The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Alleviate overall poverty

Observer Viewpoint | Sunday, April 4, 2004

John Infranca’s April 2 column “Rethinking worldly justice” argues that the parable of the vineyard owner (Matthew 20: 1-16) calls us to an economic standard of justice sharply different from the conventional one. In the parable, those workers who only worked part of the day are paid the same wage as those who worked a full day. Infranca states that “Hence Jesus presents an understanding of justice predicated on giving to individuals based upon their need, not on their ‘contribution.'” In doing this he takes this parable out of its original context as a parable showing God’s mercy and munificence to those who have found God late in their lives. Infranca has instead tried to construct an economic argument out of a parable that has a purely theological meaning.However, what we need to further examine is what, exactly, Infranca is advocating under the guise of Christianity. He seems to be advocating an economic system in which people are not rewarded according to their abilities and contributions to society but only according to their needs. This sounds uncannily similar to Karl Marx’s dictum “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” and this dictum has brought suffering, death and enslavement to millions. It is interesting that many thousands have risked their lives crossing the “Straits of Florida” to escape the “worker’s paradise” of Cuba, where Marx’s dictum is enshrined, when hardly anyone wants to leave the capitalistic United States to get into Cuba. Now, I do not believe for a moment that Infranca is advocating totalitarian communism, but he does seem to be advocating some form of socialism that shares its ideological heritage with communism and Marxism.The problem with Infranca’s argument is that if everyone were guaranteed the same outcome – no matter if or how hard they worked – no one would want to work. There would be no incentive to get ahead and every incentive to not work. One does not have to look to the totalitarian communism to see the flaws of socialism, either. India is a perfect example of a democratic country with free elections that has pursued socialistic policies of economic planning that have kept India impoverished. Though the intentions of these policies like Mr. Infranca’s are good-natured, they have led to misery.One may argue that India is suffering from the legacy of colonialism, but let’s look at two other jurisdictions that were also British colonies and have done quite well. The former British colonies of Hong Kong and Singapore embraced free markets and now have the highest standard of living in Asia except for Japan. There is in fact a direct correlation to per capita income and economic freedom. The United States, Hong Kong and Western Europe are the most economically free and enjoy the highest standards of living, while countries such as Cuba, Iraq and India are not economically free and are impoverished. In fact, only one third world country, Chile, is rated as economically “free” by the 2004 Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, and not one first world country was rated as “mostly unfree” or “repressed.”If we wish to do the truly Christian thing and work to eradicate poverty, especially in the third world, we must embrace a system that encourages the creation of wealth and not a system that destroys wealth. Though the free market has its problems and should probably be regulated in a few areas it leads to a healthy, happy and wealthy population. Socialistic policies, however well-intentioned, time and time again have led to misery and poverty, the very ailments the policies were designed to correct.As the great Sir Winston Churchill said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Therefore, as Catholics, we should embrace the economic system that leads to plenty and alleviates overall poverty instead of pursuing policies that only further misery.

Rob SchrimpfsophomoreStanford HallApril 3