On Cardinal Maradiaga’s comments on the capitalism

Philip Booth takes a look at Cardinal Maradiaga’s latest critique of free markets in the Catholic Herald.

It was therefore disappointing to see Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez write last week: “In this time the free market has produced one sector which is booming: social exclusion.”

Two immediate points can be made. The first is that the last six years (the time to which he was referring) has been a continuation of a 25-year period during which absolute poverty has fallen more rapidly than at any previous time in human history. Poverty has fallen because countries have become more open to trade and adopted systems of governance that are somewhat more supportive of the rule of law, private property, the proper administration of justice and so on. These are the preconditions for markets to develop. Some countries still have much to do of course.

Secondly, those who live at the margins in, for example, Cardinal Rodriguez’s home country of Honduras do not suffer because of free markets but because of the cronyism, corruption and absence of the basic conditions for markets to function. It is no coincidence that Chile is the most economically free country in Central and South America and that it has a tiny percentage of people living in absolute poverty, whereas Honduras is the 112th freest country in the world and has a quarter of its people living in absolute poverty. According to the World Bank’s ease of doing business report, Honduras is the 162nd (out of 189) easiest place in the world to start a business. In South and Central American countries, people are excluded from markets not by markets,

As it happens, the Cardinal was actually talking about rich countries, especially Italy and Spain, when he made his comments. So, what about the West? Have we had free markets run riot over the last few decades? The answer to that is a pretty unequivocal “no”. Whatever measure one uses – regulation, welfare or government spending – markets have become more and more constrained.


I’m for an Acton Institute  approach to free markets because it recognizes the need for a virtuous populace.  Free markets are usually critiqued from the standpoint of greed run amok.  But free markets in concert with a vigorous civil society shoring up virtue are, I believe, the best way to go.  Too bad this is so little understood.  The less virtue there is, the more need for regulation and a bigger, more tyrannical state.  But then, who ensures virtue on the part of government?

As for Cardinal Maradiaga, I wish prelates would refrain from making big pronouncements on matters of prudential judgment.



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3 Responses to On Cardinal Maradiaga’s comments on the capitalism

  1. EPMS says:

    Blithering on here, not really responding to this post though it raises interesting issues: noting that you, our moderator, have been focusing on issues of wider Catholic interest rather than specifically Ordinariate issues. Your blog is not titled “OCSP Update” of course, and even if it were it is your blog to post pictures of your new puppy on, if that struck your fancy. But does your choice of items reflect some malaise with the Ordinariate qua Ordinariate, or do you perhaps feel that the narrower issues are being adequately covered/commented on elsewhere? Just interested, not my business of course.

    • Foolishness says:

      Since my main source of income has to do with covering the wider Catholic Church, perhaps that focus seeps over into my blog. I do not have right now the time or energy to ensure this blog is a source of Ordinariate news. There are some other blogs that probably are doing a better job. I throw things up here that are of interest to me that may or may not be relevant to the Ordinariate except as I am a member. Perhaps if more Ordinariate folks sent me news and photos or links I could post news items here. If things were slower for me workwise, I could look around for things to post here that would be more Ordinariate focused. But no, I would not say my lack of Ordinariate news reflects a malaise, it’s just that I’m very, very busy right now.

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