Analysis

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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 704

This encyclical contains a statement of the Roman Catholic Church's position on political economy. It presents the Church as a champion and defender of the working classes, which it claims are oppressed. It states that the Church rejects free-market capitalism, communism, and socialism, and it provides its own political and economic recommendations, which it states are intended to create a more equitable and just distribution of wealth. Presumably, this means redistribution of wealth, as wealth creation is decentralized, rather than handed out from a central distribution center, unless it is first taken by the state.

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Unfortunately, I feel that readers are left in the dark for most of the document as to the Church's definitions of "justice" and "equity" in regard to the distribution of wealth. Toward the end of the document, we learn that justice and equity demand that the state intervene to "eliminate or reduce" differences in compensation between industries for the common good. How does that work in practice Just how the state should intervene to "reduce or eliminate" differential compensation is not stated. Here is an example of how this might work (or not work), in my opinion: If the Church wants unskilled laborers and brain surgeons to be compensated equally, it will eliminate any incentive for anyone to invest the considerable time and money it takes to become a brain surgeon, because they can make the same income working retail. Brain surgeons and aspiring brain surgeons will simply move to other countries that compensate them for their considerable investment in education and training, leaving the former country with a severe shortage of brain surgeons. The same scenario applies to all highly skilled jobs.

If the Church wants to reduce the compensation of wealth generators and redistribute the money to the oppressed working class, they must tax wealth generators in order to have something to re-distribute. Roughly 4,000 years of accumulated experience tells us this is not as straightforward as it sounds. Set the tax rate too high and, during a downturn, businesses will be forced to lay off workers or close, compounding the problem that taxation was meant to solve.

One solution that some have proposed is taxing the very rich with a top marginal tax rate of 70% for every dollar earned above $10,000,000 for the year. In my opinion, this solution is not feasible or fair, and it might lead to adverse consequences and a loss of wealth creators in the country. Take, for example, the founder of Facebook that moved to Singapore to avoid giving most of his new wealth away to the government. Whether or not we agree with that is beside the point. It does and will happen, placing an upper limit on...

(The entire section contains 704 words.)

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