Public choice theory, which applies to the realm of politics the rational-actor postulate of economists, rightly enjoys a high regard among advocates of liberty. From voting habits to inefficient, Kafkaesque bureaucracies, to the strength of special interest lobbies and rent-seeking behavior, public choice has shined a bright light on the need to affirm limited government and political freedom. It is politics, to use James Buchanan’s phrase, “without romance.”
It may be one of my only clear contributions to my three year-old son Brendan’s outlook on life that every time he tries to build something or figure out how a new toy works and gets it wrong, he says to himself, “Whoops. Try again.” And then he tries it again. I give myself credit for this because ever since he has been able to manipulate things with his hands, I’ve been telling him “Try again” every time he didn’t get something right. I don’t pretend that such failures are the same as success. The point is not to be afraid…
In a recent speech in Bolivia, Pope Francis voiced his indictment of what he calls “the globalization of exclusion and indifference.” Speaking of what he believes to be problems universal to Latin America, he wishes, “May the cry of the excluded be heard in Latin America and throughout the world.” But who, I wonder, are they listening to?
Many of the world’s religious leaders decry the evils of income inequality stemming from a globalized economy. My first post, based on economic reports from such institutions as the World Bank, showed that recent pronouncements by the Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Dalai Lama have followed a conventional wisdom that does not capture what has actually gone on in recent economic history: namely, that even as inequality has widened, extreme poverty has simultaneously decreased. I brought in the economic analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his insights about wealth production in modern societies and the wrong assumptions people make about it.
If there is one thing that religious leaders around the world seem to agree on today, it is the evils of income inequality stemming from a globalized economy.
Pope Francis said last year in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that “we … have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”
In a 2008 speech at George Mason University, the Dalai Lama asserted: “Economic inequality, especially that between developed and developing nations, remains the greatest source of suffering on this planet.”
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wrote in his 2012 Christmas encyclical that “the gloomy consequences of the overconcentration of wealth in the hands of the few and the financial desolation of the vast human masses are ignored. This disproportion, which is described worldwide as a financial crisis, is essentially the product of a moral crisis.”