Is it society's responsibility to redistribute property and wealth to make things more balanced?

This is the subject of a paper that I have to write. I was just looking for some different perspectives.

You must read G. K. Chesterton’s The Outline of Sanity on the topic of big business and big government.

Chesterton promoted distributism which is not at all a redistributing of wealth, but the idea that the ordinary man ought to be the owner of his own business and his own property and so responsible for himself.

I would absolutely research the social encyclicals. The Popes who wrote them favored conditions fostering he individual and family acquisition of productive assets, but very much disfavored redistribution schemes. (socialism)

“Redistribution” implies a zero-sum game; that is, if I gain my neighbor has to lose. That’s not how economies work. It’s perfectly possible for both to gain, or to lose.

As a side issue I’d like to know why American bishops are more “leftist” on redistribution than the popes have been. You’d think American bishops would be better versed in, and representative of, American ideals of liberty and wealth creation.

In your paper, I would first clarify exactly what is meant by “wealth” and “fair”

For example, suppost there are two men.

One chooses to remain single and devote his time and energy towards business. He works long hours and is sucessful at his business and becomes materially wealthy.

A second man chooses to marry, have as many children as God chooses to grant him, and chooses employment that offers regular hours so he can be home often with the children.

Now which one is the wealthy one? (I would honestly say the one with children :)) Is it fair that the second man has fewer material goods than the first?

Those are some of the issues you would need to clarify

To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty much in that same situation.

I work for a man who is substantially younger than I am. He is considered a 'up and comer" in my company, and I could seriously see him as being a Vice President in 8-10 years.

I, on the other hand, have turned down assignments that would have put me on a promotion track, as they would have negatively impacted my family life (travel etc…). I have not a promotion in a decade, and I will probably be at the same level when my current manager is in a VP suite.

What obligation would ‘society’ have to distribute his wealth to me?

Define “society” too.

Is society a representative, democratic government. Or does “society” in this case encompass the private actions of multitudes of individuals?

In your paper, I would first clarify exactly what is meant by “wealth” and “fair”

Define “society” too.

Good points. These were not specifically defined though perhaps implied. I am taking a microeconomics class at a Christian university so the paper is basically about reconciling economics and the Christian world view.

You must read G. K. Chesterton’s The Outline of Sanity on the topic of big business and big government.

Thank you. The more resources I have, the happier I am.

I would absolutely research the social encyclicals.

I will, thank you. Hopefully they are not too hard a read. :slight_smile:

Good question. I can only speculate concerning it, however. My guesses are that it’s a product of two things:

  1. Most bishops are pretty old. They would have grown up in the era during which virtually every Catholic was a Democrat and abortion was not even dreamed of as a plank of the party. Old habits die hard, even though they shouldn’t.

  2. For a substantial period of time; a time during which many of the older bishops were studying or acting as younger priests, “liberation theology” was in its heyday. Its manifestations in the U.S. ran from virtual Che Guevara radicalism, adopted by some priests and more nuns, to a more common “Liberation Theology Lite” adaptation to the American way of thinking about things. It roughly coincided with the development of the more “moderate leftism” increasingly adopted by the Democrat party.

The last two popes, however, have had a lot more familiarity with the reality of socialism and the totalitarian instinct that often accompanies it. If, as some have said, some of the bishops have departed from a proper regard for the true teachings of the Church in other ways, it is possible that they found it easier to drift along with Democrat party (and secular elitist) thinking than with the often countercultural teachings of the Church.

It sounds a bit cynical but from what I’ve observed at my job & through life, even if you took all the money & divided it up evenly between every person in America, eventually the same folks would have most of it back again.
Some people make work & education a priority & some don’t.Work isn’t the meaning of life, nor education per say, but they do impact you re. finances.
Taking financial risks can have benefits, too if you know what you are doing.(I don’t.)
I’m frugal & have a decent work ethic, but making lots of money is not a priority in my life so I’ll probably always be on the lower part of the income scale.I’d rather live safely in the slow lane on less money-and less stress.
I am good at saving, though.:slight_smile:

No it is not societies responsibility, nor anyone’s. Any form of redistribution of wealth is in essence sinful because it involves forcefully taking from someone to give to someone else. As much as that Robin Hood attitude is seen as a good thing in our world, it is still stealing, which is still sinful.

Society has the responsibility of making sure people are treated equally and that everyone has basic needs and the opportunity to get more, but that’s where it ends.

Justice requires that the worker receive a living wage and that families have adequate shelter, food, and health care. If individuals with more than adequate enough.wealth do not share, than the principle of subsidiarity would indicate that some larger segment of society has to see to it. In short, like it or not, we are our brother’s keeper. It seems that today, many take the role of Cain, and deny that responsibility.

The key question, though, is does it matter how this is accomplished?

What is usually implied by “redistribution of property” is forceful redistribution through the power of the state, not charitable acts by the wealthy.

