Pope Francis launched a harsh critique against “trickle-down” economics and an unrestricted free market Tuesday, as he lamented the growing issue of income inequality.
In a new writing, the leader of the Catholic Church identified current economic conditions as a major challenge facing the globe. In particular, he argued that the “idolatry of money” in society has created a class of people who are basically disposable.
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he wrote in a lengthy statement. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power ... Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Francis’s remarks on the state of the economy, which came as part of a longer missive, are particularly pointed in places. For example, he criticizes wealthy individuals and business for pursuing “self-serving tax evasion,” and called on political leaders to adopt financial reforms that lift up the lower classes.
“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” he wrote.
Since taking control of the church in March, Francis has adopted a decidedly populist focus to much of his work. And this new writing, the first work of his own since becoming pontiff, follows with that trend.
In particular, Francis takes sharp aim at spiking levels of income inequality across the world. A host of nations, including the United States, are experiencing record levels of income inequality, as the wealthy have largely recovered from the financial crisis while the lower and middle classes still face significant struggles.
He argued that that inequality is a driving force of global unrest and violence, and cannot be controlled until society adopts a more equal economic blueprint. He called the current socioeconomic system “unjust at its root.”
He went so far as to argue that the current system, in which the world’s poorest are left with no means to support themselves amid the growing inequality, is a grave sin.
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality,” he wrote. “Such an economy kills.”