lördag 28 mars 2009

The Catholic Church and Property

The teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject of property are neatly summed up in clauses in John XXIII's encyclical Mater et Magister of 1961.

19. Secondly, private ownership of property, including that of productive goods, is a natural right which the State cannot suppress. But it naturally entails a social obligation as well. It is a right which must be exercised not only for one's own personal benefit but also for the benefit of others.

43. Concerning the use of material goods, Our Predecessor declared that the right of every man to use these for his own sustenance is prior to every other economic right, even that of private property. The right to the private possession of material goods is admittedly a natural one; nevertheless, in the objective order established by God, the right to property cannot stand in the way of the axiomatic principle that "the goods which were created by God for all men should flow to all alike, according to the principles of justice and charity."

74. As Our Predecessor Pius XII observed with evident justification: "Likewise the national economy, as it is the product of the men who work together in the community of the State, has no other end than to secure without interruption the material conditions in which the individual life of the citizens may fully develop. Where this is secured in a permanent way, a people will be, in a true sense, economically rich, because the general well-being, and consequently the personal right of all to the use of worldly goods, is thus actuated in conformity with the purpose willed by the Creator."

From this it follows that the economic prosperity of a nation is not so much its total assets in terms of wealth and property, as the equitable division and distribution of this wealth. This it is which guarantees the personal development of the members of society, which is the true goal of a nation's economy.

One of the implications of this is the need for the taxation of property, meaning land. Were this teaching to be followed, then not only would the huge profits of the super-rich, of multinationals, and of banks, which mostly comprise the economic rent of land, would be made available for public revenue, but also the opportunities for tax avoidance would be blocked, since land cannot be shifted to a tax haven.

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