Means and Ends and the Pope

Romans 3: 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

The Pope has commented more than once on the ongoing refugee / migrant situation that is consuming the news.  In a recent interview, he suggests that the underlying cause is an unjust economic system:

…today’s dominant economic system has removed the person from the center, and at the center is the god of money. It’s the fashionable god today. I mean, there are statistics. I don’t remember very well, but — this is not exact and I could be making a mistake— 17% of the population has 80% of the wealth.

I and others have commented enough about the complete ignorance of this pope when it comes to economics.  Either he is ignorant or a communist, but I repeat myself.  So other than three brief points, I will not comment further at this time on his views regarding economics.

First, Pareto was a pretty smart guy and we all are familiar with his 80 / 20:

The Pareto principle…states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes….Essentially, Pareto showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; Pareto developed the principle by observing that 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.” Mathematically, the 80–20 rule is roughly followed by a power law distribution (also known as a Pareto distribution) for a particular set of parameters, and many natural phenomena have been shown empirically to exhibit such a distribution.

So 80 / 17 isn’t too far off.

Second, to the extent that there is unjust distortion – and I agree that there is unjust distortion – it comes fully and completely from the initiation of force in society.  In other words, wealth earned in an NAP respecting manner is just; a thief takes wealth that he has not created – this is unjust.

And the largest thief – so far larger than the runner-up that I cannot name a second-place winner – is the state.

Third, imagine the world without a reliable medium of exchange (the modifier is redundant).

So that’s enough of that.

However, the pope offers more, regarding the refugees:

Miguel: Radio Renascença, this radio interviewing you, has take[n] part in a joint-initiative in Portugal which integrates Christian institutions also (those of) other religions with the desire to welcome and move in favor of the refugees. Holy Father, can you give us some words of support to those who help and also to our listeners and those who work there?

Pope Francis: I congratulate them, I appreciate what they are doing, and I give them a piece of advice: on Judgment Day, we already know over what we will be judged on – it’s written in Matthew Chapter 25 when Jesus tells them “I was hungry, did you give me food?” And they are going to say “Yes.” And when I was without shelter, as a refugee, did you help me? “Yes.” I congratulate them. They’re going to pass the test.

To the extent these encouragements and efforts are taken and funded by voluntary organizations, these are not in violation of libertarian principles.  They are also in line with Jesus’ teaching, for He did not say “I was hungry, did you petition the Roman government for food on my behalf”?

The call to compassion – both Biblically and according to the NAP – is an individual call, a voluntary service.  Well, technically, there is no call to compassion in the NAP.  However, voluntarily taken, it is not inconsistent with the NAP.

Further developing this dialogue:

Miguel: But to keep Europe’s identity today? Are they in a condition to affirm their identity?

Pope Francis: Europe isn’t dead yet. It’s half-grandmother, but it can return to being a mother. And I have confidence in the young politicians. Young politicians “speak another music.”

The pope’s faith is in the politicians to act.  To further emphasize the point:

Miguel: The Holy Father speaks of this in his recent encyclical, and asks populations to be more aware. However, a lot of abstention occurs. If we look at election results, abstention is almost greater than a party…

Pope Francis: Because the people don’t…they are disillusioned. In part because of corruption. In part, because of inefficiency.

It is action through the ballot box and through politicians that is being suggested.  Apparently, the young politicians in whom the pope places his faith are immune to this “corruption” and “inefficiency.”

But there is a deeper underlying corruption, and that is the corruption inherent in the state itself.  It is force, it is theft, it is aggression.  It is the state and its wars – the most egregious violation of the non-aggression principle – that are driving the refugees out of the Middle East and North Africa, not the economic system (at least not directly).

The economic system has been with us for decades – one could argue since 1971, or 1913, or 1694.  People weren’t fleeing Iraq or Syria continuously throughout this time.  People emigrate in a relatively orderly fashion when the situation is one of individual economic circumstance.  To my knowledge, all mass migrations and mass relocations have been as a result of war or forced dislocation – both state actions.  (Well, there was Moses and the Israelites, and maybe a natural disaster or two.)

It is to this corrupt institution that the pope places his hopes for salvation.  Looking to the state as the means to a good end is to mock the wisdom of Paul, as Paul writes in Romans 3.

The means to a good end is more important than the good end.

Good does not come forth from doing evil.  The earthly head of the Catholic Church should not encourage evil means, no matter the desired ends.