Ethics & Morality

Christianity is the key to redeeming Capitalism


The Christian think tank Theos has quite a remarkable knack of producing reports that are both thorough and of an incredibly high quality. I’ve repeatedly covered their work over the last few years, generating a fair amount of interest in the process. What they consistently manage to achieve is work that is utterly grounded in the Christian Faith and is also applied to a range of current issues with rigour and integrity. It is an impressive demonstration that Christianity has the teeth and balls to take on hard-hitters in the secular and political arenas without trepidation.

The latest offering, Just Money: How Catholic Social Teaching can Redeem Capitalism follows the high standards of those before it. Written by the respected Roman Catholic commentator Clifford Longley, it takes a long hard look at the financial crash of 2008 and asks if it could have been avoided if morality had not been progressively sucked out of the banking system in the years leading up to the market meltdown. Longley sets out a vision for how Catholic Social Teaching (CST), with its intention of applying the essence of Christian moral principles to life in society, can offer hope and the chance of redemption for our commercial organisations and economies.

This is meaty stuff and, weighing in at 92 pages, there is far too much content and thought to cover in any great depth in a humble blog post. There are, however, a few themes that are worth exploring.

The brunt of the criticism dished out in this report (and there is plenty of it) is placed at the feet of Neoliberalism or free-market fundamentalism.  This ideological belief that neoliberal markets are self-correcting and that any destructive tendencies are self-limiting has proved to be wildly inaccurate. The report describes this approach to economics as the “biggest intellectual mistake this generation has ever witnessed, arguably the world has ever witnessed”.
Catholic political preferences have consistently been shown to be more left-wing, so such criticism is of little surprise coming from the author. But Longley is just as comfortable reprimanding the economic policies of the last Labour government under Gordon Brown and putting down the notion that Socialism, especially when it verges towards Communism with the state taking control of the reins, will provide the antidote. Instead, its collectivist mentality has a centralising and therefore disempowering tendency.

The answer to these two extremes, in Clifford Longley’s eyes, is a via media in the form of Catholic Social Teaching, with its long and established doctrine that embraces markets and wealth creation, but seeks to place at the heart of it the common good where morality and mutual benefit for both companies and their employees and customers are placed at the heart of business and economic thinking.

An emphasis on dealing in terms of the common good is gaining traction in lofty places, partly in response to the epic failures of markets left largely to their own devices. Mark Carney, the current Governor of the Bank of England, speaking earlier this year, made this observation:

My core point is that, just as any revolution eats its children, unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself… Market fundamentalism – in the form of light-touch regulation, the belief that bubbles cannot be identified and that markets always clear – contributed directly to the financial crisis and the associated erosion of social capital.

Alan Greenspan , former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, who was widely regarded as the neoliberal father of modern free-market economics, had a significant change of heart following the shocks of 2008. Among the factors Greenspan identified that could change economic behaviour – apart from rational self-interest – was morality. In 2013 he wrote:

No human being can avoid the imperative of judging right from wrong. What we feel is right and just reflects our own deep-seated code of values. We rationally codify our introspective view of how our actions will further our values and, therefore, what set of actions we believe, rightly or wrongly, will nurture our lives. The value systems of most people are rooted in religion and culture.

When he talks about religion in an American cultural context, he is implicitly referring to Christianity, and it is leaders who are professing Christians who are now driving this push for morality and values to be placed at the heart of economic structures. Mark Carney is a Roman Catholic, as is Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, who quoted Pope Francis this year, saying:

(He) recently put this in stark terms when he called increasing inequality the root of social evil. It is therefore not surprising that IMF research – which looked at 173 countries over the last 50 years – found that more unequal countries tend to have lower and less durable economic growth.

This and other themes from CST are increasingly penetrating economic and political philosophy. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has been particularly outspoken regarding banking reform, has described how Catholic social teachings have been “formative influences of my own thinking in terms of the ministry of the church, and the most powerful one from which I’ve learned and continue to learn”.

Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian Sojourners movement and spiritual advisor to President Obama, is also the Vice Chairman of the Global Agenda Council on Values of the World Economic Forum, and regularly mixes with world leaders attending the annual Davos business summit in Switzerland. His latest book On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good openly draws inspiration from CST, which offers a set of principles that can protect social capital – shared values and standards such as honesty and trust – from being devoured in the way Mark Carney describes. This model of social capital looks to transcend the power of markets and the reach of governments by holding both them and all of us accountable to the common good. And that means prioritising the common good over profits, defending the rights of workers and, importantly, the incorporation of morality and virtue into economic thinking and practice.

Over the last few years, and certainly up until 2008, the opposite has been in place. There has been a thrust to make economic ideology more rational, removing the human dimension and turning it into a science. Longley writes:

Economists want their subject to be similarly predictive. But they don’t know what to program into their computers, or whether human behaviour is even capable of being reduced to a set of scientific laws.

This point is picked by Ken Costa in his book God at Work. Costa is Chairman of Alpha International and also Churchwarden of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB).  He was also previously the chairman of Lazard, one of the world’s preeminent financial advisory and asset-management firms. Discussing the financial crash, he writes:

For many years, economics has tried to turn itself into a hard, objective science, totally grounded in mathematical equations and, significantly, free from subjective and personal judgement. This apparently gave economists a sense of confidence, reliability and respectability. Economics became totally separate from values, morality, character, relationships or anything concrete, everyday and ordinary. It was about science, mathematics, calculations and equations. The prevailing mindset of the time was that economics was much better for it.

The only problem with this outlook is that it was nonsense. The search for a system that was perfectly rational, objective and logical was the financial equivalent of the Holy Grail.

If there is one thing that should be discerned from the global financial crisis it is that it is impossible to separate the financial from the human. By fragmenting that link, we see that society itself runs the risk of becoming broken and fragmented.

So what does this new future look like that sees the social responsibility of business being far more than the pursuit of profits?

We should not be afraid to ‘Do Morality’ and bring the subject into the public forum. Discussing morality is not the same as moralising. It is not about judgement and finding fault with others: it is a recognition that, despite what some might want us to believe, we are moral creatures. Turning to Costa’s words again:

The reality – the unpalatable reality – is that we, all of us have a propensity to deviate from the common good. Our inclination is to favour the ‘me’ over the ‘we’; to prioritise short-term gain over long-term commitment; even to prefer greed over moderation. Clearly there is an important regulatory role here. However, we should not imagine that regulation in and of itself will cure what Isaiah Berlin called ‘The crooked timber of humanity’. An external support may well correct the worst excess of a tree growing crookedly, but it will be insufficient to straighten it out.

The challenge for the financial world in the twenty-first century is to draw a line in the global sand and encourage more human, and therefore more humane, economic vision. Above all we need to recover a moral spirit that eschews narrow moralising but recovers a more gracious, less legalistic, spirit that recognises our need for a values-based economy. This is the challenge of our time.

When Justin Welby spoke of his plan at an IMF meeting for Britain’s “ambitious” young bankers to give up work for a year and join the “quasi-monastic community” of St Anselm at Lambeth in order to learn about ethics ahead of entering the City, he was directly meeting this challenge. If we are to see a real and substantial shift in the way morality is integrated into business and banking, the change will need to come from the inside, with those at the top embracing the values present in Catholic Social Teaching and a vision of the common good.

If we look to the past, so often it has been Christians who have embraced this vision and played a distinctive role in connecting the financial to the ethical. It is time to see a new generation take on this challenge with conviction and purpose with the aim of bringing about significant and lasting change that works toward the common good for us all.

