How the Economy Interacts with the Poor
As economic units is perhaps the last way in which clergy should consider human beings, but it’s worth their while, on prudential matters, to take into account the ways in which economic principles affect charitable intentions. Unfortunately, in the quotation that Ed Fitzpatrick recently utilized, I fear Roman Catholic priest John Kiley has the mechanism reversed:
“When many of our fellow citizens are constrained by unemployment and illiteracy, and even by hunger and disease, the whole society suffers,” said the Rev. John Kiley, ecumenical officer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. “Because of poverty, civilization’s greatest resource, the human person, is prevented from sharing his intelligence, his gifts and his uniqueness with the world at large. Thus, mankind’s social capital is depleted. Poverty makes poorer persons of us all. The elimination of poverty in Rhode Island over the next 10 years will improve the living standards of all citizens. Elevating the poor will actually enrich the prosperous.”
An accurate assessment would find an organic give and take, but if the dominance tilts in one direction or the other, I’d say that it’s more true that improving the economy will elevate the poor than the other way around. Prosperous people who increase their charitable giving — and, more generally, behavior — during hard times will certain reap rewards in many ways, but if the suggestion is for society to reallocate funds from the wealthy to the poor by means of government coercion, the economy will slip even farther, and the most vulnerable will wind up being harmed more profoundly and with an increasing number of fellows.
Dependency and the dilution of natural motivators for self improvement can also prevent the human person from growing and sharing. Nothing depletes social capital and human potential more surely than a government with its fingers in everybody’s pockets, whether it’s taking or giving.