Evangelii Gaudium and the Rule of Law

English: The 2010 Heritage Foundation Index of...

English: The 2010 Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week we have been looking at the economics aspects of Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, here, and here, from an American perspective, and quite frankly they range from leftist to communist. I doubt that is exactly what he meant so maybe our reading is not quite what he meant. Because our culture doesn’t do economics or law quite like the rest of the world. In many ways our culture is the culture of the English-speaking world. In our world we have, and have had for over a thousand years, through invasion, conquest, revolution, regicide, more revolution, colonization and much more the same basic law, the common law which has built on its shoulders all the way from an illiterate, Anglo-Saxon backwater to the globe circling colossus that we have become. In fact, yesterday, The Federalist, published a post, linked here, which made some interesting comparisons, “When we match up the Cato Institute’s Index of Economic Freedom with the World Bank’s measure of per capita income, we find that the countries with the most unencumbered systems and the most financial “speculation” usually have the least of amount of poverty:

Hong Kong — $51,946

Singapore — $61,803

Australia — $44,598

New Zealand — $32,219

Switzerland — $53,367

Canada — $42,533

Chile — $22,352 (Chile’s score has jumped considerably since unfettered capitalism took over)

Mauritius — $15,649

Denmark — $42,086

United States—$49,800

Anything catch your eye about that list? Did you notice that with the exception of Switzerland, Denmark, and Chile, they are all ruled by the Common Law. Per capita income infers that it is about the average wage, half above and half below. That’s quite a record for the legacy of a damp island off the coast of Europe, and I would bet that the United Kingdom itself would be on that list as well if the leeches in Europe weren’t draining it. India will probably be joining the list soon as well, it takes time to increase the income of 2+ billion people.

By the way the Pope’s native Argentina is at $18,200. And with considerably less difference between rich and poor.

But it’s not all about economic systems. There far more to life, or at least should be, than earning a living and Dan Mitchell reminds us.

In an earlier post, Dan told us about the effects of the free market in the Pope’s neighborhood.

As you can see, Chile used to be the poorest of the three countries and now it is comparatively rich. Argentina has enjoyed a bit of growth. Venezuela, by contrast, used to be the richest of the three nations but has stagnated and now is in last place.

So what accounts for these remarkable changes in relative prosperity? The answer, at least in part, is the difference between free markets and statism. Simply stated, Chile has reduced the burden of government a lot in the past three decades, Argentina has reduced the burden of government a little, and Venezuela has gone in the wrong direction and increased the burden of government.

While by no means saying that the Pope is a leftist, he seems to have used the left’s old idea of conflating capitalism with corporatism, that rank system of buying and selling of political influence which pervades much of the west today, thereby constraining it from reaching anywhere near its potential. This is one of the major problems in the United States today. Not capitalism but the lack of capitalism. There’s something structurally wrong when the highest income and most dynamic area of the country is the one most dependant on the government. In great measure we have become a rule of men, not of law, this is the great flaw of the Obama administration. It is why Hong Kong is by far outperforming us.

That’s what the rule of law means to the people, as John Adams put it “A rule of Law, not of Men”. I suppose we shouldn’t blame the Pope too much, he has never lived in a society where the law applied to the government, and Italy itself isn’t all that much better. I suspect a lot of eyebrows were raised all over the English-speaking world when Italy thought it proper to indict Amanda Knox for the second time. In all of our countries when the government loses, it loses forever, always has, always will.

Last week, we talked a bit about Daniel Hannan’s (MEP) new book, that post is here, I quoted this from the book

We are still experiencing the after-effects of an astonishing event. The inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the idea that the government ought to be subject to the law, not the other way around. The rule of law created security of property and contract, which in turn led to industrialisation and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up that, on the whole, rewarded production better than predation.

Why did it happen? Why, after thousands of years of oligarchy and tyranny, did a system evolve that lifted the individual above the tribe rather than the reverse? How did that system see off rival models that elevated collective endeavour, martial glory, faith and sacrifice over liberty and property? How did the world come to speak our language?

