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The Bishops' Dilemma with Capitalism: A Critical Analysis

Christopher L. Pines
Journal of Business Ethics
Vol. 7, No. 6 (Jun., 1988), pp. 445-452
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25071785
Page Count: 8
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The Bishops' Dilemma with Capitalism: A Critical Analysis
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Abstract

One of the major criticisms of contemporary capitalist society which the bishops' pastoral letter raises is the increasing economic, political and social marginalization resulting from the concentration of wealth and power in the form of monopoly capital. The bishops condemn these contemporary inequalities as unjust, undemocratic and antithetical to the teachings of the Church and Catholic humanism. Given this criticism, we can better understand the bishops' policy prescriptions as intended to show how monopoly "capital can be reconciled with the common good", the problem as explicitly posed in section 281 of their pastoral. Hence, their proposal for economic democracy and economic planning can be seen as one possible solution to this general problem of monopoly concentration and marginalization. However, as I criticize in my paper, the bishops' policy prescriptions are undermined by contradictions in their position as well as questionable assumptions implicit to their model for economic democracy. One the one hand and as motivated by the bishops' desire to promote greater democracy and social justice for marginalized groups, the bishops' propose greater state intervention in the economy, particularly in areas concerning the planning and control over investment decisions. On the other hand and on behalf of the rights and liberties of private property owners, the bishops' want to preserve a measure of laissez-faire and private initiative in the marketplace. In short, the bishops' seem undecided about which of their social sentiments should have priority - their egalitarian or libertarian sentiments. Apparently, and as I demonstrate in my paper, the bishops fear more the imagined threats of social democracy to the status quo of private property than the actual marginalizing effects of private monopoly capital. In the latter part of my paper, my class analysis of liberal democracy and the antagonistic interests of capital and labor is intended to challenge assumptions implicit in the bishops' model for economic democracy, particularly their assumptions concerning the autonomy of the state and the possibility of a real collaboration between labor, capital and the state. I end my paper with certain socialist prescriptions to those problems which the bishops' address.

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