  • Martin

    Theos is a Christian organisation? I don’t think so. Certainly the problem with our World is a lack of morality but then any Christian in the pew should have been able to tell you that.

    There is, of course, also a problem in that a nation that abandons God will bring God’s judgement on itself. Such sins as sexual immorality are a sign of God’s judgement on that nation and Romans 1:18-32 gives us a picture of that downward spiral. You may think things are going well but they aren’t. The answer is not to join a “quasi-monastic community” or have a think tank but to turn to God in repentance, admitting our sin and seeking His mercy. Sorry if that doesn’t fit your grand theological scheme.

    • Amen!
      I am old enough to remember all the shenanigans at the Vatican Bank some years ago, so I don’t think the Church of Rome has anything too much to teach us about financial probity.
      The problem is that banking and other financial matters depend to some degree upon trust and honesty, and with the decline in Christian belief, these are in increasingly short supply. How many bankers today will be put off impropriety by a fear of hell?
      All these sorts of problems will be solved only by the Gospel. Praise God that things may slowly be changing. Many bankers have been touched by Gospel preaching. St. Helens, Bishopsgate, the Metropolitan Tabernacle and other churches have done great work in reaching many City folk with the word of God and this is producing good fruit in the way of charitable works and, one trusts, in honest dealings.
      The problem in banking is the same as the problem in the Nation at large. We need Christ, and the only way to get Him is through the preaching of the word (Romans 10:14-15).

      • skeetstar

        Martins , I agree. The problem is not just banking. I worked foir a large IT MultiNat for 25 years, and over that time time I saw evolve from a team based consensual business, into a ‘Them and Us’ where the business seemed to be run for the top 200 execs, whose pay rises via share options were counted in the tens of millions per annum, whilst there was a nil payrise policy in the rest of the organisation. I felt that the greed of the senior execs was the main driver of the business.

        Banking and business works best with a Judeo Christian ethic of honesty, integrity and decency. It needs to be run by men and women that are motivated by service as much as ambition.

        Democracy is the same, once we lose integrity and replace it with cynicism, placemen, dishonesty, spin doctoring and corruption (and that program is well under way) we are on the slippery slope into a very dark hole.

        • Martin


          Your comment brought to mind the way in which companies put the parts that actually produce to product out to tender. The real work is done by contracting companies, just the profits and benefits come to the ‘head office’.

        • Coniston

          My father worked in a branch bank. His cousin was a bank manager (in the same bank but elsewhere in the country). Both held the ‘Dad’s Army’ attitude to banking. In retirement both were horrified at the way banks were going.

      • Martin


        Didn’t an executive of that bank end up hanging under Blackfriars Bridge?

      • Less than convinced.

        You’re old enough to remember shenanigans at the Vatican bank, which, we can assume, makes you at least 2 years old. It’s a silly remark to say that based on the failings of a bank a long-standing tradition has nothing to say. Do the failings of the Chief-Exec of the Co-op Bank prove that co-operative banking is inherently flawed? No, they simply prove he was an ass.

    • “Theos is a Christian organisation? I don’t think so.”

      Care to explain that one, Martin?

      • Martin


        From their webpage

        4. What Theos believes

        Theos was launched with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, but it is independent of any particular denomination. We are an ecumenical Christian organisation, committed to the belief that religion in general and Christianity in particular has much to offer for the common good of society as a whole. We are committed to the traditional creeds of the Christian faith and draw on social and political thought from a wide range of theological traditions. We also work with many non-christian and non-religious individuals and organisations.

        Being ecumenical is to not be Christian.

        Their belief is in religion, not the God of the Bible

        They base themselves on tradition, not the Bible.

        Is that enough?

        • Nope ……………

          • Martin


            I’m afraid it is in my view, indeed the first is sufficient.

  • JayBee

    The fundamental problem with all this is that wherever there is money, greed is but a step behind. A society that no longer wishes to build its financial and business foundations on Christian principles will never agree on a shared set of ethical principles. Even if it could there would still be international problems without a global set of shared values.

    The signs are not good. We have had 6 years since 2008 to sort out the banking system and there still is no firewall between investment and retail banking. The world will reap what it is continuing to sow. With a stagnating Eurozone, a slowdown in China, a standstill in Germany disappointing results from the USA and a raft of Geo-political nasties like ISIS, Ebola, Ukraine etc.we have the conditions for a perfect storm to flatten the banking system yet again.

    It would take at least a generation to instill moral and financial discipline of the kind this report calls for. To get there one has to start somewhere. But as the old saying goes, “I wouldn’t start from here if I were you.”

    • alternative_perspective


      • avi barzel

        Applicable only in the Land of Israel, with precise rules, a range of mitigating clauses and under a centralised theocratic bureaucracy with enforcement capabilities.

  • Hi Gillan

    A few thoughts:

    1).I’ve read this post twice. I’m still at a loss as to what the proposals are to reform capitalism, except for a nod to Catholic social teaching (whatever that is) and a vague idea of Christian morality. I’m not sure how this will convince with ” the vision thing” in the battle for hearts and minds.

    2). Despite what people say I can’t see that we’re in a system of neoliberal capitalism. Today we have crony capitalism at best, where massive banks, rather than going bust for their mistakes have been bailed out for those mistakes (the argument being economic catastrophe would have occurred otherwise). Even the Euro crisis is a bailout, not of countries, but of banks who lent to other banks and countries who couldn’t pay the debt back. Ireland wasn’t bailed out, it’s banking system was, to protect big British, German and French banks..likewise Greece was bailed out to protect the northern European banking system. None of this is pure market capitalism , because under such an ideology there wouldn’t be any bailouts. Likewise in the debate about private sector companies bidding for public sector work, this isn’t market competition, but a private company getting a juicy bit of easy money from the taxpayer, to do what arguably the government could do at the same price.

    3). The whole banking crisis, in America, Britain and Europe,had its origins in the desire of politicians to grant credit and home ownership to “everyone”, including those who really couldn’t pay it back. The banks did their part by facilitating this and getting round regulations via the way of bundling up this debt, mixing it up with better debt and selling this on to anyone else who was stupid enough to buy it (which was most financial institutions), until reality caught up and no one knew who was holding the parcel.

    My own thoughts on reforming capitalism? One proposal is to give workers shares for free, alongside a basic salary, which could pay out dividends and if the company is successful grow in value each year (say you could only sell them or the company could buy them back at a specific price, when you left or retired).

    • CliveM


      Your point is a good one. The origins of the crisis in the US, lay in Clinton legislation, designed to encourage banks to lend to higher risk groups. It is arguable that this was done with the best of intentions i.e. the extension of home ownership, however it turned a traditionally conservative industry that had been risk averse in its lending patterns, to one that that loaned out massive amounts of debt to high risk individuals. To pass on this risk, share bundling was invented and, as you say, the rest is history.

      BUT the point is, this wasn’t about neoliberal capitalism, it was State intervention that was at the root of the banking collapse. Yes it should have been better regulated, however the problem was NOT caused by the lack of regulation, it was caused by the government interfering in the market for social reasons.

      If then the report incorrectly identifies the root cause of the crisis, what confidence can we have in any proposed solutions?

      • Hi Clive

        Then we are in agreement.

        • CliveM


          I have a habit of rambling on at times, your points were well made.

    • Hi Hannah. There is much that can be written about this and a single blog post can only scrape the surface. All I have aimed to do is to present the case for the need for morality and guiding values to be present at the heart of the system if we are going to fundamentally change it for the better.