There is a very good video at that post, or here, that will add much to your knowledge how we came to our position in the world. Mr. Hannan, like us all, makes much of the enlightenment roots of our success, and that is correct. There is more to the story though.

There is a story of a very senior cleric assisting the Barons of a Realm to put curbs on the King, who held his Kingdom as a direct Fief of the Roman Pope. That churchman was Stephan Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the King was John. That is the short history of Magna Charta, and I think it could only have happened in England.

And then, something really remarkable happened. I’ll let Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb tell you about it.

I find her persuasive, and not only did the Tudor dynasty make Britain, it made America, and Canada, and Australia, and New Zealand, and Hong Kong, and Singapore, and increasingly India as well. And the phrase “a Tudor Enterprise” is well-chosen as well. Most of the American colonies got their start as joint stock companies, not crown colonies. America started as a for profit business, not any political scheme at all.

But I hear you asking, what has all that to do with Evangelii?

Quite a lot, as a matter of fact, even if we set aside the disparity of income in the free English-speaking world, for the moment, we find that one of the major things that sets us apart from the rest of the world is that we believe, we really, really believe, in the rule of law, including property law. As such we believe that an individual earned what he has, and its up to him to spend it as he pleases, if he got rich we try to emulate him, not steal his stuff. Which has never stopped us from also being the most charitable people in the world, because we also believe “Of those whom much is given, much is also demanded”

In fact, if you watched the interview by Dan Mitchell above he made the point as well. He reiterated it in his post here

..My second most important point, which came near the end of the interview, was that genuine compassion is when you give away your own money, not when you vote for politicians who will use coercion to redistribute other people’s money. I should have used the opportunity tocite the data showing that Americans are far more compassionate – in the right sense – than their European counterparts.


About NEO
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44 Responses to Evangelii Gaudium and the Rule of Law

  1. So what’s the difference between an American Libertarian-Jesus, and a Catholic Libertarian version, both politically and theologically? And can an American Catholic conservative really support this Jesuit Pope Francis? For without Capitalism, there would quite simply be no America!


    • NEO says:

      Frankly, I have no real idea but, as to the last, you are exactly correct. Maybe one will show up, and they can weigh in.

      One of those times when I’m very glad indeed to be a Protestant.


    • Here’s a piece from John Calvin’s: The French Confession of Faith. A.D. 1559 (Confessio Fidel Gallicana)

      XXXIX. Nous croyons que Dieu veut que le monde soit gouverné par lois et police,303 afin qu’il y ait quelque bride pour réprimer les appétits désordonnés du monde. Et XXXIX. We believe that God wishes to have the world governed by laws and magistrates, so that some restraint may be put upon its disordered appetites.


      ainsi qu’il a établi les royaumes, républiques et toutes autres sortes de principautés, soit héréditaires ou autrement, et tout ce qui appartient à l’Etat de justice, et en veut être reconnu auteur: à cette cause il a mis le glaive en la main des magistrats pour réprimer les péchés commis non-seulement contre la seconde table des commandements de Dieu, mais aussi contre la première. Il faut donc, à cause de lui, que non-seulement on endure que les supérieurs dominant,304 mais aussi qu’on les honore et prise en toute révérence, les tenant pour ses lieutenants et officiers, lesquels il a commis pour exercer une charge légitime et sainte. And as he has established kingdoms, republics, and all sorts of principalities, either hereditary or otherwise, and all that belongs to a just government, and wishes to be considered as their Author, so he has put the sword into the hands of magistrates to suppress crimes against the first as well as against the second table of the Commandments of God. We must therefore, on his account, not only submit to them as superiors, but honor and hold them in, all reverence as his lieutenants and officers, whom he has commissioned to exercise a legitimate and holy authority.
      XL. Nous tenons donc qu’il faut obéir à leurs lois et statuts,305 payer tributs, impôts et autres devoirs, et porter le joug de subjection d’une bonne et franche volonté, encore qu’ils fussent infidèles, moyennant que l’empire souverain de Dieu demeure en son entier.306 Ainsi nous détestons ceux qui voudraient rejeter les supériorities, mettre communauté et confusion de biens, et renverser l’ordre de la justice. XL. We hold, then, that we must obey their laws and statutes, pay customs, taxes, and other dues, and bear the yoke of subjection with a good and free will, even if they are unbelievers, provided that the sovereign empire of God remain intact. Therefore we detest all those who would like to reject authority, to establish community and confusion of property, and overthrow the order of justice.

