Philip Booth, a Catholic economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a British free-market think-tank, wants his church’s approach to move in a different direction—towards crunchier thinking about the state and the abuses that an over-mighty one can easily commit. Like almost every other Catholic, conservative or radical, who thinks about economics, he sees an important starting point in a famous Vatican document of 1891, Rerum Novarum, which recognised the usefulness of trade unions and collective bargaining. But he thinks that ideas like “solidarity” and “subsidiarity” or devolved decision-making have been debased in left-wing Catholic discourse, to imply support for a redistributionist state. In fact, voluntary or private initiatives can often be a better way of showing “solidarity” with the poor.
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