      This can be seen as a vague wishy-washy hope, but actually there is real substance to it. The difficulty is in the implementation. Without those working in this area developing a fresh vision, there is little hope for great change and it may take fresh blood to bring it about.

      • Hi Gillan,

        [Apologies if it comes up as Gillian, my automatic spell checker likes to correct me when I don’t want it to !].

        I appreciate that is the case. I just guess I’m more thinking about this on the practical side. I also like to give constructive, critical feedback.

  • carl jacobs

    So what does this new future look like

    Good question. I read in vain through this entire post looking for some hint of an answer to that question. About the only answer I could find was “People, not profits.” Which roughly translated usually means “Gimme a free IPad.”

    I don’t know. Is suffering a good producer of moral capital in Catholic Social Teaching? Maybe when people buy houses they can’t afford so they can flip the house in five years to realize $100K in capital gains, maybe you shouldn’t indemnify them against the loss when the bubble bursts. Maybe you shouldn’t as a matter of social policy try to create ways to finance home ownership for those who can’t afford it.

    But… but… “People, not Profits.” People do stupid things. The best way to convince them to behave better is to let them suffer the consequences of their decisions.


    • Are we looking for people of exemplary moral stature to wade in and grab the bull by the horns? The market collapse of 2008 proved that people do stupid things and even more so when there are no guiding principles to restrain them.

      • Or when those guiding principles are ignored? Jack believes they are there and revealed in Scripture.

      • carl jacobs


        What does ‘grab the bull by the horns’ mean? Are you suggesting that morality be introduced indirectly by means of character formation? Or are you suggesting that morality be introduced through moral regulation of the economy in some sense? If the later, then what new regulation do you envision?


      • CliveM


        But if the stupid people doing stupid things is the US Govt forcing banks to lend in a more risky manner and the moral principle was to be more socially inclusive by enabling the poor and disadvantaged to clamber onto the property ladder, was the problem actually a lack of moral guidance or the interference into a free market?

        • retiredbloke

          No, it was a disregard for God’s ordained principle of sowing and reaping.

    • “People do stupid things. The best way to convince them to behave better is to let them suffer the consequences of their decisions.”

      Yep, like being born in Orissa, India, without access to work, housing, health care, sanitation, and regular food. The consequences?

      Oh, forgot, they can always work in sweatshops with poor working conditions, unfair wages, unreasonable hours, child labour and a lack of benefits for workers. An estimated 250 million children, ages 5 to 14, are employed in such places. Still, it helps us in the West. We get our cheap shoes, clothing, rugs, and toys.

      The joys and benefits of free markets.

      • carl jacobs


        Here is another Latin phrase for you to learn – non sequitur. What has that to do with anything I said?


        • There’s an absence of basic morality in following profit for the sake of profit and then attributing the consequential – repeat, consequential – suffering to the stupidity of those who suffer.

          “The love of money is a root from which every kind of evil springs, and there are those who have wandered away from the faith by making it their ambition, involving themselves in a world of sorrows.”

          • avi barzel

            Following profit for profit alone is one thing, absence of basic morality another. Capitalism isn’t just straight mining of limited resources, but actually “creates” wealth seemingly from nothing by identifying and utilizing idle capacities of people, systems and environments. This can be done by saints as well as by beasts, but objectively works better with a mutually accepted moral system.

          • That’s what the article is about, Avi, finding “a mutually accepted moral system” that harnesses men’s creative talents with God’s ordinances.

          • avi barzel

            It’s more about people trying to find and impose an economic system which they believe is just. Stripped of its theological lingo, it sounds like old social or Christian democrat platforms or labour union theorizing, with all the trendy emotional wording of our times.

            But as Carl, pointed out, they and Gillan carefully tiptoe around concretes.
            You don’t seriously think that in this secular age people will agree to Christian, Jewish or other moral principles? and that anyone will actually allow its prophets to dictate social and economic policy? I know you don’t. So what do we get in real terms? Ideologues who make common cause with Obama’s disastrous administration, the UN, the IMF and of course, local politicians, who will pressure governments to yet again turn our lives upside down. We’ll get another “banking reform” drive which means that banks will have to beg governments to confiscate tax payer money to make up for their hare-brained lending decisions to bottomless pits and their well-positioned cronies. Or more social benefits to more beneficiaries, higher salaries and bigger pensions for government workers, more desperate tax grabs, bigger fines, fees and a slew of dysfunctional regulations to strangle the economy. Eventually, this cycle of stupidity will burn the system before someone pulls us out in time and all this people-centered talk will evaporate in the orgy of looting and violence.

            It’s frightening to think that your country, which gave us Adam Smith and Edmund Burke, would seriously contemplate such foolishness.

          • Adam Smith? Come now, you cannot be serious.

            Jack has read his ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ and ‘The Wealth of Nations’ when studying. They left him cold. It’s partly why he found Marx’s vision attractive when he took a walk on the dark side. Then, through long and sometimes hostile discussions his father, a very patient and mild mannered man, steeped in a Jewish mind-set, he slowly started to understand the Tanakh and the New Testament.

          • avi barzel

            Come on now, that was then, this is now. Marx was a brilliant abstract theorist when it came to the macro perspective, with understandable radical tendencies given his experience, but couldn’t manage his household finances and shnorred off his buddy, Friedrich. Reminds me of the yeshiva bochers who study Talmud all day and don’t know how to heat up the soup their wives make.

            A little known secret: Britain produced the best economic theorists, which makes sense, because Britain perfected this capitalism thing (for which we Yids get the blame!) by grafting it to colonialism and industrialism and generating the magic we see around us. All nasty words to the new beautiful people, but here we are, bullshitting around on our devices across an ocean thanks to the cooky accountants and their looms and steam machines.

          • And it wont last much longer, Avi. Why? Because its all built on a foundation of greed and self interest. Marx understood the teleological purpose of creation. He just got his god wrong.

          • avi barzel

            Marx only got one thing right; that the material condition determines or at least influences culture. He wrecked that remarkable accomplishment with his pseudo-messianic determinism, his imaginary historical laws and his peasant-like theory about the absolute value of labour, without taking into account market dynamics. And for all that you have to trudge through the deadly Das Kapital until you want to throw your self off a window.

            What “teleological purpose of creation” do you imagine Marx got? He was a pure materialist who dreamed up a static society of managed subsistence economies.

          • avi barzel

            Oh, and the “it won’t last much longer” bit. Well, self interest and greed began to power humanity since the beginning of private property once we left our hunter-gatherer phase, as early as our pastoral one and definitely by the time of settled agrarian chiefdoms. That’s about 8 or 9 thousand years. Pretty respectable run with some mind-boggling accomplishments, even if it all goes kaboom and we’re back to digging roots and picking snails .

          • CliveM

            Happy Jack

            If it all goes bang it will be because of debt and not capitalism. Government debt, banking debt and personal debt. All encouraged by western governments looking for easy growth and ways of avoiding the difficult decisions.
            If people blame the current problems on capitalism, they fundamentally mis-understand the issues.

            Not that Govts shouldn’t be trying to encourage moral behaviours ie honesty etc although I seriously doubt their ability to encourage a moral mindset.

          • carl jacobs


            Not when the one who suffers is the one who brought on his own suffering by his own decisions. Consider the ant, O sluggard.

            You might consider that many of those bad housing loans were driven by politicians deciding that the market was producing the wrong results. They noticed it was rejecting too many applicants who fell in the category of ‘constituent.’ So for the sake of (you know) morality, they created ways to ‘fix’ the market. Great plan.


