It doesn’t matter what economic system a country uses, the “haves” inevitably accrue power to the disadvantage of the “have-nots.”
Communist utopianism promised a world where this did not happen. But the actual outcome is that communism, by its very nature, vests so much power in government that the abuse of the people it governs is built into it.
The utopian fantasy of unregulated capitalism is that everyone will have an equal chance to build a heaven of his or her own. What happens in actual practice is that those who get there first accrue so much power for themselves that they can and do pervert government to their ends, destroying their competitors and shutting down opportunity for everyone but themselves.
Democracy’s utopian fantasy is that the people will be able to prevent either of these abuses by their use of their power to replace those who govern through elections. In reality, those who “have” can afford to pay for the vast expenses of modern-day campaigning, thus putting their puppets in office and subverting the power of the people.
The reasons for these failures don’t lie in the economic systems or forms of government themselves so much as in their naive assumptions about human nature. You cannot build a just society without taking into consideration the fallen nature of human beings.
I don’t know of any theory of human interaction that even begins to explain the data of thousands of years of human society except the theory of original sin. It fits our human reality like the proverbial glove.
Pope Francis preached on the dignity of work a few days ago. The occasion was the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. Work is an essential component to a fulfilled and happy life. Work is the way we master the world and advance our civilization. It gives shape to our days and provides us with the goods that are necessary for our survival in this life.
Jesus worked. He was God in human flesh, but He did not disdain to work at the humble craft of carpenter. That imbues work with a dignity that lifts it above the curse of Eden. Work that is shaped by our humanity and that serves our inborn need to create and grow civilization, does far more than sustain our bodily needs. It is the mechanism by which we shape a better us, and a better world.
However work that is placed on people like a yoke on an ox is an assault to their dignity as people made in the image and likeness of the living God. Likewise, avoidance of work to live off others, whether that means idling away the years on the largesse of parents, or living on the government dole — and I include many corporations in this as well as individuals — is also an assault on human dignity that wastes human potential.
Pope Francis spoke about a recent tragedy in which many people were killed because of an employer’s disregard for their safety. Profits, he said, can never be more important than human beings.
That is the Christian viewpoint. It is also one of those points where many stalwart supporters of Church teachings back up and start arguing.
There are fault lines along which contemporary Christians try to bargain with God and get out of obeying what the Gospels make clear they should do. Almost always, these fault lines occur at points where the Church teaches about the dignity of human beings.
Whether the question is gay marriage or abortion; profits that kill or pornography, that answer from those who want to do these things is always the same. I am right and God is wrong; I will do as I want, they proclaim. Many times, the people who are so arrogantly trying to teach morality to God are the same ones who wear out their index fingers pointing out other people’s sins.
Self righteousness is not righteousness.
Every single one of us, me included, needs to be reminded of that on a daily basis.
From the Vatican: