Issues for Catholic Voters (2012 edition) – Economic Issues
The well-being of our families, communities, and nation depends on the success of business and industry to create wealth. The greater the growth of industry, the more stable our society becomes: “Another name for peace is development. Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development” (Centesimus Annus, 52).
Business and industry create the wealth that provides financial support for their workers, both blue and white collar, and their families through earned wages, medical benefits, life insurance, disability, and pension plans. Without these wages and benefits, most workers would be unable to obtain the goods necessary to living life without relying on the government for direct assistance.The government is able to provide assistance to those in need precisely because of the payment of taxes generated by the economy. Thus, the quality of life for all citizens, regardless of their income bracket, is thus proportionate to the success of their nation’s business and industry. It is therefore in the interest of every citizen that the economic sector grows and prospers.
Government, as a promoter of the common good, has an obligation to ensure that social and economic conditions promote business development. More often than not, as argued in John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991), this can best be achieved by allowing market forces to act freely. As shown by the decline of communism and socialism, the State does not generally make the best allocations of capital when it is the sole decision-maker.
Though government regulation of business is both necessary and proper for the common good, regulation can become over-bearing leaving less room for entrepreneurial enterprise and creative decision-making. Some would argue over-regulation is the main reason for our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil. The United States has enough oil deposits with its Continental boundaries, Alaska, and offshore to end its dependence completely.
The principle of subsidiarity should be applied to the issue of adequate regulation, allowing corporate executives and managers to control their own economic development, as suggested by the tradition of law and morality.
At the same time—and again in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity—the government has a responsibility to protect the weak and vulnerable from unethical behavior. Government also has a duty to protect the rights of workers by ensuring decent working conditions, establishing fair wages, and holding corporate leaders accountable for breaking the laws governing corporate behavior.
Accountability is thus a social partnership between the private sector and the government. Private industry professionals and their work associations play an important role in setting appropriate standards for particular professions, businesses, and industries. Legislative and executive bodies must also set standards for responsible conduct through the passage and enforcement of appropriate laws to protect society as a whole from abuses.
Often referred to as the backbone of the U.S. economy, small businesses account for 99 percent of employers and, with the recent movement of formerly American factories and jobs offshore, now create between 60 percent and 75 percent of net new jobs annually. Pope Leo XIII wrote, “The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners” (Rerum Novarum, 46).
- The creation of wealth through the economy is necessary for the well-being of persons and families as well as a stable society.
- Government should create the conditions that support business and industry development.
- A healthy economy creates wages that generate the tax revenue making possible government assistance to those in need.
- A social partnership of corporate responsibility and sound government regulation is critical in helping to maintain economic success.
By Deal Hudson, President of Catholic Advocate