          • This “the one who brought on his own suffering by his own decisions” makes little sense in an immoral system – or, amoral one. Greed, want and acquisition tend to be infectious and consumer activity by isn’t always rational – ask advertisement agencies.

          • carl jacobs


            “It wasn’t me! it was that advertiser you gave me. She did advertise and I did buy.”

            When you can describe a moral system in more than vague generalities, then perhaps you will have a case.


          • Carl, do you accept there is an objective moral order pertaining to man’s organised, communal activities? Or do you see this as being concerned with ‘man alone’?

          • carl jacobs


            What you are attempting to do is build a system that produces a collective moral outcome without bothering to define what that collective moral outcome should be. You would do this on the assumption that the market is producing ‘immoral’ outcomes when virtually all of the decisions that make up the market are not in an of themselves immoral.

            1. I don’t buy the concept of collective morality.

            2. I doubt your ability to intentionally produce a moral collective outcome that is in fact morally superior.


          • “I don’t buy the concept of collective morality.”

            Is human wellbeing found in the good of the whole society, the common good?’

          • carl jacobs


            This is what I mean by vague generalities. Tell me what the ‘common good’ is. Define the endpoints you are trying to achieve. Specifically define them, Jack.


          • It’s a journey, Carl.

            Jack can’t define the endpoints like some dictator. These need to be agreed. One always starts with specifying principles and values for the journey.

            Many of the commands of Jesus to love and give could be described as “vague generalities”.

          • carl jacobs


            You can’t plan a journey unless you know where you are going.


          • Tell that to Moses and the Israelites.

          • carl jacobs

            Sometimes you amaze me. Who was in front if the Israelites through that whole journey? Who knew where He was going?

            If you want to say God is leading this, then start laying out the Biblical principles that will govern the myriad of decisions that will determine the socially just outcome you desire. Here, I’ll make it simple. Explain the principles of buying a shirt. Because that’s the kind of thing you are talking about. Do you have anything? A Papal Bull? A press release from the Vatican? An infallibly pronounced shirt-buying principle? Anything?

          • “Who was in front if the Israelites through that whole journey? Who knew where He was going?”

            Exactly, Carl. You amaze Jack at times too. You chose Smith over Christ? You want to talk about buying a shirt? No need for a Papal Bull or a press release from the Vatican.

            How’s this for infallibility?

            “I say to you, then, do not fret over your life, how to support it with food and drink; over your body, how to keep it clothed. Is not life itself a greater gift than food, the body than clothing? See how the birds of the air never sow, or reap, or gather grain into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them; have you not an excellence beyond theirs? Can any one of you, for all his anxiety, add a cubit’s growth to his height? And why should you be anxious over clothing? See how the wild lilies grow; they do not toil or spin; and yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

            If God, then, so clothes the grasses of the field, which to-day live and will feed the oven to-morrow, will he not be much more ready to clothe you, men of little faith? Do not fret, then, asking, What are we to eat? or What are we to drink? or How shall we find clothing? It is for the heathen to busy themselves over such things; you have a Father in heaven who knows that you need them all. Make it your first care to find the kingdom of God, and his approval, and all these things shall be yours without the asking. Do not fret, then, over to-morrow; leave to-morrow to fret over its own needs; for to-day, to-day’s troubles are enough.”

          • carl jacobs


            Yes, I want to talk about buying a shirt. I asked you about principles, and you quoted the summation of the Law. So here is the question I want you to answer – given that complete (non) answer. Am I loving my neighbor as myself if I make my own shirts, Jack? I want you to stop and realize how ridiculous that question is, and then ponder the fact that you are demanding that very kind of question be answered.

            Oh, and perhaps I missed it. Is there a Pillar of fire somewhere delivering macroeconomic principles on stone tablets? If not, then you better start allocuting those biblical principles that constitute divine leadership. Or referencing those Magisterial pronouncements if you want to keep it within Catholic teaching.

          • Adam Smith or Jesus Christ, Carl?

            Your loving your neighbour as yourself if you buy, make or sell shirts without being preoccupied with self interest at the exclusion of all else.

            “Yes, I want to talk about buying a shirt. I asked you about principles, and you quoted the summation of the Law.”

            That’s not good enough for you as a starting point? It was prefaced by this:

            “The eye is the light of the whole body, so that if thy eye is clear, the whole of thy body will be lit up; whereas if thy eye is diseased, the whole of thy body will be in darkness. And if the light which thou hast in thee is itself darkness, what of thy darkness? How deep will that be! A man cannot be the slave of two masters at once; either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will devote himself to the one and despise the other. You must serve God or money; you cannot serve both.”

          • carl jacobs


            The Summation of the Law is a fine starting point. Do you suppose you could move beyond it by telling me how to specifically apply it to these myriads of decisions you want to Influence? Note. Restating the Law (like you did above) does not constitute specific application.

            In the meantime, could you stop popping Scripture like chaff? Could you instead explain its relevance and application to this vision of Social Justice? It’s a simple question. I keep asking, and you keep ducking.

          • Carl, if you cannot see it than Jack cannot explain it.

            As for specific application, let’s get the values right as the article states before the great and the good get to work on the detail.

          • carl jacobs

            Heh. No, Jack. You can’t explain it because you don’t know how. As anyone who has read this thread can plainly see. You have spanned it from one end to the other without saying anything in particular.

          • Jack has been saying one thing all night, Carl. There’s a whole other Gospel alongside the one you understand.

            Read “Caritas in Veritate>. As Pope Benedict points out, the Church does not offer specific technical solutions. It offers moral principles to inform the development of solutions.


          • carl jacobs

            One other thing. Well, two.

            You have now asserted a responsibility to conform to a set of objective moral norms that you can’t identify.

            Jesus talked to individuals. There are clearly articulated moral norms for individuals. You are looking for systemic morality. There is a difference.


          • “There are clearly articulated moral norms for individuals.”

            Individuals and their relationships with others and with God, Carl.

            Being a Christian isn’t limited to things ‘spiritual’ for the individual. It involves every aspect of our lives. Its a call to treat everyone as our brother and sister because we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

            Christianity is not just about Jesus talking to “individuals”. Surely it covers individual morality and family life through to international development, the homeless, sick and hungry, our environment, how we shop and consume, how we sell and trade, and the rights and responsibilities of people as owners and as workers.

            “You are looking for systemic morality.”

            A balance between the concerns for the whole of society, including the weakest and poorest, with respect for human liberty, including the right to private property.

            It’s the pursuit of Social Justice, Carl, which “rests on the threefold cornerstones of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity”. All this is in Jewish law and the books of the Prophets, as well as the teachings of Jesus Christ, most especially when He said: “whatever you have done for one of these least brothers of Mine, you have done for Me.”

            There is a public dimension to expressing a living faith in God as well as a private one. Really, they’re false distinctions.

          • carl jacobs


            Except you aren’t talking about individuals dealing with individuals. You are talking about the collective outcome of millions of decision by millions of actors. And virtually all of those decisions are not objectionable. You simply don’t happen to like the outcome. You want a ‘socially just’ outcome where you can’t even define what social justice is. So you try to manipulate the system in which individual decisions are made in order to produce this (totally undefined) outcome you desire. Do you not see a problem here?

            1. You don’t know how to do it, so (to be blunt) you are going to f__ it up.

            2. People are extraordinarily good at turning these ideas to their own parochial advantage.

            Economics is far too complex to be micromanaged like this. It is why Socialism must always fail. You will certainly do more harm than good by your efforts. Good motivations count for nothing.

