You will always have the poor with you...
By Amy Willis
Laudato Si, the recent encyclical from Pope Francis, is a call to “care for our common home.” In this EconTalk episode, host Russ Roberts welcomes Wake Forest University economist Robert Whaples to discuss the extent to which the Pope got the economics right in his plea.
The Pope’s abiding concern seems to be that the way we treat others and the planet we inhabit is harming our souls. He may be right…but what’s to be done? Is capitalism part of the problem or the solution?
1. Whaples suggests that one of the reasons Francis’s thinking on markets differs from his predecessor, John Paul II, is because he grew up in Argentina, “the poster child for Markets Gone Wrong.” How does an individual’s upbringing affect their perspective on markets, and why?2. Is “less” really “more?” Is excessive consumerism really inherent in capitalism? Roberts reminds us that there’s nothing inherently good about a bigger economy… So to what extent is “small capitalism” a feasible objective?
3. While we must acknowledge the tremendous strides that have been made against poverty, it’s also still true that there remain poor in the world. Whaples says the Pope is concerned that the free market isn’t helping those at the very bottom. But an even bigger problem, even for the only relatively poor, might be the increasing marginalization of the poor in the society. What does the Pope suggest as a solution to this problem, and to what extent do you agree? Is this an area where economics is especially helpful, or of little help, and why?
4. Roberts concludes the interview by asking Whaples what he would say if he were to be granted a fifteen minute audience with the Pope. How would you answer Roberts’s question, and why?