Pope Francis-2

Libertarians become vocal critics of Evangelii Gaudium

by Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter  |  published on January 30, 2014


The most interesting criticisms of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, have come from libertarians who are closest to the economic views the pope denounced.

In this document, Francis did not mince words. He condemned “trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” He warned against laissez-faire adherents who “reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.” The pope chastised “the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

“Speaking for libertarians, my objection to what the pope wrote derives from two things,” the Cato Institute’s Marian Tupy said in an interview with NCR. “First, there is the factual statement. The pope says the world is becoming worse, but that can be measured. In almost 200 pages, he never cites a single study, a single number, to support his claim.” Tupy, who wrote an article encapsulating his objections in The Atlantic, cites a host of statistics to support his claim that “capitalism, compared to other systems, does very well at bringing people out of poverty.”

Tupy’s second objection has to do with the lens through which he and the pope view the prevailing economic situation. “The pope compares the world to a future utopia,” Tupy said. “I look to the past and find data to support my views.” Francis would, no doubt, plead guilty to the charge, but he would be unlikely to use the word “utopia.” In the language of the Catholic church, that future to which Catholics are called is “the kingdom of God.”

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