          • “Except you aren’t talking about individuals dealing with individuals. You are talking about the collective outcome of millions of decision by millions of actors.”

            Yes and if we get the principles right, and follow God’s ways, the outcome rests in His Providence. Instead, the capitalist West relies on a liberal economic theory, developed by an atheist, that some “invisible hand” in the market will resolve all the problems if we just compete with one another and pursue our own self interest.

            As Jack said in another post – somewhere – our differences are, at root, theological.

          • carl jacobs


            Great. So articulate those principles. And then explain how you derived them. Until you actually write down something tangible, you are just playing moral games with syllogism.

          • Jack gave them earlier when he posted this:

            “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole mind. This is the greatest of the commandments, and the first. And the second, its like, is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments, all the law and the prophets depend.”

            The ideology behind liberalism and free markets – alone – is the anti-thesis of Christianity.

          • carl jacobs

            Further addendum:

            The impetus to fiddle with externals in order to create certain collective outcomes judged morally superior is a touchstone of the Left. It stems from the Leftist idea that evil is the result of bad human organization. That makes me suspect this is just Left-wing collectivism dressed up in theological clothes.

          • You’re a terribly suspicious man, then. And your mental outlook is coloured by this.

            The Left have been misusing the terms, granted. Evil always exists and cannot be removed by human effort or by reorganising society. What Catholic Social Teaching is about is calling us to love others because that’s what God calls us to do.

            “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole mind. This is the greatest of the commandments, and the first. And the second, its like, is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments, all the law and the prophets depend.”

            Charity, unselfish love, is the synthesis of the entire Law and not restricted to one to one relationships or small groups.

          • carl jacobs


            I prefer to think of as discernment instead of suspicion.

          • Carl
            One’s man’s discernment is another man’s unwarranted suspicions. We see the world and the Christian mission differently. Its a theological divide.

          • carl jacobs


            You say “Attempt to do good even though your efforts will inevitably produce greater evil. Motivation is more important than outcome.”

            I say “I don’t care about your motives. Don’t screw with things you don’t understand. You will devastate people by your good intentions.”

            Is that really a theological issue? You are right about this, however. You are making the exact same argument that you make to support Just War.

          • As Jack said, its a theological difference.

      • carl jacobs

        BTW, Jack. You do understand that the desire to export Western labor standards to non-Western countries is not motivated by a desire to help workers in non-Western countries, right? It’s intended to destroy competitive advantage in order to protect employment in Western countries. Just so we are clear on the morality of the issue.

        • As Jack said: “The joys and benefits of free markets.”

          • carl jacobs


            What you should have gleaned from that post is how difficult it is to separate self-interest from moral imperative in this matter. You think politicians are going to act with selfless disregard? Any attempt to fix market outcomes will always amount to choosing winners and losers in the marketplace. That outcome will of necessity be subject to the political process. There won’t be any moral vision remaining at the end of it. That’s reality.

            Why do you think Gillan scrupulously avoided any specifics? Because as soon as he suggests something tangible, people like me are going to carve it up according to this very logic. He knows that. He doesn’t know how to translate this vision into anything realizable. And neither does anyone else. I should much rather trust the ruthless market than a bunch of self-serving politicians telling me that lining the pockets of their constituents is all for the public good.


      • avi barzel

        It’s a horrid situation many children face. The alternative, though, is worse; no work, no food, slow painful death. Everyone knows of the terrible conditions England’s children suffered under in the tin mines and factories at the start of the Industrial Revolution; few know of the worse misery in the agrarian country side before it. Just look at British population and life expectancy statistics for the periods.

        So 250 million children on “unfair” wages. Now, tell me, how many children have the “fair trade” NGOs saved by getting them to produce expensive cottage industry crap for only a few downtown trendy stores? I doubt it’s over a few thousand.

        • CliveM


          There is a tension here. I believe in capitalism and (relatively) free markets etc but it cannot be enough to look at what is often little better then child slavery and say, well it could be worse. I think both our traditions demand more then that.

          • avi barzel

            Of course our traditions demand more. In speaking for the Jewish one, we have explicit laws for treatment of workers from which it is possible to extrapolate modern applications. There are limits to this approach such as that it’s a stretch applying biblical laws to conditions of modern industrial and service economies; that such do not have legitimacy in the secular nation state and that you can not project them abroad to independent nations.

            So, how would you approach child labour in the Third World? Go in, invade those nations and take over their industries? Boycott all goods from those counyries and consign millions of children to certain death….and millions of retail-related employees in the West to penury? Shovel money and resources in international aid and charity operations, which wouldn’t even scratch the surface of the problem? Sometimes there are no ready, immediate solutions, although there plenty of people to claim that they have all the answers as long as you give them the reigns of power, your liberties and your wallet.

          • CliveM


            Nothing worthwhile is ever easy! Will try and avoid glib cliches from here on!

            Ok I think one thing I should make clear is I am not going to suggest we should try and impose western standards in these countries. It would be naive (and that’s charitable) to suggest it would be possible. But there is a big gulf between that and the current situation. It should therefore be possible to make substantive improvements to the conditions of these children which wouldn’t result in their mass starvation. I don’t know about Canada, but being a civilised country I would imagine its similar, their is pressure on, say retail giants, from both consumer and political groups, to try end ensure certain minimum standards. It know that it doesn’t resolve all the problem and it hasn’t resulted in western working conditions, but com

  • I see one of the problems being an over saturation of PLC’s. More mutual companies and cooperatives are needed to redress the balance. I’m neither capitalist or statist, preferring something pragmatic and in between. But I agree with some posters that money has lost what few morals it had.

  • avi barzel

    Good Heavens, an old Christian socialist doctrine prettied up as a fascinating new ideology/theology. A plain reading of history shows the exact opposite; that the loosening of moralistic and theological attitudes to money and strict laws relating to commerce and capital acquisition resulted in the stupendous economic and technological revolution whose benefits we enjoy today. I’m not being a rude chauvinist here; the same applies to Judaism as well. The kehilla, the medieval Jewish communal self-government, with its imposition of a stratified society, restrictions on competition and its impractical attempts to control prices had a similar effect on dampening Jewish economic development. It was only Church Law, which forced Jews into money lending…”usury” to the religious…and other forms of money management, such as tax collection and administration of royal monopolies and Europe’s Jews enjoyed a brief boom until others, such as the Italian merchant-bankers and the Protestant bourgeoisie, wizened up and muscled-in into the game.

    • Less than convinced.

      I think you’ll find Catholic Social Thought some distance from socialism – the focus on the person is quite distinct, as is the model of subsidiarity. And it is not being presented as new, quite the opposite, it is calling for a rediscovery of something recognised as old.

      As for your broad brush history lesson, I find it unconvincing. It reeks of a post hoc ergo procter hoc fallacy.

      • Why didn’t Jack think of this one …. “a post hoc ergo procter hoc fallacy”.

        What does it mean?

        • Less than convinced.

          A poor mistake on my part that comes of typing faster than thinking: “propter” not “procter” – procter sounds rather more like a school beating.

          • Lol …. yes, it made Jack think of school prefects and the like.

      • avi barzel

        I’ll have to look up a definition of the fallacy I appear to have fallen for…a great one to try and roll off one’s tongue at social gatherings, especially after a few shots.

        I wasn’t aware that I was chewing at the leg of Catholic Social Thought . “The focus is on the person” you say? Wow, deep. There is so much we can dwell on here. Or not.

