Academic journal article Review of Business

Is There a Christian Economic Order?

Academic journal article Review of Business

Is There a Christian Economic Order?

Article excerpt

In order to answer this question, it would be helpful to distinguish between the possibility of merely describing a Christian economic order and the possibility of actually realizing such an order in the real world. It is not difficult to begin a description of a Christian economic order. It is one in which all people have enough material resources, not merely to eke out an existence but to live rightly and with reasonable comfort. For example, all people needing work become employed and receive adequate income. Everyone has sufficient food, clothing, housing, medical care, as well as private and public help in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, financially devastating divorce, or some other similar problem. In a Christian economic order people do not let a preoccupation with material things be an obstacle to the pursuit of virtue, including service to the common good; they do not work simply to make money but to turn out a quality product or to render excellent service. In such an order, citizens sue each other only with great reluctance; lawyers do not press frivolous, unjust law suits; employers make every effort to insure a healthful work place.

In a social economy inspired by the Christian faith, men and women do not produce and distribute harmful products such as drugs and pornography. In their quest for possessions people do not kill or steal from one another, and they accept Pope John Paul II's admonition that "it is...necessary to create life styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments."

In addition, people realize that framing public policy is a difficult enterprise often subject to error even when policy makers and constituents are not blinded by ideology or some kind of self-interest. They deliberate honestly and try to choose the most appropriate policy whether it is liberal, conservative or centrist. Even in a faith-driven social economy citizens recognize that they will not be able to agree on all policies but accept this limitation as part of the human condition.

Finally, there are enough qualified people to do all the required work in business, government, the professions of law, medicine and ministry, the trades and every other kind of necessary work including volunteering. And, of course, education at every level is more than adequate for all children, young people and adults requiring retraining.

In order to realize a Christian economic order, a society needs important contributions from individuals, the churches, families, educational institutions from kindergarden through the university, unions and other mediating institutions, government policy and law. All these elements of society and others must contribute to promoting the requisite knowledge and virtue, for various kinds of ignorance and sin are mighty and often insurmountable obstacles.

A Christian economic order makes one realize that many non-economic factors play a decisive role in promoting economic justice. Consequently the question, "Is there a Christian economic order?" points to a prior question, what is the overall common good, of which a Christian economic order is a significant part?" This is a large question which looms in the background of this discussion.

One hundred years ago, Leo XII formally expressed the Church's solution to the impoverished condition of workers in his famous encyclical Rerum Novarum. Leo urged the acceptance of four general proposals: the protection of the right to private property, reliance on religion and the Church to teach virtue, reliance on the state to assume responsibility for the common good - which includes the protection of rights and the promotion of virtue, and cooperation among employers for the material and spiritual well-being of workers and their families. (This focus on the role of individuals and groups anticipates Pius XI's teaching on subsidiarity. …

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