Doesn’t God love economists too?

It seems the Catholic church has moved into the 21st century with the addition of a few new, and decidedly modern, sins. The new sins on the block are:

  • Environmental pollution;

  • Genetic manipulation;
  • Accumulating excessive wealth;
  • Inflicting poverty;
  • Drug trafficking and consumption;
  • Morally debatable experiments; AND,
  • Violation of fundamental rights of human nature.

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but this sounds like awfully bad news for Catholic economists. Who wants to be the first to say that there’s an ‘optimal’ level of pollution in the environment? The large swathe of economists who support cutting the top tax rate might be in trouble, too. As for the development economists who constructed the IMF’s structural adjustment programmes… well, they probably inflict poverty, pollution and conduct morally debatable experiments in the eyes of some.

Has the Catholic church become anti-economics? The Positive Economist suggests that perhaps the church’s position goes further and in actually anti-scientific and anti-capitalist! This may all sound like a laugh to some but, when an influential religious institution moves from the more liberal position of Pope John Paul II to an implicit condemnation of many scientific endeavours, one should take note and be concerned.

  • Catholic economists – doubly damned.

    Speaking as an economist, there is plenty of scope for incoroporating the Catholic church’s perspective on things. The most obvious is to invoke market failures. For example, environmental pollution. The reason why pollution occurs is that the social cost (which has an economic aspect to it as well) is not borne by polluters because of a market failure.

    Most of the so-called nouveau sins can be viewed in a similar way.

    Excessive wealth I rather suspect is just an attempt to rephrase the old “thou shalt not worship Mamon.” As has been pointed out by just about every blogger to the right of Karl Marx what exactly is “excessive” is open to debate. And if you use that wealth to provide an ongoing stream of support for others (a la Bill Gates) is that still excessive?

    Morally debatable experiments and violations of fundamental human rights are perhaps the least economics-related promulgations. These seem to be both based on normative/moral issues – something economics is not intended to address.

    I wouldn’t want to be a Catholic economist. On the one hand you are trained to question why things are so whilst on the other you are told because it is God’s will. Good hunting ground for therapists, I reckon.