Centesimus AnnusOn the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum Dr. Robert DeFina Economics Department
Overview • Centesimus Annus is part of the tradition known as Catholic Social Thought. • Began in 1891 with publication of Rerum Novarum (Pope Leo XIII). • Church inserted itself into public discussions of existing social problems.
A Dynamic and Prophetic Tradition • Dynamic because it always addresses the “signs of the times.” • Explores new problems. • Revisits new manifestations of old problems. • Prophetic because it uses the two-pronged approach of the Biblical Prophets. • Denounces a disordered situation. • Announces a more enlightened approach.
Rooted in Faith, but Not Dogma • Analyses reflect the particular vision of Catholic faith. • Understood as integral to faith. • They are an ethical framework, not dogma. • Guidelines for reflection; • Criteria for judgement; and, • Directions for action.
Why Look at CST? • Value/Ethical framework. • One of the University’s great traditions. • Consistent with a variety of other ethical frameworks.
Rerum Novarum • Industrial revolution. • Concerns about the ugliness of capitalism. • Concerns about socialist influences. • Pope Leo XIII struggles with what he views as significant failures of the market economy. • Not technical failings. • Moral failings. • How to improve while preserving social order?
Principles of Economic Justice • Economic justice is biblical justice. • Concerned with the rightness of the human condition. • A justice that requires action in support of the “common good.”
The Common Good “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.”
Three Dimensions of Justice • Commutative justice. • Distributive justice. • Contributive justice.
Beyond Rerum Novarum • Periodically, the framework in Rerum Novarum is revisited and re-applied. • What can we say about existing economic conditions? • Centesimus Annus is an example. • 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum. • Fall of Communism and the ascendancy of capitalism. • How to view these developments?
Is Capitalism the Goal?Can it be said that capitalism is the victorious social system and that [it] should be the goal...? The answer is complex. If [it] means an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market…and free human creativity, then [yes]. But if it means a system that is not circumscribed by a strong juridical framework which places itself at the service of human freedom in its totality…then the answer is certainly negative.CA, §42.
Centesimus Annus and Economic Life • The dignity of work. • The priority of labor over capital. • Just wages and working conditions. • The right to meaningful employment. • The right to join a union.
The Dignity of Work • Issue: human labor is viewed only on the basis of its economic purpose. • Workers are factors of production. • No different than capital and natural resources. • Response: work is a fundamental part of human existence. • Objective vs. subjective dimensions. • Worker is primary, work is secondary.
Priority of Labor Over Capital • Issue: Decisions based solely on profits. • “Capital” is co-equal” factor of production. • Private ownership justifies maximum profit. • Response: Labor has priority over capital. • Capital is a means of production, not an end. • Based on a misguided materialist philosophy. • Right to private property is neither absolute nor untouchable. (St. Thomas Aquinas) • Profits are a “social dividend.”
Just Wages and Working Conditions • Issue: Many persons work under unacceptable employment conditions. • Response: True measure of an economic system is how work is rewarded. • “Voluntary” transactions need not be fair or just. • Workers must be paid a “just wage.” • Workers have “rights” to certain benefits.
Right to Meaningful Employment • Issue: Unemployment and underemployment arise naturally in economies. • Some is voluntary, but some is not. • Response: Unemployment is the opposite of a right and just situation. • Work is a duty. • The duty implies a right to a job. • Firms should operate as a community of persons.
The Right to Join a Union • Issue: Individuals often lack the power to assure proper working conditions. • Response: To secure well-ordered conditions, workers have a right to unionize. • Rooted in social nature and solidarity. • Unions must work for the common good, not against those who own capital. • Strikes are legitimate, with some exceptions.