and more control of economies to centralized and insulated governments is, as the Pope would call it, a crude and naive and may I say foolhardy solution. Further, I think that a much more prevalent mindset among peoples is to cede responsibility for the poor to these centralized and insulated behemoths. “The government should really do something about that!”
But, having been burned before by poor translations, I decided to hold my fire. As it turns out, that was a prudent action for as Father Z. points out that a translation error changes some of the context of the quote.
Over at the other post a commentator pointed out that the official English rendering of EG 54 makes Spanish “por si’ mismo” into “inevitably”, but that it really means “by itself”.
Let’s swap in the “by itself” and read it again.
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories [“trickle down economics”] which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will by itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.
There is a big difference between “inevitably” and “by itself”!
There are uses of “mismo” that have to do with time, such as “ahora mismo” (“right now”). This is not one of those.
I think we can stipulate that “las teorías del «derrame»” is an adequate expression for English “trickle down” economics. We can drill, I suppose, into who generally uses the phrase “trickle down”. Some will say that only critics use the phrase. Let’s leave that aside. Also, I am not convinced that “justice and inclusiveness” does justice to “equidad e inclusión social”. ”Equidad” is not “justice”.
But the real point here is that in EG 54 the author says that “trickle down” economics cannot by itself produce the desired result.
That is, of course, correct.
So , yes, the Pope is correct in that free-markets alone are insufficient. Still, I don’t know many people who hold that it is but many people who hold that government solutions and control are sufficient. Many people. I see the latter as a much more prevalent abdication of our Christian obligation to the poor.
So while the Pope is technically correct in so far as the amended translation provides, I still think that his economic focus seems off. Perhaps such attitudes are more prevalent in his native South America, but at least among free-market advocates in the developed West, I don’t see this attitude.
More and more, investing all of our personal responsibilities in the Government is the problem. I don’t think many people will realize how big a problem this is until it is too late. Perhaps the Pope is among them.