Bishops should rethink their line on government intervention in the economy

Christians should celebrate entrepreneurship and business

In a new book published by the IEA* an international team of authors** provide a fresh Catholic-Christian perspective on the role of the government and the market in the provision of welfare, education and aid to developing countries. The authors also look critically at the role of government in regulating business and the perceived problems of the consumer society. The book criticises long-held interpretations of Church teaching on foreign aid and the minimum wage and argues that Bishops in the UK have taken too little account of official Church teaching in giving advice to Catholics on political and economic matters.

US author Thomas Woods argues that the minimum wage, which many theologians believe is justified by Catholic teaching, harms the very people it is meant to help. Similarly, in a chapter by Philip Booth documents such as Populorum progressio (whose 40th anniversary is being marked this year) are put under scrutiny. In a number of Catholic Church documents, strong arguments have been made for increased levels of foreign aid. Yet aid programmes have often harmed the very people they have been intended to help. This is because aid proponents make the fundamental error of seeing development as a “top down” rather than a “bottom up” process. Aid proponents, it is argued, ignore strong Church statements on the importance of good governance for economic progress.

The book criticises a number of statements by the England and Wales Bishops' conference on tax, the environment, the family and the EU. It analyses economic evidence and official Catholic teaching and finds them incompatible with the status quo of a large welfare state that local Bishops seem to accept. The authors argue that the Bishop’s line is out of tune with the best of Catholic teaching on economic matters. The principle of “subsidiarity” would suggest that the state should help as a last resort and that the government should merely help people fulf