        Anyway, along with tongue-breaking terms for fallacies, I’m unfamiliar with the “model for subsidiary” one…it’s been decades since I napped through lectures and seminars and I’ve been negligent in keeping up with the latest jargon for old tripe. Anyhow, I do understand the old trope of “rediscovering” supposedly old gems…happens when academia loses public trust or confidence in its own abilities.

        I’m sure you have an argument there, Less Than, maybe even a better one than mine, but you need to present it…even if all you have is a broad brush.

        • Less than convinced.

          Socialism favours the collective exclusively over the individual. Personalism (which is not some new jargon but has been around since the turn of the century – perhaps you should have napped less in those seminars), by contrast insists on the dignity and importance of the individual, but against liberalism also insists on that person (as opposed to an individual), being necessarily relational with other persons. The model for this is Trinitarian theology – and is entirely different from socialism.

          And again, tiresomely, it should be stressed that this is not new, or left wing. It is foundational to Christian Democracy that dominated Western Continental European government until the 1990s. Rediscovery is exactly, as you say a losing of confidence in where we are – the point being that Europe was experiencing decades of growth under that system until the transition to a more neoliberal economic model in the 1990s. Now, it is impossible, despite your earlier attempt to do so, to claim that this growth was solely the result of that ideology, but it would equally be ridiculous to claim that that growth was tied up entirely in weakening morality (it wasn’t).

          • CliveM

            Sorry how does Europe fit into a neoliberal model?

          • Less than convinced.

            With many contradictions. Today EU is horribly divided between neoliberal economic policies, socialist policies, and the old European project ideology. Bits of it pull in every direction – which is by far its greatest problem.

          • CliveM

            Sorry I struggle to see any examples of neoliberalism in the EU. Or were you thinking of an European country out side the EU? Can you give examples?

    • retiredbloke

      If we look at the first good business deal made by Jacob, whose line inherited the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant we have to admire his acumen. Presumably, God in his wisdom, allowed this deal because it suited His purposes to have Jacob’s DNA rather than Esau’s as the inheriting the Covenant. The alliances which followed and the history of His Chosen People shows that Jacob was wisely chosen as someone who could strike a good deal and pass this on through the generations. Does capitalism need any fiurther endorsement than this?

      • Jacob’s lack of charity to his brother and the fraud he and his mother then perpetrated on Isaac, has always troubled Jack.

        • retiredbloke

          I understand, rather than accepting God’s Word on the matter you of Roman persuasion would rather put your own spin on it ; no wonder you are troubled…..

          • Jack has put no spin on it …. All he said was it has always troubled him. Is this why Jacob was renamed “Israel”?
            You really believe its an endorsement of ‘capitalism’?

          • retiredbloke

            Yes, and in response to your previous comment, Jacob was not uncharitable towards Esau; if you read the story through he made peace with him and gave him abundant gifts. The Jewish people, in their success, have always led the way in philanthropy. Their quest for economic success has not led to meanness but to exceeding generosity.

          • Jack wasn’t criticising the Jewish people. Esau asked his brother for some soup and Jacob asked him for his birth right in exchange for this. Hardly an act of charity.

          • retiredbloke

            Why do we have to assume that he had to be charitable? It was a good business deal and he was being a good boy and doing what his mother told him to do – and what an astute woman she was!

          • Ummmm …. its a story of a dysfunctional family, sibling rivalries, parental favouritism and double dealings. And the consequences, Oy Yeh !

            Better than ‘Dallas’.

          • Jack recalls a heated discussion during his teens about Esau and Jacob. The understanding of this biblical account was fiercely disputed between Christians and Jews in the early days of the Church with each claiming Jacob represented themselves and Esau the other.
            Jack took the position that whatever it meant for Jews or Christians, and it does mean something, the message was also a lack of faith in God to fulfil His promises. There was no need for Jacob to deny his brother food or for his mother and him to deceive his father. If God had chosen Jacob, and He clearly had, then this would have come about without resort to selfish and underhanded methods.

          • retiredbloke

            I think it also tells us something else that is crucial in God’s dealings with mankind: He had chosen for Himself a difficult and obtuse people with which to make a covenant and no matter how difficult they were He was faithful to His Promises to them. These are not just stories with no purpose but a chronicle of a Creator and His Creation. They are meant to tell us of the Nature and Character of the Creator Himself.

          • Indeed ….. and what a Creator.

          • retiredbloke

            I must say that I’m rather flattered that you stay up all night waiting for my next post!

          • Lol …. Jack’s retired and a bit of a night owl. Besides, he’s locked in a theological struggle with a Calvinist. What can he say? Your posts are light relief and much more positive by comparison.

            Now you’ll tell me you’re a Calvinist too …..

          • retiredbloke

            My bible tells me that I ought to be but I have ceased struggling with spiritual concepts which are beyond my understanding. I trust that God, in His infinite mercy will one day reveal all to this tortured soul. A study of the differences between Hebraic and Hellenistic thought is efficacious and relieves me of the stress of trying to sort out everything now. I depend on my redeemer to know all the answers.

          • Who can understand the workings of God?

            Your bible informs you God has predestined His Elect. It doesn’t rule out free will or reveal a God of ‘double predestination’. Besides, you have a sense of humour – this is always a good sign.

          • retiredbloke

            Isaiah 55 verse 8 and onwards. Meditate on it, worship God and thank Him for the gift of humility!

      • avi barzel

        I see your point, RB, and it has much merit. Does this endorse capitalism? I dont know, but the idea is that the Bible contains all the elements we need to arrive at authentic moral decisions that comply with the Almighty’s instructions. Biblical laws do in an obvious way address the economic activities if the time, a mix of pastoralism, agriculture, small scale manufacture and trade….presumably enough material to work with and extrapolate from. Of course, as Jack below reminds us, it’s all in the interpretation and we need to remember that no man is perfect. Does Jacob’s lack of charity invalidate his other accomplishments?

        • retiredbloke

          The basic biblical unit of economic activity seemed to be the family. In the OT enshrined in the Law was the edict to care for widows, orphans and foreigners, in other words those bereft of families and unable to be economically active; presumably foreigners were included in this category because they were unable to own land and therefore couldn’t become independently economically active. No provision is made for those who were capable of providing for themselves and their families. Wealthy men married more than one wife because they could make provision for a large family and the kinsman redeemer system was used to tidy up strangling widows etc. in the NT the responsibility was to care for widows and orphans; again no provision being made for those capable of work. The elderly and infirm presumably on both the OT and the NT being cared for within the family structures. It is the breakdown of these family structures which is causing us so much grief and we are having to invent a system of responsibility for everyone we regard as vulnerable and steal money from everyone to fulfill our self imposed obligations under our invention. The difficulty is that we have to convince everyone that we are right to accept this as an obligation when many of us see the family as the basic economic unit and resent being told that we have to provide for others whose families have washed their hands of them.

          • avi barzel

            Well, you hit the proverbial nail on the head, retiredbloke. And this is where religious social doctrines…Jewish, Christian, Muslim, all of them…hit the proverbial wall with their heads. Here we have a proposal which is impractical precisely because, as you pointed out, the family is no longer the basic unit of economic activity. We are now energetically doing away with religion and nationhood as the next units and are left with with nothing but airy social engineers who can achieve their aims only through centralized tyranny.

          • The family is absolutely the basic unit of Catholic Social Teaching – for learning about God’s gratuitous love for us, for learning about love of others, and about a relationship with God and solidarity with everyone.

    • avi barzel

      Either my browser or the site quirked, as I wasn’t intending to post…o no, no such luck, I have much more to day.