In other words, is it Catholic to keep one’s brother by stealing from the rich to give to the poor?

no, because that doesnt create balance, that has been tried again and again, the communists did it and failed, even china had to open up economic free zones to jumpstart economic growth. it just winds up that nobody has anything but the politicians. the government is always the least effecient distributor of goods.

the greatest number of people gain the greatest amount of wealth, from the purest possible capitalism. the rough and tumble of the marketplace is very darwinain in nature, if your lazy, you lose. there is also arguments for regulation to prevent ponzi and other frauds, but even intense regualtion fails, because the regulators can be lazy or fooled.

to be fairest everyone should be given equal oppurtunities for education, and access to capital.

if we try to overcome the inequalities of capitalism we wind up with everyone equal, just poor. so the key is to provide equal access to education and capital.

Hi deb i feel as catholics we should care for others less fortunate than ourselves eg the poor,disabled vulnerable etc etc the “corporal works of mercy” basically define these things.What would Jesus do? is also the perspective i would look from.When Jesus was on the earth did he involve himself in political things ? A redistribution of wealth per se is obviously a “fair” idea but in reality once we have “shared” the wealth it will grow or decrease again so therefore becoming unevenly distributed again.As other posters have said.So as a society i feel we have a duty of care for others less fortunate than us who need benefits/healthcare/housing etc if they cannot afford it.As in housing (affordable rental properties)state owned so they are kept to correct living standards is a must in my book or to assist someone to buy a part share of a property if they cannot afford to buy the whole thing is also a good idea .I feel we have a moral duty as individuals to care for others and as a “society” we should vote in the politicians who care about the less fortunate the vulnerable etc.A good share of the wealth would be to ensure the less fortunate have sufficient housing and money to live on(benefits) and affordable healthcare to live adequately.
What do you think?
God bless

In my opinion there is no clear answer.

There are some people who are lazy, who refuse to work and want handouts. If that is the reason for their poverty, then no, I don’t believe anyone has a responsibility to provide for them.

At the same time, some people are hardworking but are poor through no fault of their own. American society in particular is set up in such a way that your wealth is largely determined by your parents’ wealth. You have to be truly exceptional to be able to rise above being born in a ghetto to a single teenage mother and compete with people who grew up in wealthy families, had private tutors, went to the schools that educate future leaders and so on.

The people who “own” most of society tend to pay their low-level workers as little as possible to maximize their own profits. In my opinion, they do this because they can, because they are greedy. The moral action would be to cut down on the bonuses and millions paid out to the top and increase the wages of the employees so that at least they can afford a decent life. But to count on them to do so voluntarily is wishful thinking. So I think it’s up to society to correct these kinds of injustices.

It’s disingenuous to say it either has to be “pure capitalism” or communism. No society is like this, not even America.

Maybe instead of comparing the USA to “communists”, compare it to Western European nations and Canada. Europeans and Canadians are more “communist” than America in that the quality of life of their “poor” is far better than that of the American poor. They tax more, there are more services provided by their governments.

Life is better in those places, people are happier. They still have very rich people, but they are just not as rich as the Americans.

Do you have stats to back up these claims? How do you know that life is better in those places? How do you gauge whether people are happier?

Where in the world do people feel most content with their lives?

According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based group of 30 countries with democratic governments that provides economic and social statistics and data, happiness levels are highest in northern European countries.

Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands rated at the top of the list, ranking first, second and third, respectively. Outside Europe, New Zealand and Canada landed at Nos. 8 and 6, respectively. The U.S. did not crack the top 10. Switzerland placed seventh and Belgium placed tenth.


Of course, we could just be whinier than people in Finland and Denmark…

Start with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.

Then look here:
The Alexis de Tocqueville TourExploring Democracy in America

University of Leicester psychologist has produced the first ever 'world map of happiness.

Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University’s School of Psychology, analysed data published by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR, to create a global projection of subjective well-being: the first world map of happiness.

The meta-analysis is based on the findings of over 100 different studies around the world, which questioned 80,000 people worldwide. For this study data has also been analysed in relation to health, wealth and access to education.

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

  1. Denmark
  2. Switzerland
  3. Austria
  4. Iceland
  5. The Bahamas
  6. Finland
  7. Sweden
  8. Bhutan
  9. Brunei
  10. Canada
  11. Ireland
  12. Luxembourg
  13. Costa Rica
  14. Malta
  15. The Netherlands
  16. Antigua and Barbuda
  17. Malaysia
  18. New Zealand
  19. Norway
  20. The Seychelles

Other notable results include:
23. USA
35. Germany
41. UK
62. France
82. China
90. Japan
125. India
167. Russia

The Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper “Variability and Mutability” (Italian: Variabilità e mutabilità). It is commonly used as a measure of inequality of income or wealth.

US income Gini indices over time
Gini indices for the United States at various times, according to the US Census Bureau:[6]
1929: 45.0 (estimated)
1947: 37.6 (estimated)
1967: 39.7 (first year reported)
1968: 38.6 (lowest index reported)
1970: 39.4
1980: 40.3
1990: 42.8
2000: 46.2
2005: 46.9
2006: 47.0 (highest index reported)
2007: 46.3 [7]

EU gini index
In 2005 the Gini index for the EU was estimated at 31.[8].

I mean, it’s not that “wild” of an assumption that you’ll be happier if your *one *job gives you a living wage, if you have access to the best health care available free of charge, if your children can attend the best universities even if you can’t pay for it etc.

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