Labor Economics and the Development of Papal Social Encyclicals (Essay) by Journal of Markets & Morality

Labor Economics and the Development of Papal Social Encyclicals (Essay)

By Journal of Markets & Morality

  • Release Date: 2011-03-22
  • Category: Business & Personal Finance

Brief Description

Introduction Catholic social teaching has been the subject of debate among Catholics and non-Catholics alike for over a century. The Catholic Church has instructed and exhorted in the social realm since its existence, yet Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter Rerum Novarum (1891) is typically identified as the inaugural Catholic social encyclical. Since then, other encyclical letters commonly included under the rubric of Catholic social teaching (CST) are Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno (1931); John XXIII's Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963); Paul VI's Populorum Progressio (1967); John Paul II's Laborem Exercens (1981), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987), and Centesimus Annus (1991); and most recently Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas Est (2005) and Caritas in Veritate (2009). (1) Economists, philosophers, and social scientists have seized on these documents in an effort to support or attack various economic ideologies. While some have expressed frustration at an apparent lack of economic understanding in the encyclicals, leading to tensions with certain economic laws and laissez-faire principles, it is evident that the social encyclicals as a whole manifest a development in economic understanding, emphasis, and context. This article analyzes the development of economic understanding in the social encyclicals as it pertains to labor concerns. Specifically, it seeks to demonstrate that the encyclicals shift their emphasis from a rather one-sided focus on the responsibilities of the employer (supply side) in providing just economic outcomes to a greater emphasis on the role of the consumer (demand side) in more recent encyclicals. Indeed, future encyclicals could further mitigate tensions by explicitly acknowledging how both supply and demand factors must be taken into account if socioeconomic goals are to be achieved.

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