      Neoliberalism or free-market fundamentalism. This ideological belief that neoliberal markets are self-correcting and that any destructive tendencies are self-limiting has proved to be wildly inaccurate.
      Really? Proved by what? Inverting observable reality may have the shock and cuteness effect, but there is not one iota of actual evidence, as opposed to a deafening cackle of anecdotal sermonizing borrowed from “social doctrine” dogmas to support such claims. What real-world examples of “benignly corrected” markets (by saints, professional “experts,” philosopher kings?) that actually function beyond enriching a slim minority of a few cronies are there?

      This model of social capital looks to transcend the power of markets and the reach of governments by holding both them and all of us accountable to the common good. And that means prioritising the common good over profits, defending the rights of workers and, importantly, the incorporation of morality and virtue into economic thinking and practice.

      Ha ha ha ha! Transcend the power of the market and replace it with the power of…. whom? Crickets chirping. A dictatorship of the proletariat, perhaps? Maybe the famous government money-sucking NGOs or armies of highly paid fair wage beneficiary social workers whether we want to or not will tell us how to “prioritize” our “common good” is? And who and how will do this…and most importantly, how much tyranny and violence will it take to comply?

      ++Justin Welby’s calls for volunteers and a “monastic community” are an entirely different matter. This is the proper approach, along with low taxes, just and rational laws, representative and accountable systems governance, real protection of citizens and a culture of charity and volunteerism. This is the only “self-correcting” formula that has ever been proven to work. But all this requires huge sums of capital. And how can this be obtained? By: a) buried chests of doubloons, b) government printed money d) piracy and highway robbery good intentions, e)more and more taxes, f) making the rich pay or (hint) g)capitalists? Yes, the self-serving capitalist is the one in whose interest it is for society to function, for citizens to be able to afford his products and services, for a healthy social and natural environment to enjoy his profits. And this is why it is only in these “selfish capitalist” societies that we enjoy such gifts, while in societies run by supposed experts, moral giants and self-proclaimed do-gooders, people suffer and die like flies.

      • avi barzel

        Hi Gillan, forgot to say “hello.” I do enjoy your writing and lest you think I’m piling into you, it’s actually the collection of ideologues, Obama-loving tools, the IMF drones and the social doctrine nitwits you cited that I’m riling against.

        • Thank you and hello. No offence taken.

          Most of what I have written this time is taken from others. I am certainly no expert in this field, but I have witnessed common threads emerging and have tried to draw them together to present a narrative that has morality at its core.

          • avi barzel

            Ach, a plague on the experts, Gillan; they are getting us deeper into trouble anyway, whereas we are playing joyfully with ideas…probably the last sinners to do so in our times before the experts and moralists shut venues such as this one for the “common good.”

            Anyhow, I find that the common thread to these common threads appears to be not morality, which remains vaguely defined, but an attempt to keep up with returning fads, in this case social doctrines that are secular in nature, and are superficially tarted-up in psedo-religio-moralistic jargon. They seem to crop up like gnarled poisonous mushrooms whenever certain empowered social sectors run out of money and face the threat of downward mobility and obscurity. I contend that the final arbiter must always be reality; do they work, have they ever worked and and must we shamefully submit to the strident calls of the ideologues and experiment on ourselves in every generation.

      • Hi Avi,

        To misquote Churchill “capitalism is the worst form of economic activity, except all the others tried”.

        PS- what on earth are dubloons? I’ve heard of Kruegerrands, Roubles, Livres, Groats, Guineas, Shequels and Ducats before(I’m become an avid coin collector, another geek hobby of mine ), but not them (:

        • avi barzel

          Not sure what doubloons are, Miss Hanna, except that they are referred to in cheesy old pirate books and movies and sound funny enough to throw at people. Figuratively, of course, as they appear to be gold currency of some value.

          • Hi avi

            Could be quite an interesting retort. Yeah I love pirate history, even they had some form of law code to live by, apparently. I did have a part in the “pirates of Penzance” whilst at university (I joined the the theatre club). Also one sister lives in Cornwall(where there was a lot of pirate activity) and I go on “vacation” there a bit… hired a caravan with my (other) sister and spent a night on bodmin moor, checked out Jamaica inn too, but never saw the apparent ghosts, a few years ago. Didn’t see the hounds or the big cats either, which are supposed to roam the moor, but it was well cool, if incredibly wild and a bit spooky, anyways.

        • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

          Dear Hannah, doubloons were gold coins of considerable value much loved by pirates in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, as dear Avi says below. They were Spanish, the word being derived from the Spanish word for ‘double’ i.e. it was worth two escudo coins.

          • Hi Mrs proudie

            Thanks for that info….

            I always thought the pirates, or at least those lovely , colourful, intelligent macaws-well they speak English- always liked the pieces of 8 like long John Silver ! I’m assuming they’ll be gold coins too, but knowing history they’re probably 1 coin, not 8 or something silly like that.

    • Avi …. post alarm ….. woke Jack from his afternoon nap.

      Now then:

      “… an old Christian socialist doctrine prettied up as a fascinating new ideology/theology.”

      Actually, its roots lie in Judaism and acceptance that what we do individually impacts on us all collectively. Catholic Social Teaching started to take shape in the late 19th Century to respond to Capitalism’s successes and failures, and the mounting threat from Socialism.

      “A plain reading of history shows the exact opposite; that the loosening of moralistic and theological attitudes to money and strict laws relating to commerce and capital acquisition resulted in the stupendous economic and technological revolution whose benefits we enjoy today.”

      Jack is aware you are something of an expert on these matters so will tread carefully.

      Have you conflated a number of different points here? The theological believe that one should seek to organise the political, economic and social order along lines reflect our Creator’s revealed will is neither socialist nor an attack on capitalism. One needs to be clear, Roman Catholic Social Teaching is neither socialist nor capitalist. It enumerates a number of principles for conducting collective affairs for the common good along objective moral lines.

      What you call “the stupendous economic and technological revolution whose benefits we enjoy today” has come and continues to develop at a high cost for others. This wealth will inevitably crumble if man continues to ignores the objective moral order intended by God to guide and constrain these activities.

      • Hi happy Jack,

        But what are the Catholic social teaching, is there anywhere to look at these in an easy layman’s way? Capitalism or entrepreneurialism is the blood, whether it’s camels, rugs and tea or property, companies and shares (:

        • Hannah, of course commerce and entrepreneurism is in man’s make-up.

          Here’s the Vatican document prepared for Saint Pope John Paul:

          And if you really want to get into it, this is a source for a series of documents:

          • Hi happy Jack,

            I was referring specifically about my family. Wow, a big amount of reading there! Well I’ll have a look at it later…Torah study& meal tonight: Genesis 1 to 6 & Ecclesiastes chapters1 & 2.

          • Jack believes the essential themes are all in the Tanakh.

          • Hi happy Jack,

            I’m sure. Well my Torah study and Buffett went down well. Despite the gannets, I’ve got a whole load of Falafel, Dips, Fruit, Peanuts, Biscuits, Baklava, Berekas, Cigarim, Popcorn cake, Bridge Rolls, Bagels, Sabich, Gefilte Fish, Herring & of course malt Whisky ,wine and soft drinks that’s not being eaten & going to go to waste, so have some (via cyberspace) on me!(:

          • Just the Malt whiskey (note the ‘e’), Hannah.
            Thank you.

          • Hi Happy Jack,

            Bottoms up!! (Reminds me of my days as a student working in a pub).