      Of course this Creed is Reformed, and comes from quite another time. But it surely seems to honor God’s Word, and the order of God’s “sovereign empire”, for humanities sake, in a fallen broken world… “Therefore we detest all those who would like to reject authority, to establish community and confusion of property (communism?), and overthrow the order of justice.” Funny or strange, how a document or creed from the Middle Ages (however Reformed and Reformational) seems more to sense and reason, in this age of postmodernity!


      • NEO says:

        Luther said much the same, I’d bet Cranmer did as well. The enlightenment, and the English separatists changed things quite a lot, from all the churches being state churches, didn’t they-first toleration then equality, but in many ways to make that work required the United Colonies..


  2. Hi NEO! I know this is totally off topic, but did you know you have little snowflakes falling on your site? 🙂


    • NEO says:

      Yeah, I noticed, I guess that means I did last year too, and didn’t shut them off. At least these I don’t have to shovel 🙂


      • Lol. 🙂 I was in a daze last year, (to say the least) so I suppose that is why I did not notice (or remember).

        Well, that said, they are cute and I am glad you have them and that you do not have to shovel them! 🙂

        I want virtual snowflakes!

        I might get a little too into it though. I might pull out the old scarf, put on some mittens, layer myself up, and sit there at my desk typing away in a bundle of parkas and leg warmers until someone walks in and goes, “what on earth?!!!!”

        I have snow flake envy! 🙂


        • NEO says:

          LOL 🙂 Settings: General: “Turn on snow until Jan 4” and you too can have lovely warm pixellated snow.

          Typing in mittens is, in my experience, suboptimal though, but the rest might keep your utility bill down 🙂

          Good idea though, given the weather I need all the heat I can generate 🙂

          Envy is bad for you after all 🙂


        • Thanks NEO! I will give it a try…and I will try my utmost to refrain from typing in mittens too. 🙂

          It is just so tempting…


        • NEO says:

          I think it would be fun to watch, and see if you could refrain from swearing, I doubt I could. 🙂


        • LOL! 😮

          Haha that would be hilarious! No swearing though!

          FYI: I have snow! I have snow! I have snow!


          I am so excited! Wheres my skis? Wheres my camera? Wheres my snow boots?

          Wheres frosty?

          Darn, this fake stuff gets me too silly! 🙂


        • NEO says:

          YAY!!!! 🙂

          You’re just a bit silly, and it is very endearing about this whole snow thing. I haven’t tried a screen shoot, could be neat, maybe..

          Frosty, Yay!! I should run that soon, I imagine it’s available. 🙂


        • 😀 LOL

          I am such a dork!

          It just gets me worked up for the real thing – I like to take pictures of the snow and of course – one always needs a frosty the snow man with a nose made out of a carrot that you can eat later! 🙂

          And snow ball fights too, just not near computers!

          Have a good night NEO! I hope you stay warm! 🙂


        • NEO says:

          Nah, You’re fun, and cute too 🙂

          I’m fond of snow myself, as long as I don’t have too many places I have to go, it’s gorgeous stuff. Frosty, too, of course, and if you ask nicely, I could find a couple pieces of coal for eyes as well. 🙂

          Snow ball fight, you bet, DUCK, LOL

          It’l be pretty good, I’ll do my best, Thanks for dropping by CNG (Is that still OK, It’s how I think of you!) 🙂


        • Thanks NEO! You too! 🙂

          Yes, snow is great for anything but driving or going near sloshy streets.

