by Pope Leo XIIIWritten in 1891, this papal encyclical discusses the problems of workers in the modern world (which was, at the time of this letter's writing, the transition from an agricultural to an industrialized economy). Pope Leo's letter could have been written yesterday since he was discussing issues like private property, the rights of workers, the obligations of the wealthy, and the importance of voluntary organizations in Europe and the United States.
I found much of what the Pope said making perfect sense, even now, more than 100 years later. Pope Leo essentially dismissed socialism at being unnatural since men have a God given right to own property and dispose of the fruits of their labor as they see fit. Leo XIII also wrote quite compellingly about the responsibility of those of means toward their fellow man, and about essential fair treatment of workers was. Much of what the Pope discussed echoed my own thinking about these issues, and I found myself wishing that both Tea Partiers and Occupiers would read the Pope's very thoughtful examination of issues that still vex and divide us today. The primacy of the family, the necessity of prudent spending, the morality of paying a fair wage, and the importance of labor unions for the working classes...all while defending the rights of the wealthy and denying state-sponsored redistribution. Pope Leo even called for a government sponsored safety net as a last resort for those who fall upon hard times. Rerum Novarum is highly readable and quite insightful.
Pope Leo, it should be pointed out, was deeply critical of free-market capitalism, rightly recognizing that—in the absence of guard rails—the machine of capitalism would careen out of control and bring our entire economic system down (fairly prescient in the light of 1928 and 2007). One of the more compelling sections of the letter talked about how workers should not be caught in a race to the bottom with regard to earnings, and should be paid what has come to be called a living wage.
I am looking forward to reading more of the Catholic social encyclicals. I have read about them often enough; now it's time to go to the source. There is much food for thought here, as well as much to drive both the left and the right political wings insane.
|Title||The Condition of Labor|
|eBook format||Paperback, (torrent)|
|Author||Pope Leo XIII|
|Publisher||University Press of the Pacific|
|File size||4.9 Mb|
|Book rating||4.54 (98 votes)