            Regarding whisky or whiskey, Wikipedia says :

            “Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition: “In modern trade usage, Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey are thus distinguished in spelling; whisky is the usual spelling in Britain and whiskey that in the U.S.”

            So the Irish have gone American?

          • Other way around …. Along with their sons, the Irish bequeathed Whiskey to the Americans.

      • avi barzel

        I’m an amateur, Jack, not an expert. You needn’t take a single word from me on faith; you can take a broad historical look and consider facts. I’m certain you will see that with free enterprise systems you have measurable qualitative improvements under criteria such as nutrition, population growth, infant mortality, frequency of conflict and such. These benefits are in the aggregate and yes, they do come at a cost to many. Many who would otherwise suffer, die an early death or never be born without the quantitative increase of economic good.

        The Creator’s will is evidenced in the real world as well. Food, shelter, safety, mobility and order for the greatest number of people…no authentic scripture denies the importance of these. In nature, the Almighty shows us how energy flows, how life flourishes, who depends on what, what limits of our environment and human nature are….in other words, the elements of basic economics. I can’t comment on Catholic social teaching, but as with its Jewish variant, it’s as good and authentic as its products. The example I gave of the kehilla, the medieval Jewish communal government, wasn’t accidental. We can trace how at one time it served a purpose, enriched its communities and how, when the environment changed enough to render it incapacitated, the “machinery” degraded itself through corruption. Eventually Judaism split theologically and saw the emergence of secular factions which needed room to survive and thrive economically which they couldn’t under the old system. Theology has consequences.

        Similar dynamics occurred in Christianity, where theology had to adjust to realities in order for good things to happen. Forgive the simplistic “broad-brush” picture and entirely without value judgments, the Catholic kingdoms, the South, which strongly rejected capitalism and maintained a strict social order, hierarchies and theological dogmas, and put all sorts of brakes on its development preferred to enrich themselves with looted bullion from the Americas and servile agricultural labour of peasants, serfs and slaves. The Proddies, who would have loved to do more of that too, in all fairness, came too late to the party and got “stuck” with sugar and tobacco plantations, forests and temperate zone lands, abandoned the feudal system and eventually slavery too at home, urbanized and “mercantalized” with a few tweaks of theology here and there. We know how that competition ended. Yes, we can talk theology, but heology has consequences.

        • avi barzel

          PS: If you examine the Catholic social doctrine, Jack, I’m sure you will find modifications and changes which are reality-based, as opposed to what our good friend, Less than Convinced, vaguely termed as “people based”…whatever on Earth that means.

  • IanCad

    Good afternoon Gillan,
    I’ve only read it through once and can see no purpose of the post except in furthering the cause of a union between the spiritual realm and the wheels of commerce.
    Read – Socialism.
    The church has its marching orders: Go unto all nations–.
    Business has its agenda — make money.
    The state, as far as is possible, should attempt to secure fair play all around.

    • Good afternoon. The Old Testament has plenty to say about business. I don’t see faith and commerce as mutually exclusive.

      • Graham Wood

        Ian Cad. What an excellent post from you. Short and direct to the point identifying Christian priorities.

        Gillan. I suggest the OT is not a pattern for commercial, or national political policies. We now live under the New Covenant – “new wine into new bottles…. Etc.

        • You think God’s moral order has changed ?!

          • Graham Wood

            Hallo HJ. Answer: Indeed not, but God’s order for Israel as a theocracy under the OT is not transferred to Christians under the New Covenant. Indeed, God’s law under the New is taken by Jesus and amplified, and its true intention and purpose revealed, and then fulfilled in letter and spirit by the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus “not one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law” (Matt.5:18) for He fulfilled it perfectly on behalf of His people.

          • Hi Graham
            That’s not really what Jack was asking.

            God’s basic moral order for individuals and for collective living, revealed in scripture, was what he was referring to. Not the structures of the Jewish theocracy or the particular practices of ritual law. What lay behind the laws and ethics is what Jack is suggesting is unchangeable.

            The Sermon on the Mount seems to Jack to compliment the laws and ethical codes for business and inter-communal conduct of the Tanakh.

          • Graham Wood

            “What lay behind the laws and ethics is what Jack is suggesting is unchangeable.”
            HJ. Indeed so, no disagreement there.
            However, I disagree with your perception that the Sermon on the Mount “compliments” (sic) “laws and ethical codes for business …” etc. Where do you find that in the S on the M?
            I think the context of the Sermon is altogether different, laying down spiritual principles for a ‘vertical’ relationship with God (Vs 3-9), and the rest generally to personal ‘horizontal’ relationships with fellow disciples.
            In effect, a perfect outworking of the whole of the OT moral law and commandments summarised in the call to love God and one’s neighbour, for on these two “hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:40).

          • The vertical relationship with Our Father and the horizontal relationship with others ….. completely agree, Graham.

            Jack has just posted this to Carl, below:

            Augustine asked: “Is human wellbeing found in the good of the whole society, the common good?”

            Catholic Social Teaching answers: “The human person cannot find fulfilment in himself, that is, apart from the fact that he exists “with” others and “for” others”.

            The basis of this is God’s gratuitous love for us which we are called to reciprocate by living in solidarity with others. Through us, God can find a place in the public realm. Openness to God will open us towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.

            Why did you misspell “complement” and give Jack a (sic)? ;o)

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Of course it hasn’t, dear Jack, but the moral compasses of some of his earthly servants are decidedly wonky.

          • Nearly missed your comment, Mrs Proudie. Hope you’re behaving yourself.

      • IanCad

        Certainly, Christian principles are the bedrock of successful enterprise.
        Honesty, integrity, openness; all essential to the running of a business that while providing services or goods also has the prospect of stability.

  • Hi Gillan,

    One other thing I forgot to mention and I’m surprised you didn’t give a nod to this, but no mention of the “paternalistic” protestant /non- conformist capitalism of the 19th century ?(one thinks of Cadbury, Rowntree and other families as examples).

    • I did allude to this in the final paragraph, but, yes there is plenty that could be said on this too. There is a good deal of overlap between the protestant capitalism you refer to and CST.

  • Nick

    I think it is fair enough to try to link ethics with economics in society more but I’m not sure it can work that well. For a start there are too many people who love money.

    This is true even in the Church. I’ve seen people selling prayers and blessings and prophecies and finding a million and one ways to monetise the gospel. I find that increasingly Christ’s words about not being able to serve God and mammon have a vast depth. It feels as if so many decisions come down to either trying to act ethically or wanting to make money.

    As I sometimes struggle personally with the same dilemma I think I may have given up trying to change the world on this one (since I struggle enough to change myself). But it is only money and health is more important. Sadly those who love money often get quite nasty with it that was why they thought Christ naive and laughed at him for saying the things he did about it all.

    It is said that the parable of the talents is often emphasised in capitalist countries. What I find is that capitalism goes hand in hand with social Darwinism and that politicians appeal to people’s pockets rather than their ethics (just look at the arguments made regarding Scottish independence). I find that the Tories are particularly guilty when it comes to that accusation.

  • BlingBlingsCollar

    Surely this is an argument for an Anglican version of Distributism.

    • CliveM

      Interesting, as a complete diversion, you can see the influence of this on JRR Tolkein in his description of Hobbit society!!

      • BlingBlingsCollar

        Now that is interesting, and a wonderful excuse to re-read Lord of the Rings!

      • MisterDavid

        Good point! The Shire is very much a ChesterBelloc idyll, full of self-employed small businesspeople, and hierarchy without coercion.