          My turn…DUCK!

          Yes, CNG is ok too. I am still a nomad, and a Catholic…and a girl, so it should be ok! 🙂


        • NEO says:

          I’m glad, your new moniker is pretty and all (I like it) but I fell in fond (very) of that CNG.:-)

          Indeed it is 🙂




        • Aww, thanks! Maybe I should go back to using it – I was afraid it sounded kind of silly.

          Hey, look over there – is that Santa?

          DUCK!! 🙂


        • NEO says:

          That’s a personal call, and i wouldn’t presume. But you’re one of those people that all showed up about the same time, and nearly all became close friends, and it’s easy to type. If you like isabella (like I said, I do) you should keep it, CNG is kind of like a college nickname, some of us know it, if we were around then. You always are CNG when Jess and i are worrying about you. See how that works, member of the clique, you are.

          Hey, it’s Rudolph!

          DUCK!! 🙂


        • Darn it, you distracted me with all those heart warming words! 🙂

          Thank you NEO! You are both very kind to think of me, and I hope that she is doing ok too.

          I think I am going to save my snowballs for another fight – all this snow makes me want to curl up in front of a fire and Zzzzzz… although I have no fire, and if I did it would mean the building was burning down, so I think that means I am just going to sleep.

          Night NEO! And thank you again. 🙂


        • NEO says:

          Ha, sometimes that’s my job 🙂

          Of course we do. She is, busy as all get out with all the promotions she’s had, apparently competence isn’t any more common there than here!

          Use a blanket then, fires are cool but burning down the house ain’t 🙂

          Night, CNG, don’t be a stranger 🙂


        • Thanks NEO – and glad to hear all is well with Jessica!

          Wow, lots of promotions – that is great! I need to get over to her site more often. I have this love-hate relationship with the internet (in case you didn’t notice). Every time I am on it, I think I would be better off to go sit in the woods and meditate.

          I somehow managed to not burn my place down last nigt, but I did save one thing despite the warmth…


          LOL 🙂

          Gotcha! 😉


        • NEO says:

          I know what you mean, I spend a ridiculous amount of time on it.

          That’s a good thing, You sneaky little girl!! 🙂


          Too late 😉


        • LOL 🙂

          I am afraid we might get into trouble with the virtual snowball-fight police for creating too much of a virtual snow mess!

          Yes, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a time when we only had like two books that were 75 years old to read…and the news came once a week or so. 🙂

          Stay warm tonight!


        • NEO says:

          LOL 🙂

          I can remember when most of the news was the Sunday paper and the news was a total of 30 minutes in the evening, wasn’t that different, just didn’t repeat as much, it wasn’t as biased either although looking back thee was some. Books were always important in my family though, Mom was an English teacher. 🙂

          You too!


        • Yeah, I remember as a little girl the 30 minute news being something of a big evening deal. I used to sit with my dad and watch it. I have a friend who is pushing elderly (my friends mom) and it is still like that with her – kind of refreshing! 🙂


        • NEO says:

          It would be, I doubt we’d miss all that much, mostly it’s background noise, really. 🙂



    • NEO says:

      Hi Tom. While I am honored, I should tell you that Jess also nominated me (also one of Biltrix’s awardees). So I’ll leave it to you to decide if I should acknowledge both of you or you would like to nominate another blog. That pertains to the Sunshine Award, if I read this correctly, you also nominated me for the Semper Fi award, if that is the case, perhaps I should accept only that one, or I will have to find a way to put an oak leaf cluster on the other.


      • Citizen Tom says:

        Since I respond to these award nominations mainly to publicize blogs and posts I have learned from and enjoyed, I say “mission accomplished.” Please just consider yourself doubly-nominated for the same award.


        • NEO says:

          I am much the same, they mean both little, and a great deal. I will gratefully do so. In ways it’s my fault, it takes me a while to select my nominees.


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