Christian Themes

The most significant theme of this encyclical is capitalism. John Paul clearly asserts that Marxism is not an appropriate economic system and affirms that under appropriate conditions, capitalism is legitimate. A foundational element of capitalism is private property, and the pope strongly affirms the right of private property. That, however, does not mean that he endorses an economic system divorced from moral concerns and where individuals engage only in rapacious economic activity. Economic life should provide a place for individuals to engage in economic initiatives and participate in business life. Under capitalism, individuals have a positive duty toward those less fortunate, and employers a duty toward their employees. The state must promote just economic conditions within its jurisdiction, and developed nations must aid poorer nations.

John Paul examines capitalism within the context of justice, not just economic efficiency and productivity. He argues that private property and the allowance of individual activity is just and that individuals and families must be treated in a just manner. He also argues that individual freedom bounded by traditional morality is the appropriate form of human freedom. True freedom recognizes the inherent dignity of human beings.

Finally, John Paul addresses proper social action when he defends the actions of those who toppled communist regimes and others working for systems that encourage the authentic development of the human person.