Chi Trib’s Manya Brachear talks up a book that questions what some think Jesus would do when it comes to economics.
“Good intentions do not assure good results, and they can at times lead to policies with perverse unintended consequences,” co-authors Bob Smietana and Charles North write. “As in the rest of life, the road to economic hell is often paved with good intentions.”
How true. The book is Jesus Freakonomics, by a religion writer and an economist. They
project long-range implications of certain economic choices and evaluate them according to biblical criteria.
They found that what sounds moral isn’t always so. For example, the battle to raise minimum wage sounds moral, but from an economist’s perspective, granting an “earned income tax credit probably works better than minimum wage to get money in the hands of poor families,” Smietana said.
“You can argue all day about whether raising minimum wage is moral or not. But if the earned income tax credit gives people more money, then go with that,” Smietana said.
I’m full of that kind of thinking these days, reading Thomas E. Woods Jr.’s excellent The Church and the Market: a Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, with its dissection of Catholic sources, including the social encyclicals of Leo XIII, Pius XI, Paul VI, and John Paul II.
Woods is as devoted a Catholic as you will find, and no liberal in belief matters. But he sharply distinguishes what’s of faith and what isn’t, and has no problem picking apart Paul VI, for instance, on the moral imperative to support nation-to-nation foreign aid — it’s a pernicious practice, he argues, precisely in its consequences, which is what these two authors care about.
Earlier in the book, he explicates the 16th-century Jesuits from Salamanca and other Catholics, including Dominicans, who firmly decided that the just wage is what’s determined by a free market.
Very stimulating stuff, which must not sit well with the good fathers of America Magazine, not to mention other priests and laity who buy into state interference in economic matters.
As for the America Jesuits, we would have to ask them what they think, since the Woods book was not reviewed there.